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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In a small patch of America where the people are closed into their
mental and material sluggishness and where some troubled adolescents
are unwilling to accept their imaginary imprisonment a shadow of
uneasiness finds its way among patches of thick darkness where all
kinds of interpersonal relationships are inhibited. Two young girls put
aside every improper form of rebellion and trigger a mechanism based on
the creative power of the gaze intended as usual means of observation,
taking advantage of the slightest occasions to climb the fences of
intolerance and anonymity to confirm their unacknowledged existence.
But the dull Ghost World which has become a symbol of the decadence of American culture and more generally of the entire Western civilization hasn't got the capacity to change the strength of the human consciences. So, it goes on prospering in his stagnant anonymity amid the general indifference while the visionary minds of some nostalgic people are completely marginalized by a world that confuses Fellini's "Eight and a half " with Lyne's "Nine and a half weeks". and the voices of old 78 speed records seem to echo the ghosts of an era and The movie is about the difficulty of dealing with a world that has really fallen out of tune; the dialogues have the flavor of dialogue balloons expressed in a direct and explicit language even if not foul-mouthed, the language of the adolescence who is looking for its individual values, in close contact with an excerpt of humanity anesthetized by strong doses of daily pettiness and unable to seize the slightest positive change but following stubbornly a customary provincial ritual properly stored into the code of a sort of stale mental microchip.
"Ghost world" is a bitter comedy that makes us think, completely stripped from frills and various paraphernalia, bluntly addressed to the heart of a problem far from insoluble because in the end even a long wait for a deleted bus route deleted can lead to positive consequences. Adapted from a underground comic book by Daniel Clowes, the film keeps the blaze of colors comics accentuated by the brilliance of the photography, a legacy which carries as consequence a series of short sequences throughout the whole narrative. Be as it may Ghost World proves once again that comics shouldn't be considered in any way a replacement for artistic discipline subordinate to other higher forms of expression of human creativity because they have a particular autonomous capacity of production of reality thank to their original and exclusive language. And this time the movie gives us the opportunity to take two birds with one stone: precisely the American Beauty Thora Birch and the glamorous Scarlett Johansson, one of my favorite actresses. And the nearly two hours in length of the film aren't certainly to be considered "lost in translation!"
Philippe Garrel makes us breathe the forgotten atmosphere of the
Nouvelle Vague, almost lost among the vestiges of its ancient splendor
but ready to rise again from its ashes if recalled from the past. They
who are a little acquainted with the director's subjects, on the other
hand, may know very well how he's obsessed by a lingering sense of loss
as far as fickleness of reality is concerned. "Les amants réguliers",
therefore, show us the parallel stories of an "amour fou" and of a
tempted revolution gone to ruin under the direction of young French
The first part of the story is about the dramatic events of May '68 in France evoked in a series of astonishing plan-sequences, a sort of cinema verité style, that place the student insurrection in anything but an enviable light against a pitch-black background.
There's much that can be said about the peculiarities of black-and-white photography used to describe the battle between students and police, where the high contrasts confer an unrealistic atmosphere to the sequences and darkness closes in upon the excited bodies wrapping them in mystery. The images, completely deprived of words, show the real consistence of the myth, made of crude violence, more and more emphasized by the exasperated reality of the movie shootings. The individual doesn't count anything at all here: he tends to disappear in the mass. What really matters in these fight scenes are the significance of the mass-suggestion, the blind fury of the juvenile assault, sinister eulogies of the power of the mob, even if conceived like separate entities apart from any kind of emotion, with the cold and distant look of an entomologist intent to catalog his insect collection.
The second part of the story is described in a quieter and most intimate way. Stands out on the horizon the distressing portrait of a self-centered generation in search of its lost time, completely disenchanted about the individual values of men, inclined to rotate on its own axis between opium fumes and making a funeral oration in the praise of its recent defeat.
"Les amants réguliers" seems to evoke from time to time the shadow of the great Robert Bresson, revised and corrected by Garrel's particular sensibility without drifting away from the main argument, trying to expand overall perspectives on the subject of human disillusions that though painful may bring us to the truth. In my opinion, trying to penetrate deeply into the substrate of the story, if a man lets himself go and play things by ear, he probably will find that he can bring out the dark side of his self with dire and irretrievable consequences.
This is the fist chapter of the saga of Antoine Doinel, performed in a
masterly manner during a long period of his life (twenty years) by the
surprising Jean-Pierre Léaud, followed step by step by the pygmalion
Truffaut during the whole course of his full physical maturity,
beginning from the actor's early years.
The present movie deals with the topic of unquiet and misunderstood adolescence, clearly inspired by Edmund' character, the young boy who lives in the destructed Germany doing all kinds of work in Rossellini's "Germania anno zero". Antoine and Edmund are two young human beings at the mercy of the waves, without any help or control, living on the fringe of society, unable to cope with the hypocrisy of grown-up people that guess they are no good for anything. But differently from Rossellini's character, Antoine is endowed with more resolution than him. Furthermore, the will to succeed will help him a great deal in his life, especially to come unsmirched from the manifold difficulties of existence, because he's a stubborn boy who prefers the real thing to the phony stuff and doesn't want to give grown-up people the satisfaction of knowing that their choices have worked on him.
With the same incomparable style you expect by an author that has made him beloved by many cinephiles far and wide, Truffaut describes the portrait of a restless young man yearning for freedom, in open rebellion with his familiar environment and with the whole adult world. Scenes from an unhappy existence, outlined in the script with sometimes disenchanted frankness, clearly following the inspiration of autobiographically conceived ideas, while the repeated use of long focal length lens during movie shooting conveys an anonymous sense of uneasiness.
The rebellious character Antoine Doinel, unamenable to discipline, is included in a metropolitan context described in a very impersonal way, plunged in melancholy and echoing a meaningless platitude, according to a disenchanting, strictly objective conception of the reality. Truffaut doesn't "ask" us to identify with his subject, no wonder his psychological motivations point out to us in a disturbing way the complete downfall of individual certainties as far as the difficult route to adulthood is concerned. The purpose of this generational conflict created by him is to prove that boys aren't guiltier than adults; both of them in his opinion are victims of a society whose uneasy feelings spread over their lives with undesired consequences.
The Tragedy is being consummated. The Passion is reaching its apex.
"You are burning a Saint!", this is the scream of anguish of the
people, witness of this poignant event, very deeply moved by the
excruciating agony of Joan of Arc, flame beyond the flame. Very short
hair, fine features in spite of her social condition of uncultured
peasant, deep and large eyes burning of the same unquenchable fire
bound to put an end to her life: this is our heroine, whose beauty is
emphasized at once by her great faith in the infinite mercy of God.
She never staggers under the heavy burden of her charge in the presence of her inquisitors, unreal and monstrous entities whose hardheartedness shows up on their grotesque features and on their unnatural animal-like attitude, judging by their perverse faces distorted by extremely short focal length lenses. They look like personified devilish entities engaged in a cat-and-mouse game, their ugliness accentuated by a series of uncommon close-ups contrasting with Joan's wonderful face that shows the extreme dramaticity of her situation instead, compelled to endure her pain with great courage and to bear the heavy weight of her cross with resignation, without losing her steady disposition of soul, wanting to go through with her rigidity of principles at the cost of her life.
Satanic grimaces, devilish sneers, derisive laughters and spittle emphasize the ineluctable course of this absurd justice system while the vision of her holocaust hovers above the head of the sacrifical victim, so fragile, so vulnerable when fighting in defense of her behavior, so unheard when holding her own opinion, so unprotected when pleading her cause. She objects strenuously to everything they say because faith leads people to do things they never would have imagined themselves capable of, but her passionate words flow away like feeble whispers in a windy day, while her enchanting eyes scan an invisible sky, looking for something beyond her human strength, beyond every possibilities of the common mortals, maybe a divine sign from above, even if there's no question about her unshakable devotion to God, because "God knows where He bring us", she thinks, "but we are able to know the road to Him only when we reach the end of it." Every sequences are included in the above described oppressive scenario whose hypnotic suggestion expressionist style reminds us of the universal sense of pain ready to penetrate deeply into the substrate of our Christian and human consciences, in the inmost recesses of the soul, sharing our hidden emotions awakened by the vision of a defenseless face appealing for mercy in vain, without never losing her dignity.
Joan, of Arc, splendidly played by Renée Falconetti in this "PASSION", might be considered the symbol of the eternal suffering of human beings, adorned with an aureole of beauty and holiness, set on a supreme pedestal, higher and higher than every other female characters of the history of cinema, namely the ideal heroin per antonomasia especially thanks to the heart-rending final purification, moving and endless journey around the deep black of human soul, around the meanders of a faith itinerary stranded for ages on the sand-banks of a devastating fanatic pragmatism. Tearing and cathartic report about every distortions in faith.
A blurred image of a car driving along a country road first, hardly
perceived by the young passer-by. And after a few seconds the CRASH,
awful, appalling, ineluctable. The half-conscious eye becomes
prematurely aware of the death announcement. Almost before the woman
realizes it, things have gone too far and it's impossible for her to
back out from living damnation. So from an hospital bed of suffering a
scream of anguish arises suddenly, seen as a peremptory withdrawal into
an existence of immeasurable self solitude, as a controversial evidence
of a disillusioned and insignificant future.
There it is, the cathartic route to desolation row of a woman voluntarily immersed into voids of memory and determined to erase the past from her mind, doomed to cancel the loss of her family as a free self-imposition thank to the complete repudiation of every sentiments, as if her fate weren't discouraging enough.
Julie's route is intended as a cry for freedom. As a release from musical reminiscences thrown into the dust-bin, from the possession of material things whose recollection can stop the healing of open wounds, from love involvements in the enclosed space of some anonymous, empty rooms. Julie's freedom is very heavy, it makes her perceive its oppressing presence every moments of her life, but on the other hand it helps her to empty her mind of every sad recollections of her past. But the line between pain and oblivion is very thin, and sometimes she doesn't even realize she's crossing it.
Juliette Binoche puts her heart and brain (more the last one than the first one) into acting the disconsolate widow. Her performance is personally inspired by Annie Dupré's book "The black angel", based on the death of the writer's parents in a car crash. Her character is damned to perpetual interior torment, into the BLUE, deprived of the faculty of emerging cathartically to light, necessary intermediate stage to reach a new existential balance.
And we can find the BLUE everywhere. BLUE like the reflections of the swimming pool, faithful companion in solitude, relaxing amniotic liquid whose embrace is so welcoming! BLUE like the color of her empty room, once beaming with joy. BLUE like the chandelier, brought with her as the only memory of happy days gone by. BLUE like the notes of the scale that run after each other on the musical pentagram playing a growing hymn to love. But mainly BLUE as symbol of the cold void of the soul fallen on her back, temporarily deaf to the bells of life resounding around it.
Bobby is a guy who's been around but he doesn't know that he mightn't
rush things. According to the saying "carpe diem", unable to look her
father in the face, dismayed by his old man's irreversible illness, he
dreams a world conceived in his own image and likeness. His indomitable
iron will makes him hold his course towards a sort of anarchic
disorder, inspiring him a diffuse sense of rebellion against everyone
and no one in particular. He's always torn between anger at having to
face the truth and a wild desire to laugh at the ridiculousness of the
But only his way of playing Chopin to experience emotions can awaken pleasant recollections and reconcile him with his self, bringing to light a life-long tendency to introversion hidden under his skin. Not by chance the camera movement nearly completes a circle around the room during the revealing sequence of his piano solo, zooming into some meaningful pictures that disclose his absolutely normal past years, dismantling in a disturbing way his forced attitude of rebellion. "He might have been quite a good guy if only they had given him a chance", the camera seems to say.
No wonder Nicholson doesn't toil hard to display his full richness of talent, having found his most congenial role in years and being always the master of the situation like a perfect landlord, acting naturally in the same concentrated and unconstrained style. His character is histrionic, melodramatic, romantic, impudent, unbecoming, licentious depending on the circumstances, a sort of "deus ex machina" bound to cheer or disturb the people around him according to his momentary disposition of soul.
This movie can be defined in many ways. As a blend of skin-deep sensations always on the verge of irony (the duologue between Bobby asking for a sandwich and the waitress refusing flatly is very amusing). As a cynical story swerving from the straight path and resembling from time to time a drama full of lofty sentiments (see the silent duologue between father and son). Or as the somber description of a pessimistic middle-class ("soon there never will be more room for human beings", they say). But more precisely "Five easy pieces" can be defined as the portrait of a rising generation on the verge of losing its way and worried about the fact that it has been caught unawares.
AUTUMN IN NEW YORK is a poetic movie full of lofty feelings, especially
recommended to all these lonely souls wanting to float in the sea of
romantic emotions thank to its peculiar style echoing Pre-Raphaelite
and Decadent poetry. Maybe, if it hadn't been for my favorite star, the
beautiful WINONA RYDER, too marvelous for words, delicious weaver of
celluloid dreams, completely ignored by the star- system in recent
years, this melancholy movie could have passed unnoticed.
I guess it's no longer a mystery how Noni has the ability to bewitch the audience. She's more deserving and experienced than other overrated and expressionless stars accustomed to bring out second-rate movies every two months with the same vehemence of a machine-gun. This is the reason why the present work can be held in due consideration: thank to Winona Ryder's commendable performance. She can make us breathe the impalpable, bitter flavor of a delicate love story in the same way the great screen actresses of the past could do, like only a few stars today can do. On the other hand, let me try to draw a veil over her partner's overacting performance.
In my opinion the supposed inconsistency (due to many negative reviews) of this piece of work full of pathetic scenes of sentimental value, which has garnered only a lukewarm response from audiences and critics can be actually due to the obviousness of the plot, based on a romantic love story between a womanizer and an ailing girl. Even if the script could have been written in the nineteenth century by some feuilleton writer like, for instance, the prolific Italian writer Carolina Invernizio (1858-1916), author of "the Kiss of a dead woman", the movie gives off a scent of fresh modernity. It can be preferred as a relaxing alternative to some alleged masterpieces of those directors suffering by a sort of Tarantinian syndrome, like, for instance, Robert Rodriguez, author of the hyper-violent movies "From dusk till dawn" and Sin City.
The movie gives us a vivid and ruthless description of the odyssey of a
rebel housewife, described with passionate and emotional involvement
without giving vent to any sort of conceptualism. This touching story
has been inspired by the legend of a mysterious woman who disappeared a
long time ago in Lampedusa (an island in the sea of Sicily, the
southern point of Europe.). Grazia, the catalyst character of the
story, a restless married woman of unusual habits, is considered a nut,
an irresponsible person who can't participate fully in the life of
society, being forced into total imagination. If it hadn't been for an
out-of-date husband, maybe she would have turned her beauty to better
Unable to stifle her feelings and to bear the heavy burden of age-old customs, she blows a fuse, ready to abandon home, land and property to flee into the unknown. As the intolerant member of an archaic fishermen community whose behavior leaves much to be desired, not tuned to her same emotional wavelength, not contaminated by the standardization of the modern society, she's quite resolved to preserve every traditional values and social structures, without leaving space for human relationships not predetermined by time-honored customs faithfully handed on from father to son. In this forgotten land where the younger brothers strive to safeguard the reputation of their mothers, the alienated Grazia, (played by a touching and wonderful Valeria Golino), generally considered to be either a very wretched woman or, even worse, a lunatic one, is eager to undertake a journey towards the complete fulfillment of her hopes, yearning for the sight of her deep blue sea, complying with her inner desire for emancipation. In her unremitting efforts to achieve ultimate freedom, the same freedom bestowed by her upon the dogs waiting to be slaughtered, she strives to get over her existential dimension of illness, feeling like a fish out of water, with fear in her eyes, eager to feel the warm embrace of the sea, restored to a sort of primitive amniotic fluid and changing her uneasy feelings into unlimited pleasure.
The movie shows us the epos of a picturesque island where even the children's games reflect the savage nature of the surrounding environment. To be considered at the same time the celebration of a land and of rough people stubbornly bound together by a close friendship without any will to open up new horizons, conforming to precise religious rules (Our Lady's statue brought down the sounding-depth), careful not to mistake the will of sound emancipation for the abolition of every moral scruples. Decided not to be corrupted by vices of more developed social strata.
How banal are these movies about Italian people (like "Under the Tuscan
sun, for instance), with their customary mandolins, limoncellos and
daring "pappagallos" (namely "Italian cheap seducers") in search of
beautiful American divorcées who, running at full speed for their life
(?!), come across the usual goodish-looking Southern Italian stand-out
with an expressionless face, what a coincidence! Oops, there he is,
Raoul Bova in person, a dead ringer for Rudolph Valentino!...........
From bad to worse, I would say. We'll jump out of the frying pan into
Okay,okay, let's get down to brass tacks: I'm kidding, you know, but I'm tired of looking at the whole shebang of old-fashioned stereotypes about Italian people, depicted as "caricaturable spaghetti eaters", "mandolin players", "Latin seducers" and so on, always ready to play for the hypocritical saga: "volemose bbene" (let's love each other) the leading role of easy-going merry fellows, always prone to laxism, feeling at their ease as small time seducers, giving their easy kisses as untrue love tokens to condescending tourists always on the edge of a crisis of sex abstinence, together with big hugs underlined by a light breeze near ruffling sea waves. Having had the bad luck of reading Tim Parks' "Italian Neighbours" as well, a book full of conversational commonplaces, that's what I would call "cheaply folklore" lavished by handfuls "like a spring of gushing water". Much to my regret, I must admit that the "homo italicus" is sometimes considered synonym of "tarallucci e vino" (small biscuits & wine), a misleading portrait connected with unavoidable and obsolete Neapolitan songs with mandolin accompaniment full of superficiality and carelessness.
In my opinion it's useless to examine the movie from a cultural standpoint; please, don't sell me this medley of commonplaces as "poeticity" because there's nothing artistic in it. What a pity for the beautiful and willing Diane Lane who does her best to look pleasant and to be equal to the task! Her character faces life with serenity in search of opportunities, heedless of the potential danger of love at first sight. She's looking for a safe anchorage in difficult times as if she were on the point of slipping on the banana peel of life, devoted to Marcello, her Latin male lover, a guy with a deadpan voice that puts me to sleep, not comparable to Edward 'Ed' Sumner, but more reassuring than the stalker Jack Price (the thriller addicts know the guys I'm talking about).
But to make a long story short, has anybody seen this Tuscan sun in the movie? When it's not raining and storming, it's cloudy outside, you know, but there's no reason for getting so disappointed: the solar beauty of this Italian region can be easily admired in the postcards written by Frances.
The movie is about the emotional discovery of a phantasmatic SECOND
HEART, hidden into the most secret recesses of our souls, strictly
disregarded by the anatomy books. A SECRET HEART whose feeble beat
cannot be heard in our chest but can be perceived thank to our
passionate involvement, when we are about to perform the greatest acts
of love in an emotional detachment from our disturbing human condition,
making necessary and irreversible choices in such a way as to discard
all prejudices and return good for evil. A SACRED HEART dozing inside
everybody's body for a long time, being reawakened just at the right
moment, in our case, thank to the great purity of soul of Benny, a
pleasant pilferer, played by the young actress Camille Dugay Comencini,
who discloses the doors of the soul's insides to an apparently
heartless business woman. An INVISIBLE HEART, eager to inspire total
confidence in ourselves, to suggest actions and attitudes at odds with
the current state of business, to protect human beings against a risky
dive into the dark way of easy profit at the cost of their peace of
mind. Bound to remind us to turn our eyes and look at the suffering
fellowmen with their hands vainly stretched out for aid, resigned to
live at the edge of the road in a everlasting humiliating condition of
life. By conventional standards it's really easy to close our eyes in
the presence of the uncomfortable reality of people in distress and
turn our backs to their disturbing presence capable to upset the
stability of a world created by us to be like ourselves, always ready
to breathe frantic winds of globalization that go on producing new
waves of poor people all over the world.
The whole work is permeated by a sense of palpable need of sacrality, very uncomfortable on account of many destabilizing sequences where Ferzan Ozpeteck invites us to look away from the riches of the world and cast a glance beyond our limited horizons, towards new risky dimensions, to those outcasts of fortune claiming in a faint voice the right to live a decent life. The director goes over and over this subject again, defined by himself as a sort of "soul thriller". The human soul is showed in all its nuances by the character of Irene, the beautiful Barbara Bobulova (as a substitute for Valeria Golino, the best Italian actress together with Giovanna Mezzogiorno).
IRENE LOOKS LIKE AN ARABIAN PHOENIX risen from the ashes of her condition of lacking feeling woman, symbol of capitalistic exploitation, young restless soul in a vertical dive towards cathartic experiences, unceasingly followed by the camera in many stunning sequences. WOOED by the mechanic eye like a delicious lover truly deserving all possible attentions lavished on her. FONDLED and PETTED incessantly, thank to extended and inquisitive close-ups, in her pauses for reflection, in her moments of silence, in her excitements and internal tensions, with her stare of astonishment suspended in the void of an hypothetical space and her nude and defenseless face vowed to silence. Faithfully FOLLOWED in her wanderings with soft long takes in a sinuous circular movement of the camera, as a sacrificial victim at the mercy of the onlookers' eyes. CELEBRATED by an amazing soundtrack in a successful attempt at carrying into effect her way of redemption. IMMORTALIZED as a living symbol of Michelangelo's Pieta, extreme evidence of the folly of self-giving love, of the solidarity heralding her thirst for justice to the whole world, rebelling against every prevailing logic imbued with the worship of wealth. SUPPORTED by documentary evidence in her fits of giddiness thank to hyper-kinetics movements of camera in a cold, alienating swimming pool. Impiteously VIOLATED in her privacy and handed over to the media's morbid curiosity in her cathartic moments of physical and moral denouement, extreme final act of gift of herself and her belongings, with the chaste nakedness of her spotless bosom revealed and offered for all the hurried passers-by to see, as a token of her salvific spirit of sacrifice and of her sense of self-denial towards a world pervaded with deep sorrow and suffering.
Scenes from a cathartic journey of darkness, regret and redemption orchestrated by another side of Ozpetek: the director sets aside his particular concept of "family" to devote himself to a moving project, to something that strikes us with a deep-rooted feeling and infuses courage into our hearts inspiring hope in our spirits. To something new that makes up our minds to cast a new glance at the life through Irene's sea blue eyes, towards more winding directions, inviting us to cast reflections on ourselves.
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