{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Year End Post # 2 : Italian Cinema

Italian Cinema

It’s baffling to see the difference in the richness of Italian cinema of 60s and 70s, and the current dry days. This year I discovered some of giants and genres of Italian cinema.

Sicilian Comedies of Pietro Germi

I saw two films (Divorce, Italian Style and Seduced and Abandoned) by Pietro Germi at Gene Siskel Film Center, both are excellent. Lots has been said about they being comic-satiric masterpieces, which they surely are, but one cant help but appreciate the sensual aura of heat, passion and lust that Germi creates. It looks as if the Sicilian weather (the way characters constantly perspire) resembles Indian June, and I wonder how similar Indian society is to theirs, just that our films treat the stories of 'Family and Honor' way too seriously, and are therefore turn themselves into monotonous and boring stuff. The death scene of Don Vincenzo in Seduced and Abandoned is a masterpiece in itself, as if in the whole film of farce, satire and comedy, Germi, who definitely loves his characters, pulls ups something very basic about a patriarch. Germi brutally satires his Sicilian society but his crime can be pardoned on two grounds - firstly its a crime of passion, and secondly he is intimately married to the society he deflowers.

Master Killings by Dario Argento

Lighting in a film is all about bathing the visuals and the characters into some mysterious light. Sound is to surprise or evoke the hidden. Color is a motif in whatever form it comes - Red Rose, Red Wine or Blood. There is no fun in reality. Background in a frame is more important than the foreground. Background can be used effectively to create fantasy and defy the reality. Only a coward artist resists silliness. A scene is noticeable only when Sound and Image are little off. Discontinuity in sound and image puzzles the mind, mystifies the narrative. Don’t shy away from explaining the unexplainable; it makes anything into fairy tale. Horror is anticipation. If killings are done so elaborately that they look unreal, that becomes art. Adherence to realistic conventions of killings in films makes them look ugly and monotonous. Women look more beautiful than men on screen, especially when being brutally killed. Blood in art is redder, screams are shriller, delirious exteriors mimic the state of women in danger and murderous hands are of an artist. These are few assumptions on which films of Dario Argento are based. As you can see, they do require some amount of leap of faith.

Movies like Suspiria at least try to mask off shams like Innocence. Made from the same source material, one might see the difference of approach between a filmmaker and wanna-be intellectual (of Formulative French Flavor). Suspiria does not bloat itself with pretensions of big meanings, while Innocence, in its marvelous aura building exercise, promises a ocean but ends up in a tiny fountain. The end sequence of Suspiria is the most beautiful sequence I saw this year, it looks like something that Lynch thought but Almodovar directed. And the music by Goblin is awesome.

Great in its own right but Deep Red is lesser masterpiece than Suspiria because it somehow rests on plot twists and turns rather than director's art. I mean to say that if the same script were directed by someone else (except the killing scenes which only Argento could do the way they should be), it might have been the same film. What I liked a lot about Deep Red is its gender awareness and how it plays with audience banal psychological knowledge that relates sexuality and violence when it comes to track down the murderer. Music, as usual, is great.

Each of these Italian films comes highly recommended from me.
Pic: Screenshot from the end sequence of Suspiria.


Alok said...

What is Jacques Tati doing in an Italian cinema list?

that quip about thought by Lynch directed by Almodovar is a nice one.

anurag said...

ohh, see thats what happens when you cut/paste form old word docs :)

Removed Tati !