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Comizi d'amore (1964)
An Honest Representation Of A Taboo Subject From 1960 Italy's Public.
Pasolini's Comizi D'amore (also known as "Love Meetings") is an interesting documentary. It's execution is modest and admirable: Pasolini, equipped with a microphone, interviews the 1960s public of Italy - ranging from children, teenagers, parents and the elderly to gain a representative perspective - focusing his questions on the subject of sex. Specifically, questions about birth - if the children interviewed understood where babies came from; sexual relationships and marriage - i.e. do sexual issues disappear with marriage; prostitution; gender differences; homosexuality; sexual diseases; etc. These questions and their overall theme attempts to illustrate how Italy, during the 60s, was conservative in their views on sex.
The research his film presents is admirable and thorough, as Pasolini interviewed many people from the public around Italy, providing answers that vary depending on location; the north of Italy proving to be more open to sex while the south of Italy was indicating more conservative views. Although the film might not be particularly representative of Italy in the present day, the film does provide an intriguing source for comparison: how the present day view's on sex have changed from the views held in the 1960s.
Pasolini's interviewing technique shows signs of sensitive delivery, making sure his questions are never worded awkwardly, never creating discomfort, while also improvising follow-up questions almost instantly to elaborate on an interviewee's response; for the short time these interviewee's are on screen, Pasolini makes sure to get the most out of them. Quite playful at times, this is an intriguing and honest film where views of 1960s youth culture and conservatism are collected - it's definitely an intelligent examination of the 1960 Italian public's views on what is still considered a taboo subject.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
What is the Right Thing?
My initial response to this film was somewhat mixed as I was perplexed with Spike Lee's intentions in the film. I was somewhat confused as to whether Spike Lee was trying to portray "the right thing" as anarchy, rebellion, frustration and disrespect due to the film's catastrophic finale as well as the many conflicts before. Throughout the film, there is also many questionable motives for characters that, as a viewer, I couldn't help but disagree with, from petty yet aggressive arguments in ethnic-owned convenient stores to buy batteries, to a scene where middle aged African Americans have racist discussions on the street corner. Morals and ethics in the film are somewhat blurry and ambiguous.
But that's clearly the intention. On repeated viewings, I found the film to be asking the rhetorical questions of "what is the right thing to do?" and "what would you do in these situations?" This perspective for the film made it much more accessible and effective with its multi-layered narrative. There are many scenes where the viewer may disagree with the intentions of the characters, or may simply not. The film's protagonist - and for the majority of the film, its middle-man - Mookie (played naturally by the film's director, Spike Lee), tries to bridge the gap between tension in many of the scenes, from the local pizzeria's owner's eldest son's abusive relationship with his younger brother to the volatile relationship between the pizzeria owner, Sal (a fantastic performance from Danny Aiello, ranging from endearing to aggressive) and a customer who requests for more photographs of black people on the walls of the business.
The film is based on the hottest day on Brooklyn streets as many of the locals take the time to enjoy themselves on such a scorching Summer's day, with the main focus on Mookie, an intelligent yet somewhat slack pizza deliverer for the local pizzeria. Many scenarios in the film portray conflicting perspectives of the locals in the area and in the middle of much of it is Mookie or acquaintances of his. These characters are written as independent thinkers as each one is doing "the right thing," or at least their definition of it, which may conflict with another's definition of it. The film therefore encapsulates the subjectivity of morals - what is right and what is wrong, exactly?
It's a fascinatingly told narrative that's full of late 80s/early 90s quirks, boom-bap hip-hop and funky editing and acting. The cinematography is ambitious, somewhat extravagant at times for its use of crane shots to tilted framing, but it works to deliver a somewhat hectic portrayal of a somewhat hectic day. Spike Lee shows his effortless ability to direct and write such an exciting yet complex story in this late 80s black-cinema classic.
I would recommend it highly and I would also recommend re-watching it frequently. Watching this with others would also invite debate over the film's representation of morality. It's definitely a powerful piece of cinema and will leave you contemplating what exactly you watched and whether it was "the right thing."
Idi i smotri (1985)
The Brutally Honest Definition of Terror.
This is one film that truly understands the horrors and devastation of war. There's no sugar- coating here. It follows a young boy as he joins the Soviet Army and their efforts against the Nazis during WWII. The young boy, Florya Gaishun (played magnificently and masterfully by Aleksey Kravchenko at the age of 14 during filming), is the film's main focus, as his mentality slowly unravels the more he comes into contact with the grotesqueries of WWII. The representation of such grotesqueries is brutally honest, as his young Florya's reaction and acceptance of such horrors. The performance, for such a young actor, is mature and terrifying - it's disturbing how effectively young Aleksey managed to react as he did for this film.
The film does not allow for any sense of equilibrium; tension is constantly building and this is frequently due to the film's use of sound design. It's disturbing and unsettling, from the realistic sound of high-pitched drones and muffled dialogue during the aftermath of mortar, to the horrifying swelling and progression of droning sound that builds to a disturbing crescendo at certain scenes, an example of such a scene being Florya's discovery of what happened to the village he once resided in.
Throughout the film, the atmosphere of desperation and the aspect of survival managed to keep myself glued to the edge of my seat - every moment feels like it could be Florya's last. The efforts of the director, Elem Klimov, is admirable - his intention for the film was to be as realistic as possible, and he achieves this. The film is powerful: the events are dreadful yet engaging; the performances are genuine and brutally honest; the effects are not simple effects (the ammunition used in the film is genuine and can be seen chipping away at the trees in some scenes). If you have the chance of viewing this film, take it - it's breathtaking and bound to leave the viewer scarred.
La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928)
A Film of Transcendental Beauty.
A truly beautiful and powerful film of such an influential and admirable status that not many films could ever achieve such praise. Dreyer's vision with The Passion Of Joan Of Arc is still recognised as one of the greatest pieces of filmmaking in existence.
Falconetti's performance as Jeanne d'Arc is widely accepted as one of the greatest performances ever committed to film and it should be very clear as to why. Her performance is very restrained, subtle and mature, providing distinctive character development, understanding and empathy through only her facial expression. The silent era was one where over-acting had become common but her performance did not follow such a convention and even by today's standard's it's still a beautifully restrained performance. Her face and eyes are so expressive and emotional that they speak louder than any dialogue ever could, and with the film's cinematography focusing on extreme close-ups of the characters' faces, it emphasises the power that Falconetti could harness through such acting. The close-ups also allow us, as viewers, to pay attention to every facial twitch of Jeanne d'Arc throughout the film, adding to the emotional torture that she must have faced.
The film is beautiful in every respect, from its cinematography's focus on extreme close-ups, its supporting character performances and even the few moments you truly glance at the set design and decorations. It all contributes wonderfully to Dreyer's vision of the trial of Joan of Arc, but the highlight for me, along with many other viewers, is certainly Falconetti's performance. It's honestly heartbreaking when the inevitably tragic ending is portrayed as for the brief time we, as viewers, have been watching the film, it certainly feels like we have got to know who both Jeanne d'Arc and Falconetti are and that she has opened herself up to the world - her performance is one of the most genuine performances I've ever had the pleasure of viewing.
I definitely recommend this film, whether you're curious about acting, cinematography or silent cinema, this should definitely be essential viewing.