I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Federico Fellini‘s work, mostly on the love side. There’s like one or two films of his that seem insipid and enforced schoolboy attitudes. But for the most part, he’s the guy that the stereotypically pretentious cineastes like, which is ironic because he’s so fun and silly and childlike and playful. This week, Nathaniel’s doing La Dolce Vita. I try my best in writing the most intelligent film criticism I can, but do you really want erudition out of a movie about Italians in their thirties partying it up?
This movie was also my introduction to Anouk Aimee. I like her better here than in 8 1/2, but then I always like the flirt over the neglected wife.
The picture above will also be the gayest moment in a Fellini film, second to all of Satyricon. Although someone correct me if I’m wrong.
Nonetheless, here’s my favourite shot/sequence is the last one. It’s the morning after a party, two of the women spot a commotion on the beach. And of course, Fellini women don’t walk, they saunter. I don’t even remember the shots being like this. I remember them all walking to the beach from the right hand side of the screen. But really they walk through the forest area from the right hand side of the screen and they walk on the beach with their backs facing the audience. And of course I don’t remember how much the forest looks like a backdrop, but then those ‘painted’ trees look like they have dimension. I’m not gonna cheat and look up on iMDb whether Fellini filmed this in a studio or not. I just love how surreal the shot is. Not Bunuel surreal, no offense to him, but fun, playtime surreal.
Here’s Marcello (Mastroianni) looking as fresh as an 18-year-old. I also don’t remember the film being almost three hours long, but if I was having this much fun, this movie could have gone on all night long.
La Dolce Vita is playing today at October 10 and November 9 at the Bell Lightbox, but I kinda wanna see Rules of the Game too.
Saw this at the TIFF Cinematheque as part of their Pasolini retrospective. Apparently I would have stayed longer in the theatre for 25 more minutes if the Cinematheque had the premiere version. It’s either in Criterion, on the internets, or is lost ‘forever.’
The movie isn’t porn. It isn’t titillating, unless having a two second glimpse of 16-year old flaccid penis gets you off, which is, good for you I guess. Four men, the Duke, the Bishop, the Magistrate and the President sign a book of rules, shepherd eighteen adolescent boys and girls into a mansion and degrade them sexually. There isn’t the contact nor intimacy nor should I say, intensity of ‘normal’ sexual activities. The adolescents are ‘taught’ sexual acts and are told that that’s their purpose. They have to please these four men and their pleasure isn’t a reward. And they eat shit and they get sliced in the forehead. If you were expecting something else, sigh on you.
It’s funny how I can’t show any nudity or sexual acts to a 20 year old in the screen caps – I won’t anyway – but it would probably have been OK to show the same 20 year old with a gun on his head. Or his tongue cut off.
This movie is Pasolini’s critique of fascism in Italy, but I’ll get back to more on that. While the men are examining one of the potential girls, the Magistrate asks her if he will prefer them to the nuns in the convent, the gamine answers that she doesn’t know that yet. This might look like overreading, but a madam transfers the innocent child from one oppressive system to another, a typical problem in ‘modern’ Europe when religious absolute monarchies are overthrown by totalitarian regimes like that in Italy. Depending on your judgment of the girl’s fortune, she wasn’t chosen because of a missing tooth. The nuns already turned her into damaged goods.
Again, critique of Fascist Italy, and conspiracy theories suggest the Neo-Fascist P2 killed Pasolini. That was repeated by my friend’s friend outside the theatre at the end of the film, who likened the mansion in Salo to the 9 billion secret prisons being built in Canada at this moment – his opinion, not mine. The fact that Fascism ruled in more than one country in Europe, and that threat constantly pops up made the film more resonant to me. And that I couldn’t like the inane blindness and heteronormative stance of Amarcord, a movie made near the same time about the same earlier period, after watching Salo. Although it’s not a great one or a favourite, it’s essential.
However, Michael Haneke names this one of his ten favourite films. Obviously.
The Talented Mr Ripley is playing at the Toronto Underground Cinema today at 6:45, followed by Amadeus at 9:30. This part of their Seven Deadly Sins Film Festival. Today we get to the fourth sin, Envy.
Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith – the same author who wrote “Strangers on a Train”- the centre of class-based resentment and guilt resides within our anti-hero, Tom Ripley (Matt Damon). He wears a Princeton blazer for a performance for rich folks on a rooftop facing Central Park. He is mistaken for a rich boy’s college friend, the rich boy being Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law). Dickie’s parents then ask Tom to get Dickie home from the latter’s self-exile in Montebello, Italy.
Tom’s a quick study, as Freddie Miles (Philip Seymour Hoffman) would say. He is an all American boy who’s always wanted things he could never have. He can crack jokes that can amuse Dickie and his girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow). He tells Dickie that his talents include ‘telling lies, making forgeries.’ He tries to like the same things and live the same lifestyle as Dickie, a premise as dangerous as it sounds. Tom a classical fan, sees Dickie, a jazz fan. He wants to like the same things Dickie likes and to become Dickie. And he can charm women like Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett) and convince her that he is Dickie.
Anthony Minghella is probably the closest our generation will get to a golden age Hitchcock. The movie doesn’t oscillate with valleys of Hitch’s thriller side nor the peaks of his surprisingly cheerful Grace Kelly side. We get both fear and harmless beauty at the same, evenly mixed concoction. Minghella here is trying to beautify and exoticize the Italian beach country as well as the diasporic upper class Americans living there. Minghella dresses the gang in New Look outfits and summer whites. There’s a lot for Tom and for the audience to covet, and the coveting is what helps the cloud of intrigue to come in.
Despite of the embarrassment of riches that the characters have, the actors playing them give unflashy performances. I’ve applauded Blachett’s interpretation of her character in a previous post. There’s also Damon, whom Courtney Young praised for standing up to the same levels as Jude Law. This movie was my introduction to Hoffman, who plays someone opposite his characters. Gwyneth Paltrow also amazes in her final scenes, although some critics like Amy Taubin don’t like her performance here.
I’ve posted images and plugging the movie’s last screening at the Bloor Cinema. Finally saw it, and this is what I think of the movie.
The film’s about sexual fantasy. Really. The longer version is that the film’s about sexual fantasy and the male gaze in the context of a small Italian town in 1939 – I know it’s 1939 because of the “Beau Geste” references, but anyway. The film does start with the town’s air full of puffballs, a sign of springtime, which is itself a sign of youth and sex. I make it sound so dry. Don’t worry, boys, there’s a lot of well proportioned women in this movie, and there’s lots for the men to choose from. One of those women is Gradisca, the hairdresser in red. There’s Gina, a servant who gets touched in the behind by one of her old bosses. There’s the well stacked lady who own the tobacco shop. There’s Volpina, a prototype of the town crack whore, yet the men don’t reject her because she has the same energy as them. Not even the women are blatantly shown in telling her to slow down.
As Andrew O’Hehir writes, the film’s obviously sexist. It has the same, shallow comedian’s understanding of gender – men want sex and most women just wanna settle down and have children even if they have to entertain a million toads to find a prince. I know I’m gonna sound like an apologist by writing this, but the women come out better than the men because of Gradisca’s monologue.
Besides, promoting these sex-driven thinking also mean that there’s no guilt involved. Sexual fantasy is a communal experience, and a boy’s allowed to share his feelings to his peer group and to trusted elders, like a priest. By confessing to a priest, the boy technically feels like a sinner, but he doesn’t try to make the label stick and there’s no judgment nor hellfire. It’s in the typical Southern Catholic attitude when the average person has to do penance but he can totally party the night before. Conversely, Uncle Teo’s the only one who seems more perverse while shouting for his need for a woman atop a tree in a farm. The audience can blame his depravity to his isolation.
Speaking of fantasy and community, there’s also scattered twenty-five minutes worth of the film spent on portraying fascism. The film shows most of the town’s citizenry as optimistic under Fascist Italy, a country of hope and idolatry. Even Gradisca succumbs to fainting orgasms when talking about Il Duce. This lack of guilt nor remorse shown in the townsfolk is refreshing and realistic compared to other texts tackling the material. It is possible that the citizens of a country under dictatorship do not know about the oppression and cruelty that its government enacts towards minorities or outsiders until a later time. Sounds familiar. It’s something that they believed in even though they knew nothing about it. The depiction of the fascist element adds to the complexity and surprising maturity in Fellini’s later work.
Amacord has been showing at the Bloor Cinema since yesterday, and since I’m bored and procrastinating, I’ve posted screen caps of the movie.
Anyway, kinda wish I didn’t catch screen caps before watching the movie because it ruined the surprise. Thank God I can’t understand Italian. I’m actually watching it today at 7. See you there!
Last chance: Tonight at 9 at the Bloor. I have work tonight so I can’t see it, but I already saw it so I’m ok. If you can, go see it. Or Saraghina will come after your child and give him an education and a gift that keeps on giving.
Finally! And just to let TV folks know that no one can sit through four hours of this with commercials. Luckily, I caught this on the Bloor on Thursday. I was still slightly distracted, partly because I’ve seen most of this movie until the baptism massacre. I’ve read some of the criticism of this movie listed here, so seriously, what else is there to say?
That I’m flip flopping as to whether or not this is nature or nurture – either his safe distance from the family business made him learn enough and to stay temperamental or that Michael (Al Pacino) was ordained to be Don, despite everyone else’s plans. That this is “greatest movie ever” despite that all the principle players with the exception of Abe Vigoda have been better somewhere else.
That Michael, brandishing an Anglo name, had the swagger of Jimmy Cagney once he turned into the hat-wearing gangster.
That this movie’s pretty meditative until the murder scenes, all having the punch of William Wellman gangster movies.
That I couldn’t remember Sterling Hayden’s name and that bugged me for the whole movie, so I just kept calling him Robert Ryan instead.
That Italians really like Italian stage blood.
That where are the women?
That one reviewer actually pointed out Sonny’s (James Caan) shoulder and back hair and yes, I would still hit it.
And lastly, that there’s a place in my heart for Godfather III because Michael and Kay (Diane Keaton) make the cutest old divorced couple ever and that I can turn that into a drinking game, unlike this one.
p.s. CHCH is gonna be airing on pan-and-scan and HD versions of “The Godfather” on June 13th at 7, and the respective sequels will be aired at Sunday June 20th and 27th at the same time slot.
I saw “Mid-August Lunch” at its last day at the Royal, and I really hope it gets a second life in this city. Looking like a complex postcard, it succinctly tells the audience what they needs to know about the movie’s characters, who can present enough back story with a sentence or two.
Nonetheless this movie’s also a double-handed text in gender, with an unemployed Gianni and the four elderly women in his rustic condominium. He reluctantly lets them stay over for two days in the Ferragosto holiday, but he already has a lot on his hands. The women dominate him and he tries to keep their medications and diets in mind. At the same time they’re trying to dominate each other with passive aggressive talk about how Gianni’s mother Valeria raised him.
We do have to consider that men did leave three other elderly women for him to take care for. The special arrangements are negotiated because Gianni owes money to them. His doctor prefers to spend time with his wife and children, while his property manager says what the doctor is saying while running off with a blond woman who can’t possibly be his daughter. The grandmothers then, feel a little abandoned. In essence this movie’s about men dominating women dominating a man left behind.
The exquisite nature of the movie relies on how they deal with these emotions, sometimes distilling them or dissociating them. They eat and smoke not with purpose but as routine. Gianni downs his drinks without looking like an alcoholic – he’s in control but he really needs this break, now. And they try to have fun with the little things they do have like meals and dances.
And for a last thought, forget “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” because this movie’s perfect for a Hollywood remake. I don’t know how the holidays and the business rules are gonna translate, but the main plot and cast is good enough. Try it, suits!
“I Am Love” has aspects of the perfect art-snob film: style, deconstructing the rich and a baffling ending. Set in Milan, the film profiles the Recchis. Edo invites to dinner his middle class girlfriend Eva. His sister Betta reveals her lesbianism to him and to their mother Emma (Tilda Swinton), who’s bound to show her wild side soon. The film has a sensory feel to it and is capable of tragedy – the latter making us wonder how the family’s rebels are going to carry on. The audience laughed at the ending. I liked the movie, but the worst thing I can say about it is that it’s partly a movie about food that’s never made me feel hungry. Who eats flowers? What is wrong with rich people?