Viaggio in Italia [1954)

We push ourselves so hard.

For what?

So that we may see beauty.

For me, it’s this.

Though I can barely hold my eyes open, I see it.

I see what Godard saw when he was just a lad.

A very mature film from Roberto Rossellini.

But by mature, we don’t mean sexual.

Actually, more nuanced than that.

A celebration of woman as human being.

A celebration of Ingrid Bergman as auteur.

Just as much as her husband, the director.

It’s there.

The collaboration.

And it’s unlike any other film I’ve ever seen.

Perhaps…

she fell in love with his genius.

The war trilogy.

We have talked about the great films.

Just after WWII.

Rome, Open City.

Germany, Year Zero.

And enfin…

Paisan.

[in not quite that order]

These are our English names.

But Journey to Italy is a weird feast of linguistic absurdity.

“…you shameless hussy”.

It’s like this, see…

George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman are British,

but they’re speaking Italian.

This was so the Italians didn’t have to read subtitles.

But then George says to a prosititute,

“I don’t speak Italian” (or something)

in English…WHEN HE’S BEEN SPEAKING ITALIAN FOR THE FIRST HOUR OF THE FILM!

And then there’s the Italian tradition of postproduction.

No live sound.

In this film, no ambient noises.

It’s like George and Ingrid are touring Italy in a fucking Tesla Model S!!

And a bit of dialogue.

And a clip-clop and a cloche.

Get out of the way, donkey cart!

Such that at a certain point, we wonder whether Roberto was exploding not only genre (to reference James Monaco), but the Italian version of “the tradition of quality” against which the French New Wave set themselves so polemically.

ūüôā

It’s possible.

“Do you think I’m insane,” asked Elon Musk.

No, of course not.

You’re South African like me.

But at the heart of this film (this is a film review, right?) are the same marital arts (!) which made Benatar sing love is a battlespace.  What?

Before Godard and Karina, it was Roberto and Ingrid.

And the tension rubs.

Gimme friction, said Tom Verlaine.

And Paul Verlaine said some stuff which was ignored.

And Rimbaud shot his hand.  Or ran guns.

Back when Abyssinia.

Main point is this is beautiful film.

Plain simple.

And it’s no accident Mr. and Ms. Joyce.

 

-PD

 

Deutschland im Jahre Null [1948)

The first thing film critics have to get right is the title.

Let me explain a bit.

On my site, I always list a film in its original language (to the best of my ability).

In my opinion, that is the best way of honoring the film.

So far, I have encountered the mild idiosyncrasies of Romanian, Serbo-Croat, Czech, and Polish in addition to the mind-blowing intricacy of Farsi and Japanese.

But with Deutschland im Jahre Null we are seeing a German-language film by an Italian director…sort of.

Italy has a very peculiar tradition concerning voiceovers and direct (or, conversely, indirect) sound.  It is an oddity which caught the attention of Godard in his role as film historian.

I cannot give you as erudite an explanation as my hero Jean-Luc, but suffice it to say that foreign (non-Italian) films in Italy have traditionally been overdubbed into Italian.  So, in other words, no subtitles.

This is distinct from an American viewer watching a Fellini film.¬† The “American” version (whether on DVD or as a film print¬†in a theater) will be in Italian with subtitles in English.¬† This goes for almost all foreign-language (non-English) films marketed in the United States.

But getting back to Deutschland im Jahre Null…¬† It is similar to the Danish director Carl Th. Dreyer directing the French film La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc…with one major difference.¬† Dreyer’s film was a silent one (the only French being the intertitles).¬† Rossellini’s Deutschland im Jahre Null is very much in German.¬† We are hearing German actors speak (exclusively) German dialogue.

What is most interesting is the linguistic lineage of this film.  In English, this film is known as:

Germany, Year Zero

Which is quite similar to Rossellini’s preceding masterpiece (in linguistic parallel):

Rome, Open City

To be fair, let’s consider the Italian name (the real name) of Rome, Open City:¬† Roma citt√† aperta.¬† Fine.¬† That is the way I recognize the film.¬† The true name is (in my mind) Roma citt√† aperta.

But with Deutschland im Jahre Null we come to a very strange case.  If we do not recognize the primacy of its English title (Germany, Year Zero), and I do not, then we are directed by that great arbiter of cultural legitimacy Wikipedia to consider our options exhausted by being cognizant of the Italian title (Germania anno zero).

What is the message of this omission by English Wikipedia?  I believe the message is that Germany was (and continues to be) a null.  A zero.  A conquered culture.

We see a similar thing in the kowtowing stereotype of conquered Japan.  And though Japan might be experiencing some moderate-to-light financial troubles in recent years, Germany is by all accounts the economic powerhouse of continental Europe.  Why do I bring economics into the discussion?  Because wealthy nations are able to assert themselves.

But let us step back a bit.¬† Wikipedia does have some tasty morsels of information concerning this film.¬† If the source can be trusted, this 1948 film was not shown in Germany (the country from whence the language of the film takes its name) until 1952.¬† After its single screening in M√ľnchen (Munich), it was not heard from again within those borders until it ran on German television in 1978.¬†

Wow…26 years.¬† Either this film was grossly misunderstood, or it was understood all too well.¬† From my reading, this is a very pro-German document.

Rossellini was not George Stevens making concentration camp propaganda.  Roberto was making art.  The sign of art is the admission of possibilities.  Art seduces us because it is subtle.  Art does not proclaim in blanket statements.  Art does not underestimate the intelligence of the viewer.

Roberto Rossellini did something with his “war films trilogy” which seems to have been unprecedented.¬† The desire of neorealism was to film fiction as if it were documentary.¬† This fiction would be, likewise, based on reality.

But why is it, then, that we have very different views of Roberto Rossellini and Robert Flaherty?

I will tell you my guess.¬† Flaherty’s sin was in the framing of his presentation.¬† To wit, he presented his staged documentaries (take the oil industry propaganda piece Louisiana Story for instance) as if they were naturally-occurring, spontaneous documentaries. The sin, then, was his duplicitous relationship with his subjects.¬† He actively made his human subjects into actors.

Rossellini takes a different tack.¬† There is no pretense that Deutschland im Jahre Null is an ACTUAL documentary.¬† It merely has the feel of that medium.¬† Likewise, Rossellini’s use of nonprofessional actors was likely more of a precursor to Robert Bresson than a twist on Flaherty’s bizarre formula (which predated Roberto in both Nanook of the North [1922] and Man of Aran [1934]).¬† No, Rossellini had created something new.¬†

It’s not so much the films of Flaherty to which I object as it is the idea of them.¬† At least one of his concoctions (perhaps thanks to director F.W. Murnau) is very fine indeed:¬† Tabu [1931].¬† Flaherty and Murnau co-wrote this ostensible documentary.¬† Indeed, with Flaherty we come into contact with inchoate, obscure film genres such as docudrama, docufiction, fictional documentary (ethnofiction), etc. etc. etc.

Most importantly, none of what I have written here has even scratched the surface of Deutschland im Jahre Null.   What ever became of the heartrending main child actor Edmund Moeschke?  I do not know.

One thing is certain to me:¬† no film before Rossellini’s “war trilogy” (Roma citt√† aperta, Pais√†, and Deutschland im Jahre Null) [1945/1946/1948] takes on such politically sensitive and important topics in such a raw way.¬† The closest would be the socialism of Eisenstein or the humanism of Chaplin.¬†

It is, therefore, no wonder at all that Rossellini spawned a million “new waves” the world over.

 

-PD

 

Roma citt√† aperta [1945)

When I was younger I could take the easy way.

But as I have grown older I have found that increasingly impossible.

In moments of weakness I think of money.  A job.  Adventure.

But none of that really matters.

What matters is our fellow human beings.

Dear friends, this film (Rome, Open City) is an extremely moving experience.

What I try to bring to you as an amateur film critic are the words of a man immersed in the film…baptized…in the experience of each film.

Most pieces of cinema are not worth this effort, but occasionally a film is worth every minute…every second…every tear shed.

Roma città aperta is a masterpiece from director Roberto Rossellini.  This is a very famous film because of the milieu in which it was made.

WWII was not even over.  You can imagine how hard it must have been to get film stock (film for the camera) while Europe was in flames and Italy was a defeated country occupied by the Allies.

But this film tells of Italy occupied by the Nazis (and, indeed, Rome was occupied by the Nazis prior to American occupation).

But all of these descriptions I’m giving you…they mean nothing.

What you must understand about this film is that it did something which no film before it had done.

This film was infused with the sorrow of the World Wars, but was presented as one would present a documentary.

Hence the name neorealism.

Anna Magnani is so beautiful, but not glamorous.  She is beautiful because she is believable.  It takes a philosophical film director to deliver such a performance.  It also takes a hell of an actress!

Roma città aperta is like an opera by Mascagni or Leoncavallo.  Verismo!

Act I ends with Magnani running after her fianc√©.¬† The SS have literally come to take him away.¬† And her weaving, desperate run became an iconic film moment which wouldn’t be adequately interpolated back into the cinematic discussion till Jean-Paul Belmondo took the entire Rue Campagne-Premi√®re to die in √Ä Bout de souffle.¬†

Godard was young.  À Bout de souffle was his first film.

Godard took the easy way.  Postmodernism.

A bit from here and a bit from there.  Voila!

But later Godard grew a conscience.  And his conscience helped him find himself kicked to the curb of the film industry.

In our film, Aldo Fabrizi is the voice of conscience.

He plays the priest don Pietro.

He’s not your average priest.

This is a guy who stands against the Nazis.

Don Pietro helps the resistance.

Don Pietro gives and gives and gives and asks nothing.

He is a true man of God…a true humanitarian.

He helps anyone in need…atheists, communists, it doesn’t matter.

But one thing is important.

Don Pietro has made a value judgment concerning the Nazis.

He has discerned who the enemy is.

That is a large step.

Today, we are told every day who our enemy is supposed to be.

The worst offender is Fox News, but the other networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC) are all equally devoid of journalistic merit.

As for the print media, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post are completely worthless.

If you lived in Nazi Germany, you would have been bombarded with propaganda about how the Jews were the enemy and how the Jews were responsible for every conceivable ill in society.

That was, of course, untrue.

In America today, we are told (particularly by the infantile Fox News) that Islam and Muslims are the enemy and that every conceivable problem in the world today relates back to this group.

This is, obviously, untrue.

The other three/five networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC) are more eager to push gun control (something which Hitler would no doubt have applauded).

And so, I propose to you, dear readers that what we are seeing in the world today is an array of psychological operations which mirror something about which Italy knows only too well:  Operation Gladio.

But I propose to you that what we are seeing nowadays are multiple Gladios run by gently-warring factions of the New World Order.

The biggest Gladio in operation (a series of false-flag attacks accompanied by fake wars) is the one being run by the neoconservative faction of the New World Order (including several prominent Zionists who, despite holding high U.S. government offices [and Top Secret clearances], held dual citizenship during their terms of service to the U.S. with Israel and the U.S.).¬† This Gladio brought you the Paris attacks.¬† This Gladio is responsible for the War “on” Terror (including the synthetic Arab army/marketing confection known as ISIS).¬† And finally, this Gladio almost certainly brought you the San Bernardino shooting as well.

The main goal of the neoconservative Gladio is endless war.¬† It is a macro operation.¬† It operates on the level of geopolitics.¬† War profiteering, oil, drugs…¬† The neoconservative Gladio brought you the mother of all false-flags:¬† 9/11.

On the other hand is the liberal Gladio.¬† The liberal Gladio brought you Sandy Hook (their masterpiece).¬† Their other suspected jobs are Aurora (the Batman shooter) and Umpqua.¬† It wouldn’t be a stretch to also include the OKC bombing and the Waco massacre of the Branch Davidians.¬† But focusing on the first three cases alone (Sandy Hook, Aurora, Umpqua), it is very clear that the liberal Gladio has as its main goal gun control.

The liberal Gladio is operating on a micro (or domestic) level.¬† The San Bernardino shooting was meant to make Obama look soft on crime.¬† The neocon gang which engineered the shooting exhibited perfect timing as Obama had recently announced an initiative to reclaim MRAPs from local law enforcement across the country (in response to police abuse of power).¬† The neocons took a page out of the liberal false-flags-for-gun-control playbook on this one, but the main goal was endless war. ¬†[This, of course, didn’t prevent Obama from trying to leverage the event to prop up HIS faction’s agenda.]

The unfortunate equation is that neither side can expose the deeds of the opposing side because they are both dealing in untruths.¬† Obama has, up until now, squandered his opportunity to bring the neocons of the Bush administration to task for 9/11 and the fraudulent War “on” Terror.¬† Indeed, Obama has only proven that he himself is a fraud down to his very core.

The layers-upon-layers of lies in the United States cannot hold.  Snowden pierced the veil.  Only those with a conscience can save us now.

 

-PD

 

Le Petit soldat [1963)

“La photographie, c’est la v√©rit√©, et le cin√©ma, c’est vingt-quatre fois la v√©rit√© par seconde.”¬† It is one of the most famous quotes in the history of cinema and likewise among the most often quoted in relation to Godard, yet it is a line in a film…this film…and it is delivered by the character Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor).¬† And so, there is some distance from the auteur…perhaps very little , but yet it exists.¬† This is just one of the odd disconnects about this brilliant film.

The synopsis on Wikipedia presents another right off the bat.¬† Bruno is a deserter from the French military, yet he is working for French intelligence in Geneva.¬† On the surface this seems irreconcilable, yet a bit of thought opens up several possibilities.¬† First, the “French intelligence” under consideration might be an organization not wholly sanctioned by the French government.¬† We hear of these dark organizations often.¬† Rogue branches.¬† Rogue networks.¬† Informal connections.¬† Perhaps even an entire parallel government (or, at the very least, intelligence apparatus).¬† Second, we must take the film’s context to ascertain the indisputable fact that Bruno Forestier isn’t entirely a free agent.¬† In other words, his record is being used against him to greater or lesser extent to blackmail him into performing dirty deeds (assassinations) for this intel branch (asset by coercion).¬† Again, this certainly isn’t without precedent in real world situations.

But perhaps the greatest dissonance, though nuanced, is presented in something Jean-Luc Godard himself wrote in 1960.¬† As this film was banned in France for three years,¬†this written explanation¬†would predate the film’s release by the same number of years.¬† It can be found in the Simon and Schuster Modern Film Scripts version of the action (1967, English translation by Nicholas Garnham).¬† In this short piece, Godard explains his take on the film.¬† The focus is on realism.¬† Cinematographer Raoul Coutard, who had been a war photographer in Indochina, was integral in conveying Godard’s vision by way of a handheld camera (as opposed to the large Mitchell camera which he used on his next film Une Femme est une femme).¬† The auteur likewise makes reference to “whip-pans, over- and under-exposed shots, one or two blurred ones,” etc. in dissecting his own mise-en-sc√®ne.¬† The beginning of this introduction apparently comes from issue no.109 of Cahiers du cinema.¬† More importantly, what follows in this introduction delineates his focus on stubborn freedom.¬† It is in this concept which Godard manages to declare that Le Petit soldat “is not politically orientated in a particular direction.”

This was not something I had previously noted in prior viewings, but I can see how Godard might claim such.¬† Indeed, Bruno Forestier is a very conflicted character.¬† In some ways he is the noble version of Michel Poiccard from Breathless.¬† Both have a strange, tenuous grasp on ethics.¬† Nihilism abounds in both, yet Forestier’s brand almost comes off as a noir Buddhism.¬† It is little wonder that Godard would later dedicate one of Histoire(s) du cinema‘s chapters to Clint Eastwood.

Bruno Forestier is far from perfect, but in that condition he is still charming and likable…even heroic to a certain extent.¬† There is no doubt that Rossellini’s Roma citt√† aperta loomed large as an influence for the torture sequences of our film.¬† It might even be said that this Godard film is more poignant now (with respect to torture) than it has ever been.¬† Bruno is subjected to a method not unlike waterboarding.

But there are other pithy quotes such as, “…killing a man from a distance, I think it’s dishonest.”¬† This almost begs to be compared to the drone strikes which have become sadly ubiquitous in our upside-down world.

Yet, amidst all of this painful reality, Godard manages to outdo himself in artistic name-dropping.¬† Paul Klee is referenced multiple times (Swiss artist, movie set in Geneva).¬† We sympathize with Bruno Forestier partly because he is artistic (a photographer).¬† “And Veronica, are her eyes Velasquez grey or Renoir grey?”¬† So muses Bruno about Veronica Dreyer (Anna Karina).¬† This was, in fact, her first film for Godard.¬† Dreyer is no doubt an homage to Carl Theodor Dreyer (Danish actress, Danish legend/director).¬† The artistic references are almost comical at times…such as when Jean Cocteau’s novel Thomas l’imposteur is improbably brought into play.

One final thought.¬† Maurice Le Roux’s music plays a vital role in setting this film apart from anything Godard had done in his first four films.¬† The dense, clustered piano textures play like Henry Cowell improvising on Brahms. After the tides of Manaunaun, that Irish god of motion, wash Veronica’s fate ashore Lake Geneva, we get the biggest shock of all: Bruno behaving like Meursault from L‚Äô√Čtranger.¬† The final disconnect comes from recalling that Bruno told Veronica he detests Camus.

-PD