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One of the best Ferreri films: Chiedo Asilo creates a force-field for children, before they grow up
23 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In Chiedo Asilo, Ferreri manages to find a perfect balance between urban space, and its small heterotopias that dwell in the cities. From factories, to nursery homes in factories, to small churches in the country, Ferreri places a group of children who get a visit from a very non- orthodox kindergarten teacher, played by a young Benigni. He does everything but teach them "things". Instead of investing in them small lectures of activities to keep them busy till their parents pick them up, he instead opts for bringing animals in the classroom, unleashed, so they can experience contact directly; he takes the kids on an improvised field trip to see their parents who work at factories. Alas, for all the edifying activities he presents them, Benigni can't seem to behave himself as a responsible adult: His has many girlfriends, some of which are his pupil's parents. As he zigzags in between all these situations, he applies a pedagogical treatment with his little students that little has to do with the expectations of kindergarten. He sees preschool as an a refugee, where kids can just be kids, where their sense of language and exploration can be organic, unorganized and free-floating, before moving on a educational system (school) that just feeds them data, and stimulates mindless competition. As Benigni's character sees it, that little preschool in the middle of the factory and housing complexes is a small oasis, it's an alternative space, unregulated by the long arm of education, discipline and "survivial of the fittest" ideology. One of Ferreri's film that touches an emotional fiber, and yet manages to retain all the absurdist gestures that make up his more extreme and radical work. A diamond in the rough, that needs no polishing, because its crystallized narrative roughness and pacing is part of what makes this film a classic "film with children". like Zero in Conduct, 400 Blows, or the Red Balloon, by Lamorisse.
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L'udienza (1972)
A quite serious and enigmatic Ferreri film, before his post-Grande Bouffe period.
6 June 2006
This film somehow mixes the red tape nightmares depicted by Kafka with the Catholic church's man made organization and hierarchy in today's corporate world, making vis a vis contact with authorities impossible. Apart from the intrigue, this film has Ferreri directing his most dramatic film since "El Cochecito" (Spain, 1960), where his ability to create emotional conflict intermingles with his more satiric and absurdity touch, A facet that's is very interesting to explore, given that his output post-Grade Bouffe is his body of work that most Ferrei enthusiasts are familiar with. I would argue that this film, along with "Chiedo Asilo" (Italy, 1979) are films that explore Utopian gestures borne of the everyday Utopian man, as it faces the brick wall of bureaucracy and normality and convention. Walking the fine line cinema as "theater of the absurd" of the path explored by Buñuel, Raul Ruiz, Arrabal, Jodorowsky and many others, Ferreri champions (the dadaist-inspired) path less traveled in cinema.
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