Micol Guidelli in Night of the Shooting Stars.
Everett Collection

If you were a serious, semi-highbrow moviegoer in the early 1980s, this was the film you went to see on a date. Yet somehow it seems to have fallen out of our collective moviegoing memory. Directed by brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, The Night of the Shooting Stars, set in Tuscany in 1944, follows a group of citizens who leave their village just before their houses are set to be blown up by the Nazis, in advance of the liberating American troops’ arrival. The story is told through the eyes of six-year-old Cecilia (Micol Guidelli), who sees the event as a great adventure, though not even she can be protected from fear or tragedy. The Tavianis blend comedy, fantasy, and mournful drama in such a heady swirl that you’re sometimes not sure which is which; the whole film is a reflection on the way our memories, as recollections of lived events freed from the events themselves, tend to take on dreamlike qualities. The film closes with a great, bittersweet romantic flourish, a liaison between two sixtyish villagers (Omero Antonutti and Margarita Lozano) who confess that they’ve loved each other in secret since their youth. This is a wartime drama shot through with golden threads of grace.

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