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LIGABUE

Italy, 1978 (MIFF 1979)

Director: Salvatore Nocita

Ligabue is the re-created biography of Italy's most famous primitive painter. The film is based on a book about the artist by the famous neo-realist scriptwriter, Zavattini.

The film starts with Ligabue's arrival in central Italy after twenty years in Switzerland, his birthplace, where his Italian father had gone in search of work. He speaks a mixture of Italian and German, which makes it difficult for him to be understood by the locals.

Wandering from job to job, he finally takes up residence in a hut on the banks of the Po, in a natural world, where he lives almost like a savage. The townspeople call him 'il tedesco' — the German — and shun him as a wild man. A local sculptor discovers his talent after seeing the animal poster he has painted for a travelling circus, and his scribblings on the town walls. Ligabue reluctantly accepts assistance from this man — his first ever canvas to work on.

Despite his increasing success as a painter, Ligabue sells his work for bowls of soup and makes meagre exchanges with paintings that years later, will be valued at millions of lire. He remains essentially a primitive and lonely person hovering between sanity and insanity, but who miraculously manages to translate his inner torments onto canvas.

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