I am sure that for many people the Italian region of Sardinia is a mysterious and distant land full of intrigue. I am not so sure however that this means that there are films that should be made of such, and after viewing “Three Steps Dancing” you may feel there should not be any others coming. Maybe I’m a borderline xenophobe, but long and ponderous scenes of a truck driving through a deserted landscape rarely strike me as cinematic magic.
You can also add to that list lengthy passages of a man pushing his herd of sheep across a barren backdrop. How about four young Italian boys riding in the back of said pickup and bickering for ten minutes over smoking a cigarette and what the sea may look like? If you do not care for that you can take solace in the detailed account of the shepherd as he milks his sheep–repeatedly–and then goes through the steps of processing it into cheese. By hand. These and many others comprise this film that likely won’t have the Sardinian board of tourism adding to their staff. Not only is there a distinct lack of content but the scenes play out at a pace that can charitably be labeled as languid.
About the only time you get to experience a character with anything approaching a personality you will be half way through this film–or you will be in the lobby ordering coffee and paging through a map for local attractions of merit, such as bingo halls or police auctions. The shepherd, Michele, after delivering his cheese to a seaside town that is the mirror-opposite of any Hedonism resort, decides to put on a clean shirt and enters a tiny yet rustic night club. As he cowers in a corner watching everyone in the place have fun he somehow catches the eye of a reedy looking woman named Solveig.
Despite looking like a dirt farmer and acting like a mute agoraphobic Solveig persists in chasing this dud. She follows him the next day as he dodges cattle on his scooter and then cajoles him to ride in her car. She talks to him for long minutes as he does not respond, looking morosely out the window. Solveig clearly misses the point that this is the type of man more comfortable with sheep than women, but to her credit she pluckily persists.
She joins him on a fishing expedition whereby he hooks up a car battery and shocks the fish, collect the the floaters on the surface. (When this guy discovers dynamite there will be a fish-fry for the ages.) As he gathers his larder she badgers him further, and all the while Michele hasn’t spoken for about ten minutes of screen time. This is an urbane woman who flies planes and cavorts with young men, yet she insists on seducing this stunted mope who refuses to address her and lives in a stone hovel. Short of a caveman’s club she gets him to make love, and the scenes of them rolling in the muck, reeking of fish and lamb’s offal are far from seductive.
There are more occurrences but I am challenged to explain them as I have a sneaking suspicion that they are still taking place. And I’m talking about the scenes that made sense. I cannot shake the detailed account of how Michele slowly drives up to an airplane hanger, walks inside and calls out for a friend, and with no response coming he approaches a propeller and spins it, and we watch as it slowly turns to a stop. I am sure this was a crucial scene for crucial reasons, but did this really have to take five minutes of screen time?
I have a hard time believing there are audiences out there who crave to experience the life a sheep-milker who eventually delivers his product to the beach and then meets an attractive woman with whom he refuses to speak, but then I’m not that worldly. I can only say that after watching this film that there is only one thing that may be worse than visiting Sardinia. That would be traveling to Sardinia and having “Three Step Dancing” as the in-flight movie.