• Solitary confinement, Taviani style, in St. Michael Had a Rooster

Tonight’s your last chance to catch two of the best movies in town, Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills (playing at Landmark’s Century) and Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s Caesar Must Die (playing at the Music Box). Given the popularity of Mungiu’s previous feature, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, I expected Hills to hang around for longer than it did; I’m not surprised, though, that Caesar would vanish so quickly. The Tavianis aren’t exactly name directors here anymore, despite having been staples of U.S. art houses for nearly two decades. The last film of theirs to receive a wide U.S. release was Fiorile, which came out here in 1994.

Truth be told, I hadn’t spent much time with their filmography before researching the piece I wrote on Caesar for last week’s issue. I had incorrectly assumed, based on the little I’d read about them, that their movies were stodgy pageants on historical or rustic subjects. I didn’t expect to encounter so many details that were weird or just plain silly, such as the talking animals who turn up in the largely realistic Padre Padrone. Now that I’ve seen a number of their films, these details strike me as being central to their work, which I’d describe as an ongoing gentleman’s quarrel with cinematic realism.