Riso Amaro [1949)

Robert Bresson said, “I believe in cinema.”

In English?  Like that?  I don’t know.

But it is truly the thought which counts here.

Because I believe in cinema.

Cinema.

Maybe it’s my favorite word.

My religion.

The great omnist hymn of all lands.

Of all the hands which have pitched in to turn the wheels of the mind.

And so this film, Bitter Rice, is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

Not because it is flowery and seductive. [It’s not flowery.]

Not because there are perfumed stars in diamonds. [There’s no perfume.]

But because it is real.

As real as cinema gets.

Not the hyperreal of Harmony Korine’s Gummo.

Not even the transparent real of documentary footage.

But a real which is uniquely Italian.

To say neorealism is to cheapen the whole creation.

This is a masterpiece by director Giuseppe De Santis.

You must live through the rain to understand it.

You must have had no hope to fathom the slop.

You must wade in de water.

Because you are seeing Italian opera.

There’s no speech in the field.

No talking.

Workers are in the prison of labor.

Same kinds of rules.

But if you sing, that’s tolerated.

And so it all must be sung.  In the fields.

Puccini famously bragged about his facility.

Give him a grocery list, he said.

And Willie Sutton had his hygiene and motivators covered.

Even if he never uttered the famous phrase.

He ENJOYED robbing banks.

And, yes, that was where the money was.

And so the field workers not only display humanism.

Not only embody feminism.

But engage in a little triage worthy of Sutton’s law.

Taking the poor girl to the embankment.

[They’re all poor.  This is 1949 Italy.]

It’s not psychotic fugue, but psychogenic fugue.

Fugue state.

Thuringia.

The Axis Powers played a very bad game of chess.

Stretto was the shit hitting the fan.

“Ride of the Valkyries” mixed with heavy artillery mixed with vocalizations of agony.

Ristretto is what you get at Starbucks.

But, dear friends, don’t stop after the first half.

Let it finish.

Let it bleed.

Shine a light.

For Silvana Mangano.

Sylvania.  Someone has etched the word “hope” into the light bulb’s socket.

In the Schwarzwald.

The deep eerie mystery of the woods.  And Hitler’s aerie.

[Godwin golden mean]

34 21 13 8

almost Fibonacci but ending

aND nothing more Italian that an actress named Doris Dowling.

But that’s the way it went.

Direct descendent of opera verismo.

Our old favorites Mascagni and Leoncavallo.

But Netflix hasn’t gotten at the heart of what this means.

“Strong female lead” or some such rubbish.

Nice try…

But Riso Amaro blows all those venal pigeonholing strategies out of the water.

Cinema is not my God.

Cinema is my religion.

 

-PD

The Big Boss [1971)

I taste my own blood and I spit.  The New World Order kills even little children.  Revenge is a dish best served with chopsticks.

I promised my mother I would stay out of trouble.  Hong Kong.

Thailand.  I recognized the script.  It’s been so long since my beloved professor wrote in Thai.  Emails.  A QWERTY keyboard rigged to write Thai.  Little stickers on the keys.

But let me back up to poverty.  Humility.  We see the uncle with his humble green suitcase.  The ferry.  Stay out of trouble.

Trouble is my middle name.

Those young boys.  So innocent.  They refuse the bribe because they hadn’t earned it in their work.  The ice factory.

Crime takes no chances.  And in taking no chances it takes repeated chances.  You will know them by the trail of dead.

They wouldn’t have squealed, those two young men.  You don’t work in an ice factory to make trouble.  When you get home and have your humble bowl of rice on the little coffee table…gathered around brothers and cousins…  And you sleep on the floor beneath a mosquito net.  You are not looking for trouble.  You are merely subsisting.  And then a fellow like Gandhi steps in.  A giant like Martin Luther King, Jr. shows up on the scene.

Yes, Bruce Lee was the baddest motherfucker one could ever dream of.  Gandhi, MLK, Bruce Lee…human wrenches who threw themselves into the works.

The important detail is that Bruce Lee was an actor.  But he was an actor so convincing that his legacy is worldwide and unwaning.

Why do we believe?  Because Bruce gets wasted on Hennessy.  Bruce gets the titties.  Bruce becomes a “sellout” to his extended family.  It takes Lee awhile to see how crooked the world is.  He’s not in his rural home anymore.

You’re going to have to fight your way through this mountain.  Long odds.  Shoe (we will call him) was two against 13 earlier in the film.  Those are the odds Lee faces.  Let’s call it one vs. 17.

But he will eventually dig his fingers in.  A knife is not enough for what you have done.

Name:  Cheng Chao-an

Occupation:  ice factory employee

Distinguishing features:  bandage on right index finger

Born in the hour and year of the dragon.  Return again.  And again.  And again.  And again.

Bruce Lee and Jimi Hendrix.  Seattle.

Two-finger push-ups.  One inch punch.

Practicality.  Flexibility.  Speed.  Efficiency.

You are in the midst of this.  Right now. The style of no style.

Disgusting revenge delicious.

-PD