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Review: Primo Levi’s Journey

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Primo Levi’s Journey

Primo Levi, after being liberated from Auschwitz in the winter of 1945, would make his way back to his home in Turin, but not before embarking on a nine-month tour of Eastern Europe. He would document his experiences in the book The Reawakening, passages from which serve as the loose pretext for Davide Ferrario’s middling Primo Levi’s Journey. Ferrario retraces Levi’s steps in the present—through Poland and the Ukraine, into Belarus, Moldavia, and Romania, finally arriving in Levi’s Italian hometown—as a means of contrasting two Europes separated by more than 60 years of progress and tumult. Levi’s profound observations, voiced by Chris Cooper, still resonate, but the film is schoolmarmishly divided into chapters (in the Ukraine, the subject is “identity”; in Belarus, it is “a world apart”), with Ferrario sometimes struggling to draw comparisons between the past and the present. Prone to literal-mindedness, the director cues a mention of Levi’s Holocaust tattoo to a shot of an inked neo Nazi, a correspondence that hardly elaborates on the political implications of marking one’s body. Collectivism is the subject of a dull pit stop in Belarus, and in Moldavia, only the falling rain bridges Levi’s travels through the area with a present-day people’s struggles with emigration. Even when Ferrario’s observation of a country’s distinct political anxiety is interestingly tied to one of Levi’s philosophical musings about the self and the world, the film still radiates the aloofness of a dry academic lecture.

Cast: Chris Cooper Director: Davide Ferrario Screenwriter: Marco Belpoliti, Davide Ferrario Distributor: Cinema Guild Running Time: 92 min Rating: NR Year: 2006 Buy: Video

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