Review: The Age of Cosimo de´Medici (L'ETà DI COSIMO DE' MEDICI)
dir Roberto Rossellini
I parte: L'esilio di Cosimo - II parte: Il potere di
Cosimo - III parte: Leon Battista Alberti: l'Umanesimo
1973, regia di Roberto Rossellini
Scheda: Nazione: Italia - Produzione: Manenti Film - Distribuzione: Audio Brandon - Soggetto: Roberto Rossellini - Sceneggiatura: Marcella Marian, Roberto Rossellini, Luciano Scaffa - Fotografia: Mario Montuori - Montaggio: Jolanda Benvenuti - Costumi: Marcella De Marchis - Musiche: Manuel De Sica - Formato: Color - Durata: complessivamente 252'.
Cast: Marcello Di Falco, Virgilio Gazzolo, Mario Erpichini, Tom Felleghy, Marino Masé, Adriano Amidei Migliano, Goffredo Montani, Carlo Reali, Fred Ward.
by Paul Murphy
This TV docu-drama by Roberto Rossellini, which runs to 270 minutes, is an attempt to describe the era of Cosimo de Medici, ruler of Florence at the time of the Renaissance, developments connected to the names Brunelleschi, Donatello, Ghiberti. Although it certainly demonstrates integrity to its subject, the film´s treatment of that subject is unbelievably serious. It´s hard to see the human element in all of this, overwhelmed as we are by a plethora of facts, dates and (unbelievably earnest) details about the wisdom and learning of the Renaissance and the Ancient World. However, this is part of a made for TV costume drama. In this context the informative, practical aspect of this documentary is invaluable. In most ways it is an unbelievably dignified, intelligent recreation of the era of Cosimo.
What this docu-drama might benefit from is a whole-hearted sense of humour, something that fans of Rossellini rarely mention. In most ways Rossellini misses the point of the meaning of the Renaissance, committing the cardinal error of taking his subject far too seriously, although this is understandable. Renaissance artists broke the mould in injecting humour, humanity, vitality and individualism into their artworks, differentiating it from Medieval and Byzantine iconic art which can be dour, grave, sombre, colourless, unimaginative. The reason for the uninspiring colourlessness of Medieval art was the influence of the Church. The Church provided the sources of income for artists through its system of artistic patronage. For almost 1000 years after the fall of the Roman Empire this situation remained the same throughout Europe until the rise of commerce and mercantilism at the end of the Medieval period. Artists began to make their livings in the market place, not under the auspices of the Church.
By treating his subject in the way that he does, Rossellini exhibits an almost total ignorance of the meaning of art in the Renaissance, instead creating this mammothly sterile exercise in vapid, overbearing pomposity.
An unbelievably ambitious film. Only some amateur philosopher, utterly frustrated in his ambitions to convince the world of his genius, could have made such a preposterous film. For all that, it somehow works. Interestingly, both Rossellini and Faßbinder share this quality of innocence. Only entirely innocent people could have stuck their necks out to such an extent. Any serious, professional academic type would never have committed him or herself with such openness, integrity, such wide-eyed wonderment. However, that is the root of any fascination. As Cosimo says in the film, studying and criticising art increases my wonderment at it. Obviously these are also Rossellini´s words too.
Paul Murphy saw The Age of Cosimo de´Medici at the Arsenal cinema in Berlin.