The Breakfast Club [1985)

Essential films.

As film accrues decades.

Perhaps another century.

Even Godard hired Molly Ringwald.

Likely because these films touched him in some sort of Rebel Without a Cause way.

Either that, or the producer forced her on him.

But this film is really special.

Emilio Estevez is a dead ringer for Michael Flynn.

Which brings us back again:

Is #QAnon real?

We are drip-dropping back to war mode.

Full-on, shit-slinging war mode.

Slowly.

Fear us.

But for cinematic purposes, it is most direct to point out the two essential personages in this film:

Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson.

And, boiled down, Judd Nelson.

Sheedy is attractive.

Mysterious.

Bat-shit crazy.

The Sheedy makeover is kinda lame.

The Estevez swoon mostly hollow.

But Judd Nelson is solid to the end.

This is a powerful film.

John Hughes created and directed the reality of John Bender (Nelson) onto the screen.

That’s would have been enough verismo for an entire career.

 

-PD

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

Roma città 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 fiancé.  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-Première to die in À 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

 

Umberto D. [1952)

Unglamorous stories.

That is what Italy brought us in the post-war years.

And every “new wave” which has followed owes a debt to the masters like De Sica.

Perhaps you know Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves).

Don’t stop there, dear friend.

Because here we have the precursor to Dante Remus Lazarescu.

Sure.  There is some humor in Umberto D.  A very, very dark humor.

As with Moartea domnului Lăzărescu.

But mostly there is beauty.

Sadness.

Reality.

Cinema.

There is the little dog Flike.  Not Flicka, but Flike (rhymes with psych).  Or bike.

Flike.  Like Céline’s cat Bebert.

And then there is the stunning (STUNNING) acting of Carlo Battisti as Umberto.

There are few performances which can equal it.

Ioan Fiscuteanu did it as Lazarescu.

And that’s about it.

Rarefied air…these two actors.

Let me put it another way.  Umberto D. was Ingmar Bergman’s favorite film.  Do you know what I mean?

The director of Smultronstället and Sommaren med Monika.

Picked one film.  And this was it.

Appropriately, this was Carlo Battisti’s only film role ever.

As the star of Umberto D.

He wasn’t an actor.  He was a linguist.

God damn…

It’s just unreal how good this film is!

But we must also give credit to the indispensable Maria-Pia Casilio.

It is through her eyes that we see the ants…formica in Italian.

In English, we think of a hard composite material.  Formica.  A table top.

But a sort of false cognate brings us back to the archetype which Dalí and Buñuel so evocatively exploited in Un Chien Andalou.  That was 1929.  A film.  The famous eyeball which gets “edited”.  And then the ants were back in La persistència de la memòria.  A painting.  Soft clocks.  You know the one.  And the only differences between Spanish and Catalan in this case are the diacritical marks.

But she burns paper.  To chase the ants.  And the stray cat prowls the roof at night soft as a snowflake.  And the grated skylight is her canvas to dream stretched out in her bed.  And nothing is more morose than a contemplative face at the window looking out on a dingy world.

We sense it did not go easily for Italy.  After the war.  Because when you choose the wrong side you will be punished.

And though Germany was divided and Berlin was the most surreal example of this (being wholly within East Germany…like a Teutonic Swaziland–a Lesotho leitmotiv), Italy still suffered.  We see it in Rossellini.  And we see it here.

Neorealism.  A update on the operas of Mascagni and Leoncavallo.  A continuation of Zola.  A nod to Dostoyevsky.

Verismo.

The star is an old man.  He is not really a hero.  He doesn’t save the world.  There aren’t explosions.

But (BUT)

he does something most extraordinary.  He survives…for a time.  What a miracle!

Ah!  The miracle of everyday life.  We have survived another year.  Another day!

Do you think there will be a war?

[Shame.  The shame of having to ask for help.  Begging for the first time.]

When your bed is a joke.  Newspapers and dust.  And there is a goddamned hole in your wall.  Perhaps.

A missile.  Or The Landlord’s Game (which became Monopoly).

When you are cold with a fever.  As an elderly person.  All your glamorous days have passed.

And you need your coat just to provide a little more warmth.  On top of the blanket.  To make it through the night.

As long.

As long as this film survives, humanity has a chance.

Really.

-PD

Moartea domnului Lăzărescu [2005)

They say the British have a peculiar sense of humor.  [Or humour, rather.]

I am beginning to wonder whether Romania has its own brand of comedy which has yet to be fully appreciated by non-Romanians.

That to which I refer is a bit of writing on the Tartan Video box which encases this film The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.

The line in question reads, “THE MOST ACCLAIMED COMEDY [sic] OF THE YEAR”.

Think of the saddest film you’ve ever seen.  Dying Young?  Schindler’s List?

Ok.  Now, tack on the above.  [the most acclaimed comedy of the year]

I’m beginning to wonder if someone at Tartan Films has their head screwed on backwards.

But let’s be fair:  Tartan Films released one of the most important films of the century so far (12:08 East of Bucharest).

Whatever the case may be, let me be clear that The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is (in my book) by no means a comedy.

When I first saw this film it struck me as that which I still regard it:  a sad, sad film.

However, I must point out that this mini-masterpiece from director Cristi Puiu has aged extremely well (unlike the lead character).

The reason this picture is so good is really the immense contribution of Ioan Fiscuteanu and Luminița Gheorghiu.

The late Mr. Fiscuteanu (God rest his soul) gives one of the finest performances in the history of cinema as the titular Dante Remus Lazarescu.  The symbolism of the names should be noted.  Rings of hell.  Ineffective medical systems at the state level.  Heartless bureaucracy.  Song of the South.  Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.  Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder.  And finally, Jesus wept.  Or Jesu swept.  Arise, Lazarus.

The smell…  Ugh.  Yeah…

This film packs a punch.  It is realism.  If you had a hard day at the office, don’t watch this.  Hard day at the coal mine?  Not recommended viewing.

But if you want to see the golden nugget at the center of humanity’s inextinguishable heart, then watch as Luminița Gheorghiu goes beyond the call of duty as nurse Mioara.  She is a paramedic with gall bladder problems.  She and the driver of the ambulance which carts around Mr. Lazarescu make “less than nothing” (to quote the subtitles).

Yes.  You will see the saddest shit imaginable.  You will see an acting tour de force by Ioan Fiscuteanu as what?  An ordinary man.  Age 63.  Headache.  Stomach ache.  Something is wrong.

And.  You will see the real eyes of compassion.  Not too much.  Not too little.  Luminița Gheorghiu.  The nurse who respectfully disagrees.  The nurse who takes insults all night long.  Just to save one man.  Lazarus.

She.  Has to go smoke a cigarette in the kitchen.  The paramedic.  In Russia, every part of the plane is the smoking section.  That was the quote from the inimitable Genghis Blues.  And so.  Romania.  We are not given a year.  A left-running TV offhandedly mentions Timișoara.  Is it the revolution?

What is the ambulance delay?  An hour response time.  In Bucharest!  Pre-Revolution or post-Revolution?

We don’t know.  I don’t know.

Maybe it is left vague on purpose.

In closing, this is a very (very) important film.  It’s like a slap of cold water in the face.  It ain’t pleasant.  This isn’t a fun movie.

But it is wholly worth seeing.  Lead actor Fiscuteanu would be dead within two years.  But you know what?  He did it.  He succeeded.  This is a timeless testament.  Line up Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman…all of them together (at this time) are shit compared to Fiscuteanu’s performance in The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.  Only Hoffman has the chops to challenge.  Dustin, it would have to be even better than Rain Man.  Ready thyself if you want to compete with Ioan Fiscuteanu.  It’s gonna take every pitiful cell in your body.  You can do it.  It might do you in.

-PD

A fost sau n-a fost? [2006)

It took me a long time.  To come back to Romania.  Country I’ve never visited.  But in film.

I do not know which Romanian film I saw first.  It may have been 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

It may have been The Way I Spent the End of the World.

You can read my praise for those two perfect films here on my site.

But let me just say that I am honored to finally review what I consider the third perfect Romanian film:

12:08 East of Bucharest.

The Romanian title translates directly as “It was or was not?”

Perhaps a little massaging would render the phrase more like “Was it or wasn’t it?”

And so what is this Hamletesque sentence driving at?

That is the question!

The revolution.  The Romanian Revolution.

In a particular town (Vaslui) was there a revolution or wasn’t there?

While this may sound like a rather dry premise, let me assure you that director Corneliu Porumboiu proves himself to be a master on the order of his countrymen Cristian Mungiu and Cătălin Mitulescu.

Porumboiu is helped by the fantastic acting of three stellar performers.

Mircea Andreescu plays the character Emanoil Piscoci.  Andreescu’s comic timing as the awkward Mr. Piscoci is one of the defining elements of this film.

Also indispensable is Ion Sapdaru as Professor Manescu.  Sapdaru’s desperation and body language also make this film the timeless gem that it is.

Though we may not completely sympathize with his brusque character, Teodor Corban does an admirable job portraying the unifying (and polarizing) Virgil Jderescu.

Finally, I cannot leave out the small-but-pithy contribution of the excellent George Guoqingyun.

[we now interrupt this horribly boring review to bring you the point]

The point?

Black humor.  Bleak humor.  Dark humor.

The town…looks as shitty as my town.  My neighborhood.

There aren’t any explosions.  No CGI.

No superheroes.  In fact, there’s not even a pretty girl with whom to fall in love.

That’s reality right there.  Verismo.

As the snow falls on Vaslui I feel the same desperation I feel on a daily basis.

The cracked concrete of the apartment buildings.  The sad roofs.  From above.

The band is a little out of tune.  Desafinado.  I love them.

This film isn’t like the oblivion of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.  It doesn’t have a blooming flower of hope in its heart like The Way I Spent the End of the World.

But it shares with those films a country and a particular way of looking at the world.  Show the bad stuff.

The difference here is, “Show the bad stuff…and then laugh a little.”

A little.

It will still make you cry.

No, it’s not a calculated Italian confection.

This is a beautifully sloppy film.

It’s films such as this which make me push on–which make me keep writing.  I keep hoping.

Porumboiu…your crappy world gives me hope in my crappy world.  Thank you.

-PD