Friday, March 27, 2015

Rome, Open City

(Roberto Rossellini, Italy, 1945)

Covering more ground (another much-belated 1st viewing of a canonical film.)  I didn't expect the severity of the scenes of torture and random violence.   Combinations of Hollywood-inflected melodrama and pure, raw realism.  This is, after all, one of the primordial examples of Italian NeoRealism, but it's fascinating to see the famous and influential style growing fitfully, almost bursting forth, out of the older, more conventional tropes of classical cinema.  I was surprised by the epic breadth of Rossellini's vision.  Right out of the gate, he was tackling the biggest issues he could find, which makes sense, given these issues had basically exploded catastrophically in his world.  Also interesting to see the priest as a heroic figure, considering that Fellini was a co-writer, and the later attitude among much Italian cinema of skepticism and outright mockery of the Catholic Church.  In short order, Italian artists seemed to invent their own brand of modernity, and the speed at which it developed and spread is kind of amazing. 

Hail Mary

(Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1985)

JLG's spin on one of the world's great origin stories.  Too much time has passed between my viewing and these notes (a month at least) and my impressions of the film are faded and muddled.  Despite that, I can report that the film is an abundant, searing thing to behold, awestruck with natural beauty, and seemingly touched by grace.  It's as if Godard poured every religiously-tinged feeling he ever harbored into this film, and it nearly bursts with yearning.  Even so, there is still plenty of irony, gnomic pronouncements, and flurry-like collage.  At times, it can seem to be another rehash of his dark view of male-female relationships, with devotion taking the place of romance.  This familiarly fraught binary of male and female can get tiresome, and imbuing it with quasi-religious significance doesn't make it any less so.  But overall it feels like one of his most honestly troubled and self-exposing works.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

For Ever Mozart

(Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1996)

Acerbic but laced with beauty.  In the Godard films I've seen lately, what sticks out the most is how painterly his images are.  Context is especially important with his movies, as they're both deeply personal and intricately political (of course, for Godard, these categories are not exclusive.)  Therefore, they're especially difficult to parse on their own terms.  Here the density of the image-sound texture is intimidating but not overwhelming.  The film feels elegiac, embittered, frustrated, but occasionally bursts into rapturous beauty.  It's striking that for all of Godard copious bile, he can't seem to suppress his love of beauty, and his faith in the power of cinema.  The final passage of the film is a sudden exhalation of serenity, and possibly even hope.