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SLIFF: 'Time and Winds,' 'L'Inferno'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 15, 2008 - Coming-of-age films are a staple of film festivals, so much so that it becomes difficult to say anything new about them. But while childhood experiences are universal, they're also - like Tolstoy's unhappy families - unique, which is why filmmakers keep returning to them.

"Times and Winds" is a quiet and carefully studied story of three young people growing up in a rugged Turkish village, each developing a growing conflict against the indifference of the adult world. It's a familiar conflict, but in an unusual and changing setting. One gets the sense that these young people are growing up in a culture that grants them no identity at all. How, then, are they supposed to grow up and find roles in their world? The controversies are familiar - which is to say that they're timeless - and the harsh terrain offers moments of spare but undeniable beauty.

The Inferno (l'inferno)

Often relegated to no more than a casual entry in film histories (and then simply because it's considered to be Italy's first feature-length film), this 1911 adaptation of Dante's "Inferno" is a true curiosity, a link between the one-reel "trick" films of cinema's first two decades and the spectacular historical films (especially those from Italy) that would push the young medium into the visual splendor of the last pre-sound decade.

Much of Dante's allegorical material has been left out - so you don't have to worry if your knowledge of medieval Florentine politics is rusty - but the more fantastical elements remain, in vivid tableaux. Writhing, naked bodies turning into lizards and trees, snakes and demons tormenting the damned, spirals of floating souls, large satanic creatures munching on humans; it's all here, much of it a faithful recreation of Dore's famous 19th century illustrations. If you're a fan of those pictures or of the early film trickery of Melies, this ambitious production shouldn't be missed.