All entries for December 2008
December 31, 2008
I Vitelloni 1953: Frederico Fellini
It was nice to catch up with this film finally only yesterday. The first thing to strike me was clearly the autobiographical influences that were informing the film. On reading the comments by Bondanella (2001) and Liehm (1984) I was struck how far removed these critics were from the social reality which informed Fellini. There was much ruminating on the masks and Pirandellian charactristics of the nature of the central group of protagonists - I Vitelloni or "young bucks" who could equally be described as "the lads". For me the social ontology and reality of this film was palpable and there is a clear case for arguing that sometimes critics can overwork the intellectual cross-references at the expense of missing the core elements of the film.
The fact that film had an international appeal is hardly surprising. It would have appealed to males in particular who had dreams of becoming something but who lived in a petty constrained highly provincial environment. For anybody who has experienced sad little holiday resorts in winter when the visitors have gone away this film would have had powerful resonances. If Fellini is dealing in masks one mask he is is intent upon unmasking is that of world behind the resort. What happens to those left behind at the end of the season as the crueller seasonal winds kiss the make-belive bonhomie of the outgoing summer. The second aspect of social reality which the above critics really failed to highlight was a wider social critique of the way in which women were hugely exploited by these young men. Whether mothers, sisters or wives the women in the film were forever supporting the good-for-nothing young men. From my perspective at least Fellini was providing an implicit social critique of the Italian family structure.
Fellini & Rimini
Fellini had been brought up in the seaside resort of Rimini which he finally left in 1939 with ambitions to become a journalist at the age of 19. His past is strongly refrenced in both this film as well as Amercord which was made much later in 1974.Fellini struggled for several years spending time writing scripts for reviews and downmarket comedies and drawing charicatures and cartoons. Fellini was to meet Rossellini in 1944 becoming a very close collaborator working on scripts such as Open City, Paisan and several others. He also worked with other neorealist scriptwriters for directors such as Antonioni's Mill on the River Po. his involvement with the creative centre of artistic endeavour within the Italian film industry was central in helping him go beyond his provincial background whilst avoiding the more superficial aspects of commercialism within the big city.
Some critics have noted the weakness of "the plot" however this is clearly the film's central strength precisely because of the slice of life contingent nature of the group of "lads" / "slackers"/"wasters" or " I Vitelloni" who are the protagonists of the film. A synopsis can't do justice to the film because it can't describe the visual ambience which is core to the creation of meaning of the film.
Although there are five of them, there are two central characters who the film revolves around. Fausto is described through voiceover as the group's 'spiritual leader' and he appears slightly older than the rest. Moraldo is the youngest of the group and is clearly the person closest to Fellini's own life. Moraldo and Fausto are more closely linked because Fausto is forced to become Moraldo's brother-in-law at the beginning of the film. Fausto has got Sandra, Moraldo's sister pregnant and Fausto goes to live at Moraldo's house as he has no job or current prospects of his own. Fausto is forever trying to get other women into bed and is forever getting into trouble over it. It gets him sacked as a shop assistant in a shop selling religious icons, statues etc and he eventually persuade Moraldo to help him steal a statue in order to gain just "compensation" for sacking without notice. They try selling it to convents and monasteries but fail miserably. Eventually it is kept at the beach and of course discovered. Both get into trouble but Moraldo lies to Sandra about Fausto's amorous activities and he restored. Eventually Fausto goes too far and Sandra disappears from the house and the Vitelloni spend the day searching for her as Fausto finally comes to realise what is actually valuable in his pathetic little provincial life. Sandra has gone to Fausto's father and little sister. When they eventually find her Fausto's father takes a belt to Fausto and finally there is reconciliation.
Moraldo is always represented as being slightly on the outside of the group. He dislikes being placed in a morally ambivalent position of either betraying his sister or his peer group and he of all the group seems to recognise that the town holds no future for him as it constrains his future. He will bcome some sort of shopkeeper making money from summer tourists and settling down to have children and forgetting any larger ideas. Moraldo is frequently associated with the railway station which brings the summer visitors from the cities. In the end he takes the train for a new life and like Fellini himself escapes provincialism. It is a journey made by Julie Christie a few years later in Billy Liar whilst Billy Liar himself fails to make it. In this sense Fellini was well ahead of the game, which is perhaps yet to be recognised.
There are other episodes briefly focusing upon the other characters. Alberto sponges off his hard-working sister and was a little unfairly described by Liehm and then Bondanella as the most pathetic of the group. This is unecessarily judgemental and a pointless criticism. Leopoldo is the group's "intellectual" and is a wannabee playright who by the end we know isn't going to make it.
Episodes are centered around events in the town of which the carnival is the most important. Of course carnival is something which Fellini is strongly attracted to and these moments were clearly important in his development. But these events are interludes in which minor "trangressions" are temporarily allowed but these are chimeras around which the ontology of the everyday proceeds with monotonous regularity.
I thought the film insightful, poignant and funny. It was well supported with a good soundtrack from the ubiquitous Nino Rota. As a critique of the limitations and petty aspcts of provincial life the film worked well. It clearly played an important part in Fellini's own development and as far as I'm concerned it stands the test of time and comes as strongly recommended viewing although it is not a "masterpiece".
December 29, 2008
Broadgate Park Nottingham: Exploiting Student Accommodation
Warning to all students intending to take up accommodation at what they think is under the control of the University of Nottingham!!!
If you are a student, teacher, lecturer or parent who read this blog please pass on this warning about the growth of student exploitation through the growing property managment services company UPP. This organisation is growing in power in the UK and Kinoeye's wife has just been ripped off for about £1,000 whilst a student at the University of Nottingham.
Regular visitors to Kinoeye are aware that this is an academic blog which amongst its primary target audience seeks to inform film and media students from the sixth form upwards as well as trying to appeal to all those interested in European films in general. As such it is not for profit and seeks to develop free exchange of information and ideas which are grounded on principles of more liberal / humanistic ideas of education with an emphasis on quality, cheapness and accessibility.
This entry is slightly different to the usual ones being based upon a current personal experience which also contains a generic warning for potential undergraduates who are likely to enter into a vicious contract with a company called UPP (University Partnerships Programme) . This personal anecdote argues that UPP puts its profits above the welfare of the students. In the case of Broadgate Park the University of Nottingham must also bear some responsibility for a truly atrocious state of affairs. Given the increasing dependence of the British University sector upon overseas students and the rich financial pickings they offer I also hope that readers globally will pass on the relevant information.
Kinoeye Has Cancer
Some regular visitors will have noticed that Kinoeye has gone quiet lately. This is because I have oesophagal cancer. I have been off work for nearly three months, have been in hospital twice and am on chemo which is quite debilitating. Currently I'm able to write this as I have a small window as the chemo has given me such nausea that I've come off it temporarily.
It was the onset of cancer which has caused a family problem at Broadgate Park University of Notttingham. Whilst I work in the South my wife, a mature student, was in her 3rd year of an architecture degree. It was impossible to complete this course by commuting because the course is too hands on. As a result we decided to live apart during the terms and my wife took a place in Broadgate Park which as far as we knew was run by the University itself not an outside enterprise "in partnership" with the University of Nottingham.
My wife duly paid her initial fees, about £1,700, taken from her student loan (pretty much all of it) and spent a month in residence. In the the meantime I was getting iller and cancer was diagnosed. At this stage there was little option for my wife but to defer her course. She came back home and is now a full-time carer for me for which I'm eternally grateful otherwise I would be in a total mess.
Suffice it to say this has messed up our plans entirely and of course living with cancer is living with uncertainty. It is clearly very important to us to regain as much of this fee as possible. It was only ever borrowed and I soon face losing my income as sick benefits run out. In the old days when I was an undergraduate I have no doubts that there would have been sympathy expressed by the institution and that a satisfactory refund would have been worked out however Broadgate Park has been singularly unhelpful and unsympathetic to my wife. And on Saturday they finally agreed to pay back the initial deposit and car parling fees which were extras. My wife was only there for 5 weeks yet they wish to make her comply to a contract signed until the end of the semester which is the middle of January!!!!
Broadgate Park /UPP & the Myth of "Special Circumstances"
Naturally my wife wanted a refund on her accommodation but they have beeen unforthcoming. The contract tries to ensure that it is the student responsibility to get another occupier if somebody leaves. This was clearly impossible to organise as I was in desperate need of care and my wife needed to organise getting her gear back get the house organised and car for me as well as deal with the emotional and psychological blow of cancer in the family alongside giving up her course which has taken two years of huge commitment.
There is some claim to special circumstances and there was a "tutor" Stephen Greedy who was meant to be some kind of liaison officer with this private company. Greedy was pretty unsympathetic and didn't follow up the case properly as promised. Nobody has bothered to explain what might constitute "spcial circumstances". Under normal circumstances we would have been on top but I was then hospitalised so something had to go. The UPP management at Broadgate Park have completely refused to look at the issue of special circumstances and to provide a proper student service.As the guy is some sort of electrical engineer it seems as though the University management haven't put a lot of care and effort into choosing an appropriate person for the role!
Despite being notified of leaving the hall of residence after 5 full weeks UPP have effectively charged my wife up until the middle of January and are sitting safe behind their legal contract. This is clearly entirely unjust and shows just how exposed to the vagaries of the property market students have become. It is clear from the attitude of UPP that the notion of "special circumstances" is simply a token get out clause. University accomodation has fallen fowl of big business and sadly some univrsity managments are happy to wash their hands of the responsibilities of student care.
A quick look at the UPP web-site reveals the unfurling of a rapacious property company which gives the usual blurb about growth etc. Please note it is not concentrating on providing best student quality and / or services. The message which needs to be spread is caveat emptor or buyer beware!
I hope that you feel it important to spread this mssage. In the meantime I will be contacting my MP as the situation is clearly highly exploitative. I will do my best to update you on any developments but no promises. If anybody else coming across bad UPP experiences write to the press and their MPs this will help many in the future. Please leave links in the comments box.
Cheers to all of you. Thanks for reading Kinoeye and happy 2009.
December 21, 2008
The main hall in the Boy's Reform Institution
Shoeshine: Vittorio de Sica (1946)
Review of the Eureka Masters of Cinema DVD
Below is a YouTube extract from the Eureka film trailer
Released shortly after Rome Open City and Paisà, Shoeshine was the third release which is described as neorealist.In the preface to her important book on neorealism Italian Film in the Light of Norealism Millicent Marcus cites Vittorio de Sica who is reflecting upon Shoeshine and the ethics and moral compass of neorealism:
The experience of the war was decisive for us all. Each felt the mad desire to throw away all the old stories of the Italian cinema, to plant the camera in the midst of real life, tin th midst of all that struck our astonished eyes. We sought to librate ourselves from the weight of our sins, we wanted to look ourslves in the face and tell ourselves the truth, to discover what we really were, and to seek salvation...Shoeshine was a small stone, a very small stone, contributed to the moral reconstruction of our country. (Marcus 1986 pp XIII-XVI)
As it stands Shoeshine is one of the major neorealist films. De Sica follows these later with Bicycle Thieves and Umberto D
The Eureka Masters of Cinema DVD
This recent release is up to the usual high standards of this series and reflects a labour of love. The transfer is of good quality and there is a useful booklet which has an extract from a book by Bert Cardullo on de Sica. Cardullo is one of the few academics to have written on de Sica who is quite underwritten in English. The booklet also has a couple of pages from de sica himself on Shoeshine and two reviews. The first review is a contemporary one from James Agee and the other is a later one from Pauline Kael.
Of the extras on the DVD there is a full length audio commentary from Bert Cardullo. This provids both useful social commentary as well as dicussing the underlying meaning behind various typs of shot. There is also a documentary called Through Children's Eyes including a contribution from Franco Interlenghi who was to play Moraldo in Fellini's I Vitelloni.With the high quality transfer and a wealth of extras the DVD is very good value.
The film itself functions as a powerful critique of Italian society who are clearly letting down their children. The children are left to fend for themslves and if possible contribute to the family budget. Education is clearly a very low priority in the broken post-war Italian society yet children can be harshly treated by the legal and penal system which clearly has many features common to the Fascism which came before it. There is little of Enlightenmnt values displayed within the institutional system it is merely a mechanism for getting children off the streets.
The film is a moving one which starts out hopful and gradually gets darker. It is certainly not going to promote any feelgood factor but it did afford audiences the opportunity to reflect upon how badly children were being treated in the immediate post-war period. It is a classic core film of Italian Neorealist cinema and is very important viewing as well as being very interesting to watch.
The Overcrowded Cells
Shoeshine is set in Rome in 1945. The war against Japan is still carrying on but Italy has been liberated and the European war is over. The story is centered upon two young teenage boys Giueseppe and Pasquale. In an Italy economically broken by the war along with other boys of a similar age they struggle to survive by shining the boots and shoes of the American troopswho are occupying Rome. The G.I.s are the only people with enough money to afford this.The film opens on a high note of joy an exuberance with long tracking shots of the two boys galloping around a track somewhere on the outskirts of Rome. It transpires that they spend much of their earnings going riding and they are hoping to buy their favourite horse Bergsagliere.
The boys have nearly enough saved and the opportunity to help conduct a little blackmarket trading on the side promises to make enough money to get the horse. They are unwittingly exposed to a burglary by Giuseppe's elder brother who is something of a spiv. Initially they are given some extra money to keep quiet. As a result they buy the horse and show it off in the streets of Rome to the other ragazzi.
The police quickly catch up with them the following day. They refuse to give away any information and are therefore remanded to an approved school type of institution pending further police investigations.
They are separated in the institution into separate but overcrowded cells. Eventually the authorities get Pasquale to talk by tricking him into believing that they are flogging Giuseppe with a belt. When Giuseppe eventually finds out the close friendship collapes.Giuseppe dosn't realise why Pasquale talked. With the aid of his cell-mates Giuseppe colludes in setting up Pasquale by planting a file in his bed. As a result Pasquale is severely beaten. Pasquale in his turn is determined to find out who was behind the file incident and he ends up having a fight in the shower with Arcangeli who is the vicious force behind the teenagers in Giuseppe's cell. Despite being smaller Pasquale determination and sense of rage help him beat the bully however he is sent into solitary confinement and marked down as being violent by the authorities. Relations have entirely deteriorated between the former friends and Giuseppe's family hire a lawyer who is determined to set up Pasquale in order to gain mitigating circumstances and a reduced sentence for Giuseppe. This comes to pass in their day in court.
Giuseppe becomes involved in an escape plan with Arcangeli and others from his cell. Eventually they escape during the gneral screening of some films for the inmates. Only Giuseppe and Arcangli fully manage the escape as the others are recaptured. Pasquale guesses where they hav gone and promises to show the authorities if they will take him along. The place is where the horse is stabled Pasquale stops Arcangeli and Giuseppe from crossing the bridge to get away. Arcangeli is a coward and runs away. Pasquale starts to beat Giuseppe who in trying to get away falls to his death from the bridge.
December 17, 2008
Italian Cinema Hub Page
This page is a hub page which will direct you to the areas of Italian cinema covered by this blog. Please enjoy.
The director pages are undergoing development and are best considered as 'work in progress. The Visconti pages are the most fully developed.
Contemporary Italian Cinema (Not currently available)