‘Macaluso Sisters’ Review: Tragedy Through Time

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Not a sun-kissed coming-of-age movie, “Macaluso Sisters” opens on a happy day filled with youthful love and longing for the beach, tragically upset by an accident with endless repercussions.

Italian filmmaker Emma Dante, known as an avant-garde theater and opera director, adapted the film from her famous play of the same name. Here, he imagines the effects of a sister’s death rippling through generations with hints of metaphysical grace and fantasy, deviating from the plot-driven mold of most human drama towards something more memorable and powerful.

Five orphaned sisters – Katia, Lia, Pinuccia, Maria and Antonella – live alone in a bustling flat in Palermo, Sicily, where they make a living by lending pigeons for ceremonies and events. On their days off, they make their way to the beach, through a field filled with giant dinosaur figures, and start a pop dance party upon arrival. These magical moments are based on tactile photography by cinematographer Gherardo Gossi, which highlights the youthful vitality of the sisters’ bodies and the playful chaos of their movements.

Following the death of a sister, Dante leaps into a future where the group – now played by a different group of actresses – is middle-aged and disbanded, each in their own unique way. They stay in the same apartment, the ghostly manifestations of their missing sister creating a stark contrast between their aging bodies and their overflowing youthful selves.

The third act shows the three sisters in old age and in mourning. Yet the apartment and its white cabinet – embellished with a beach engraving – look the same. Finally, Dante stages a transcendent confrontation with the discontinuity of the body, which is doomed to decay but sustained by the memories and relationships that define it.

The Macaluso Sisters
Not rated. Italian, with subtitles. Duration: 1 hour 29 minutes. In movie theaters.

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