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Italian Neo Realistic Films

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charliechaplinfan
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Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby charliechaplinfan » March 9th, 2011, 5:11 am

Much like the French New Wave I'm never quite sure what fits into the category but unlike the French New Wave I've loved every 'realistic' film I've ever watched from the Italian cinema. It's one of my favorite sub genres of cinema, it feels so very powerful and real, actresses like Anna Magnani seemed to revitalise the screen with their earthiness and beauty. I find Ossessione far more powerful than The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Films I've seen and liked in this category

Rome Open City
The Bicycle Thieves
Miracle in Milan
La Strada
I Vittelloni
Ossessione
Rocco and His Brothers
Stromboli
Paisan
Germany Year Zero (not sure if this one counts)

still to see

Umberto D
Shoeshine
Il Bidone
Nights of Cabiria
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

jdb1

Re: Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby jdb1 » March 9th, 2011, 9:33 am

I don't know -- maybe it's because I'm Italian. Not trying to be cynical, but all these cinematic histrionics wear thin for me after repeated viewings. I lived in this atmosphere, and it isn't all that alluring at close range. It's hard to watch Italian people screaming and suffering and abusing each other onscreen when you've had a lifetime of being subjected to it. My immediate family of grandparents, aunts and uncles were of this generation, and their behavior here in the US wasn't much different from the behavior of those still in Italy who had gone through the deprevations of war.

I think I like Cabiria best of Alison's list. But I much prefer the comedies. There's a subtly self-mocking quality to most Italian comedies that tells me that maybe there were still some people there who had a sense of perspective on the human condition.

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JackFavell
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Re: Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby JackFavell » March 9th, 2011, 12:52 pm

There's something very life affirming in these films, for those of us who are a little too much inside themselves. At least that's how I feel.

It may be gritty, but it's life, it's emotional.

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Re: Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby knitwit45 » March 9th, 2011, 1:37 pm

I am a dreamer, I have realized. I don't want gritty, I want soft focus and escape from reality. Guess I just demoted myself to 'junior' member of this great place...sigh...

jdb1

Re: Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby jdb1 » March 9th, 2011, 1:38 pm

JackFavell wrote:There's something very life affirming in these films, for those of us who are a little too much inside themselves. At least that's how I feel.

It may be gritty, but it's life, it's emotional.


I can quite understand your feelings. In certain spheres of Italian culture, very little is kept inside, hence all the gesticulating and yelling. It's not a milieu for the introspective. I suspect that many of these movies gained popularity in part because they showed behavior most considered colorful, or even exotic. But the excesses of temper, and cruelty and overdramatizing are not the kind of behavior I've ever taken any pride in. I'm not calling any of these films bad -- they aren't; most are excellent. But too many of their elements make me, personally, uncomfortable.

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Re: Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby moira finnie » March 9th, 2011, 1:59 pm

Hi Judith,
I think you have a good point. I always envied my Italian-American friends their voluble and affectionate families and found out years later they were equally impressed with the more restrained atmosphere of our home. The grass is always greener, especially if it is in a movie or observed as a visitor and is not a part of everyday life. Are there any Italian movies which depict life in a quieter way that you prefer? Thanks.
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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby charliechaplinfan » March 9th, 2011, 3:20 pm

For me, watching these movies that were made twenty to thirty years before I was born it feels like watching a real slice of history. You can see the destruction that the war left in Italy, in Rome Open City it feels like it was filmed whilst the war is going on around, it doesn't feel at all like a film. The poverty of these films grabbed me too, many of these films are filmed in poor areas and are about poor people. La Strada felt unreal on first viewing, travelling around the countryside, scraping a living, until I watched The Bicycle Theives and Ossessione. I Vitelloni the men didn't have jobs and lived aimlessly whilst their fathers or mothers supported them. It's like Italian filmmakers put their heart on their sleeves to make these movies and made some of the most socially conscious movies I've ever watched.

Today I watched Il Bidone starring the expressive Broderick Crawford, Richard Basehart, Guiletta Masina and Franco Fabrizi. Il Bidone means the swindlers but these aren't swindlers who take from the people who can afford it, they are swindling people who are struggling to make ends meet, swindling them out of their savings with some inspired plans. How can they cheat their fellow man, they go amongst them, see their suffering and misery yet take off the honest and unsuspecting people. It's difficult but compelling viewing but somehow Fellini gives these men souls, makes us care about them when they are the lowest of the low. Picasso, seems very at odds with the swindling world he's part of, his partner Masina trying to turn a blind eye to the money her man brings in. Fabrizi's characters seems at first to be the one with the least conscience but it becomes apparent that it's only Fellini's portrayal making us think that. He truly fooled me, I thought Crawford would melt at the sight of the paralysed girl, I believed he'd given that money back out of pity not that he'd secreted it all about his person. His plight unsurprisingly is to be left dying with a wound to his head, never does he repent. In this way it's like La Strada, something the viewer has to come to terms with in their own head. Crawford's Augusto is something like Zampano but for me Zampano knows no better and can't help himself, Augusto can, he knows what is right and wrong. An interesting film.

Does anyone know why Fellini had none Italian speaking famous actors in his films. I know he's not the only one to do it. I'm presuming it was for the box office.

What or who classifys as Neo Realistic? Is it the director, the time period, the grittiness?

Judith, I watch Martin Scorsese's Voyage to Italy which I thought was a great documentary and perhaps caught some of what growing up as an Italian American watching Italian films on TV. Have you seen the documentary, is it similar to your experience?
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

jdb1

Re: Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby jdb1 » March 9th, 2011, 4:46 pm

moirafinnie wrote:Hi Judith,
I think you have a good point. I always envied my Italian-American friends their voluble and affectionate families and found out years later they were equally impressed with the more restrained atmosphere of our home. The grass is always greener, especially if it is in a movie or observed as a visitor and is not a part of everyday life. Are there any Italian movies which depict life in a quieter way that you prefer? Thanks.


There are many, although life for Italians anywhere isn't very quiet generally, except perhaps in the upper classes. The Neo-Realists played up the conflict and misery angle, so it abounds in their films. Other more conventional movies of the period aren't quite as churning.

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Re: Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby charliechaplinfan » March 9th, 2011, 5:03 pm

Do you see a director like Vischonti as conventional. I watched Senso not long ago and it had a completely different flavour to it but was equally moving.

I grew up with a Italian neighbour, I loved her to bits but she was as you've described your folks Judith. I thought she was so vibrant, of course she was very different to her neighbours. She was married to a Polish man, both came to England after WW2 and never left. I always wondered why she would have come to England she had no other folks here and I wish I'd asked her but I was very small, Polish aren't uncommon here but after the war, Italians were. She was lovely. My abiding memory of her was her feeding me a garlic clove and my mother not talking to me for days because I stank, my mother wouldn't have known what garlic was in the eighties, how things change.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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L'Amore In Citta

Postby charliechaplinfan » March 11th, 2011, 3:50 pm

L'Amore In Citta, this is a collaborational effort, Cesare Zavattini got together 5 directors to film 5 segments for this film, including Fellini and Antonioni, the result is patchy, some segments better than others, one segment is very good, that's part 4. Fellini section is interesting but falls short of what we grow to expect of Fellini and Antonioni's section is very documentary like. I liked it because it was very grainy, the actors/actresses didn't feel like they were professionals at all, just very ordinary people and it concentrated on the woes of the unfortunate young in the early 50's Rome. The breakdown of each segment is off the imdb. I thought the last segment wasn't really a segment at all, is it a comment on the Italian male, I don't know enough to comment. An interesting film although some might expect better from these directors

Part 1 (d. Dino Risi): This segment is a charming little film about the people in a dance hall. It has no real story. Instead, we see couples connect, people alone, and couples break up. It's very nice.

Part 2 (d. Michelangelo Antonioni): Of course, I saw the film for the Antonioni and Fellini segments. They're two of my very favorite filmmakers. Antonioni's is quite interesting. It is the most documentary-like segment. I don't know if it's true, but the narration claims that they gathered together a group of people who had attempted suicide over failed relationships. Two women tell their stories in an interview format. It's quite good.

Part 3 (d. Federico Fellini): At first, this looks like it will be the best of the film. The opening sequence, with the main character wandering through the narrow hallways of a Roman apartment building looking for a matrimonial service (the equivalent of a dating service). A young child tells him that he will lead him to that room, and as they proceed, other children show up and follow them. That's a very mystical scene, but what follows is very disappointing. The man claims that he's looking for a wife for his friend, who happens to be a werewolf. This segment is the one that hints that there might have been some editing in the version that I watched. This man is introduced to the girl, they have a conversation in a field, and then the man, I guess, tells her that she is too good to do so. The result is nonsensical. There is absolutely no payoff. Actually, the weak ending reminds me a lot of the segment Fellini wrote for Roberto Rosselini's Paisa.

Part 4 (d. Mesallini Zavattini): I assume Zavattini is related to Cesare, probably his brother or son. Anyhow, this segment is most in-line with the neorealistic movement, which was dying by the time this film was made. A Sicilian woman went to Rome to find maid work. Her first employer impregnates her and then fires her. Now she's stuck with a young boy but no money whatsoever. She tries to scam a nanny into taking care of the kid, but he is eventually given back to her. There is a beautiful scene where the mother changes her sons diaper on the edge of a fountain. This scene's real-time realism is reminiscent of the maid's morning duties in Vittorio de Sica's Umberto D., made shortly after this film and written by Cesare Zavattini. The climactic scene is truly heartbreaking, but the end is horribly anticlimactic. This film really shouldn't have had a happy ending. Neorealism and happy endings really don't mix.

Part 5 (d. Alberto Lattuada): Lattuada is most famous for co-directing with Fellini on his first film, Variety Lights. His segment in Love in the City is perhaps the best of the film. It has no story at all. Instead, it is a non-narrative compilation of the reactions of men when they see beautiful woman. The editing reminded me of Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia. It's quite musical. In fact, the music of this segment is really good. The film ends on a very poetic moment.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby MikeBSG » March 20th, 2011, 12:24 pm

I have to say that I love Italian comedies more than the "official" classics of neo-realism.

"Big Deal on Madonna Street," "The Great War," "Everybody Go Home," "The Fascist," "Mafioso," -- It's been years since I've seen them, but they made me rock with laughter when I saw them at the Cleveland Cinematheque at the end of the 80s. I think Alberto Sordi is a wonderful actor.

Possibly I don't respond well to Italian neo-realism because it was presented to me as "See, this is how life really is, with none of that phoney-baloney Expressionism that the Germans invented." I know I should get past that and see the films as they are, but something inside me goes sour when I approach those films.

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Re: Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby charliechaplinfan » March 20th, 2011, 3:36 pm

It's strange how we can be put off films, actors, directors etc. My experience with them was very fresh with no preconceptions, I had to seek them out, there's no way they would play on TV here.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby MikeBSG » March 21st, 2011, 9:56 am

Yes, I know it's a fault with me.

I have the same problem with the films of the American independent filmmaker John Sayles ("Return of the Secaucus Seven," "Eight Men Out," etc.). I can't really separate his films (although I try to) from my feelings toward the people who thought he was the hottest thing since sliced bread.

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Re: Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby charliechaplinfan » March 21st, 2011, 2:01 pm

I don't have a great love of some of the Brit movies of the last twenty years or so because they're just shown ad nauseum and have memories. They are good films but jaded for me.

I watched Nights of Cabiria today. Another film to knock the emotional stuffing out of a person from Fredrico Fellini, this was viewed off youtube, heavens only knows the impact had I seen it on a bigger screen. I didn't realise until the end that Guiletta Masina is playing a character similar in naivete to Gelsomina, she's a woman of the night who refuses to employ a pimp, she knows what she does is at odds with her faith in religion. She has pride in the things she's earned, her house paid for, her thermometer etc. She even walks in a innocent way, she's touting for business almost by accident and sometimes finding herself astray. At the opening of the film I was unsure what is happening, Cabiria is almost drowned by her escort, is it a client or a boyfriend? The answer is her boyfriend, pushing her into a fast flowing river for her handbag. Heartbreakingly, she remembers this towards the end of the film. Another wrenching moment is in the hypnotist's show. At what point is she marked as a easy target? How Fellini takes us to a point almost beyond human endurance and never better than when portrayed by Guilietta Masina. I thought she'd never top Gelsomina but she comes extremely close her.

Hand in hand with Fellini's films is the music by Nino Rota, I've loved all his scores, particularly La Dolce Vita and Otto E Mezzo.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Italian Neo Realistic Films

Postby MikeBSG » April 1st, 2011, 8:55 am

Has anyone seen "Crown of Iron" (1941), a fantasy film from the Fascist era, the type of film Neo-Realism rebelled against? I saw part of it in a documentary on Goebbels, and it looked pretty interesting.

I think "Crown of Iron" was directed by Alessandro Blasetti, who directed "1860" . "1860" is about the unification of Italy, and it is seen as a precursor of Neo-Realism. I saw an edited version of "1860" a couple of decades ago. (The "bookend" footage of Mussolini had been edited out, and the film ended with a shot of two dead Italians that emphasized the futility of war, which I'm sure is not how the original release version ended.) I was impressed with "1860."


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