Europa Cinema > 11:00


Damiano Damiani


Film Notes

Quién sabe? is not a western… The western belongs to the protestant culture of North America. If you step outside the protestant culture of North America, then you are not making a western. South of the Rio Grande is not the West, it is Mexico… Quién sabe? is a film about the Mexican revolution, set during the Mexican revolution, and therefore clearly a political film – it could not be otherwise.
Damiano Damiani, in L’avventurosa storia del cinema italiano. Da La dolce vita a C’era una volta il West, Vol. 3, edited by Franca Faldini and Goffredo Fofi, Edizioni Cineteca di Bologna, Bologna 2021
The question of labels, and whether or not the film should be considered a western, can finally be shelved. Quién sabe?, which was created with the memory of Kazan’s legendary Viva Zapata! in mind, can now be seen as an alternative to Sergio Leone, a parallel model for an Italian western, set in Mexico and with a populist, guerrilla, third world sensibility… Nevertheless, Damiani was not interested in questions of genre, and not solely because he did not continue down this path; indeed, when he eventually made a real spaghetti western in 1975, A Genius, Two Partners and a Dupe, there would be no trace of influence from Quién sabe? Rather, what interests him about El Chuncho – the bandit and assassin turned revolutionary-in-the-making – is his political awakening, his generous humanity, his contradictions, and not the iconography of the hero. The most significant sequence, of which there is no equivalent in other films from this sub-genre, deals with a thorny moral question for which Mexico serves merely as a convenient setting like any other: that is, the elimination of the ruling class once the revolution has taken place. The fate of the landowner Don Felipe – executed (off camera) and then reduced to the status of object, a corpse dumped amongst the rubbish in the street while the people celebrate, having already forgotten about him – reveals Damiani’s true concern. He wants to reflect on history’s contradictions, on the inevitability and pointlessness of violence. And he does so without a word of commentary or a single title card. In a similar fashion, in the end El Chuncho will kill the American who detests Mexico; he does not know why he does it, but he knows that it needs to be done.

Alberto Pezzotta, Regia Damiano Damiani, Cinemazero, Pordenone 2004

Cast and Credits

Sog., Scen.: Salvatore Laurani. F.: Tony Secchi. M.: Renato Cinquini. Scgf.: Sergio Canevari. Mus.: Luis Enriquez Bacalov. Int.: Gian Maria Volonté (El Chuncho), Lou Castel (Bill Tate Niño), Martine Beswick (Adelita), Klaus Kinski (El Santo), Carla Gravina (Rosaria), Andrea Checchi (Don Felipe), Jaime Fernández (generale Elías), Aldo Sambrell (Álvaro), Spartaco Conversi (Eufemio), Santiago Santos (Guapo). Prod.: Bianco Manini per M.C.M. DCP. Col.