The Last Victory review

Recent accusations of fixing in the `Sport of Kings' are small change compared to the annual orgy of corruption surrounding Il Palio, a centuries-old horse race around Siena's Piazza del Campo.

John Appel's moving documentary focuses on Civetta, one of the 17 districts that compete each year. To the unitiated, the residents take this bruising contest far too seriously: "The only thing that comes close to winning is an orgasm," mumbles 92-year-old Egidio, one of the few locals who can still remember Civetta's "last victory". The race certainly brings out the best and worst in the Italian temperament.

Appel, though, refuses to pass judgement, instead recording the build-up to the big day with a sparkling eye and a genuine empathy for the obsessive community. Only in the aftermath, where rival supporters turn on each other with barely concealed fury, does the film reveal the violence that simmers beneath. A quaintTuscan custom? You've gotta be kidding.

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