Oscar Wilde once wrote "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life" (The Decay of Lying - 1891) when he discusses how art affects us. It was a contradiction to the Aristotle's observation that art imitates life. Ah, Aristotle (who was know to be quite prophetic from time to time) must have foreseen the happenings in the tiny Tuscan town of Monticchello.


Directors Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellan (both affiliated with "Marwencol" 2010) took it upon themselves to learn a little Italian and move to Monticchello to document the process by which the town produces this play about their everyday lives. Keep in mind the entire town population is just a notch over 200 so everybody has a role and everybody gets to contribute.


The concept of reproducing their lives in the form of a play was concocted fifty years ago and has continued uninterrupted despite the the trials and tribulations associated with putting on this big production with a cast of hundreds.

The first obstacle, which Malmberg and Shellen first encountered is that people die. Two of the principles involved with the play were deceased when they arrived. Another issue is funding; this comes to fore when the town learns that the national arts fund was no longer available, so they would have to find more creative ways to finance the cultural tradition.


The other obstacle they face, annually, was the topic of this years play; what facet of their lives would be put on display for all to see. With two hundred opinions this becomes a months long debate usually settled during the winter months.


But once everything is settle, then production springs to life and is chaotic. The saving grace being that everybody knows everybody. So as things fall into disarray, they figure ways around it. For example when the stage falls apart in the middle of the piazza, they pull together and get it together so they can tell their story of how Monticchello faces the end of the world.


Malmberg provided the cinematography (but is best known as the editor for Paris Hilton's "The Hottie and the Nottie") and creates a gorgeous travelogue with the colorful masonry set against the hilly Tuscan countryside.


The townspeople keep the film from bogging down with their eclectic Italian personalities. But with the difficulties involved with staging the current production, one wonders how long the tradition will last.


"Spettacolo" is, at the very least a beautifully shot film mostly because the town itself is a postcard. Much like the rustic background, the characters - the townspeople - are colorful and amusingly captured.   -- GEOFF BURTON