Antonioni/Fellini/Visconti & other trios to operate on…

Antonioni/Fellini/Visconti & other trios to operate on? I could have added Rosselini but no. Three.

These guys are important Italian directors of the XXth Century. They knew each other, worked for each other, and they have different styles.

Let’s explore Wikipedia… ungingerly, broadly, roughly :

  1. Antonioni : His films have been described as “enigmatic and intricate mood pieces” that feature elusive plots, striking visuals, and a preoccupation with modern landscapes.
  2. Fellini : Fellini’s films are a unique combination of memory, dreams, fantasy and desire. The adjectives “Fellinian” and “Felliniesque” are “synonymous with any kind of extravagant, fanciful, even baroque image in the cinema and in art in general”.
  3. Visconti : wildly decadent, brocaded period melodramas, often so theatrical as to be operatic. “…neorealist tone of common man stories with a sense of avant-garde exploration of interpersonal relations”.

 

When I was in my 20s, I adored Antonioni, “best known for his “trilogy on modernity and its discontents” — L’Avventura(1960), La Notte (1961), and L’Eclisse (1962) – as well as the English-language films Blowup (1966) and The Passenger (1975)”. It was mysterious, enigmatic, and his way to show “incommunicability” were talking to my own disillusions, I suppose.

In my 30-40s, I loved Visconti, his way of growing from neo-realism to big perfect complex movies like The Leopard.

Now in my 50s I explore Fellini in an awe. It’s much more decadent, complex, I have to… dig!

 

If you choose these three, wiki them first, then find your own ways to explore (and to compare). Buy used books (it’s cheaper), read, watch movies, ask and debate in forums, find pages like “Where to begin with”. It can keep you busy for months!

 

TOOL

It could be a structure for thinkers/explorers.

How many interesting trios you could explore? In the movies : De Palma/Coppola/Scorcese (again… Italians!?)? In literature : Steinbeck/Hemingway/Faulkner? Proust/Céline/Duras? In music : Ravel/Debussy/Roussel? Politics? Photography (I choose Sternfeld/Eggleston/Shore)? Poetry?

Do we have to choose people from the same time? The same country? The same Art? I think so, it’s probably more fecund. Or else you have to find common structures already, like Basquiat/Shostakovich/Fellini. Hmmm more complicated, n’est-ce pas?

How to explore your trio? Interviews? Finding links? Combine them in Google? One by one, or all at the same time? Influences? Difficulties? End of career?

I copy paste an extract of “A New Guide to Italian Cinema” after the pictures. Have fun! Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Luchino Visconti

In 1960, Visconti made the emigration drama Rocco e i suoi fratelli/Rocco and His Brothers (1960), a film that combined the neorealist tone of common man stories with a sense of avant garde exploration of interpersonal relations. Visconti updates the story of Sicilian fishermen from La terra trema/The Earth Trembles (1948) to a tale of contemporary Lucanian immigrants alienated by industrial Milan in a film that has become a canonical example of Italian art cinema.

Visconti’s next film, Il Gattopardo/The Leopard (1963), is an adaptation of the bestselling novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1896–57) about a Sicilian Prince who must relinquish power and status after Italian unification. In The Leopard, Visconti shows the dissolution of the aristocracy with sympathy and under- standing for the aesthetic and intellectual qualities that he, as an aristocrat himself, so deeply appreciated. The Prince’s demise is a metaphor for the decline of the aris- tocracy. Death images pervade the film as the Prince stoically witnesses the end of an era. The Prince, played by Burt Lancaster, summarizes the views of the fading aris- tocracy when he dismisses fears of revolution with his belief that the rising middle class is actually interested in becoming part of the system. The Prince offers a perfect definition of the fatalistic concept of trasformismo originally coined by one of the first prime ministers of unified Italy, Depretis, that the more things may change the more they actually remain the same. The film ends with a grand ball for the announcement that the Prince’s nephew (Alain Delon) will marry Angelica (Claudia Cardinale), the beautiful and rich daughter of the nouveau riche social climber Don Calogero. The ball sequences show Visconti’s extreme attention to historical detail and minutely lavish reconstruction of nineteenth-century artifacts. These scenes were reproduced with extravagance and self-indulgence in a complete departure from the neorealist style, and evidence Visconti’s ability to give cinematography the same sort of high artistic power usually identified with painting or opera.

Visconti’s La caduta degli dei-Gotterdammerung/The Damned (1969) with its Italian title referring to a Richard Wagner opera, chronicles the rise of Nazism in Germany through a study of the moral perversity of the Essenbeck clan, modeled after the Krupp family of armaments manufacturers. Visconti connects Nazism and sexual perversion, a point explicitly conveyed through a recreation of the night of the long knives when Hitler’s SS purged the Nazi movement of its SA rivals. Visconti’s Morte a Venezia/Death in Venice (1970) is based on the Thomas Mann short novel about a middle-aged man who remains in Venice during the cholera outbreak that will claim his life in order to ogle a Polish boy at the Lido beach. Death in Venice deals with the decadence of an individual, Whereas Visconti’s next films deal’s with the decadence of an entire family, Gruppo di famiglia in un interno/Conversation Piece (1974) and of an era, L’innocente/The Innocent (1976). Conversation Piece depicts the life of an Italian family in contemporary society and creates a rather bleak view of modern life, plagued by lack of communication, drug addiction, and political terrorism. Visconti’s last film, The Innocent, is an adaptation of a story by Gabriele D’Annunzio in which a nobleman kills his wife’s illegitimate newborn before committing suicide in a study of fin-du-siecle aristocratic society bound to self-destruction.

Federico Fellini

Fellini went from being Aldo Fabrizi’s gagman and a screenwriter on Rossellini’s neorealist film Open City (1945) to become an art cinema director. With its glamor kitsch and emphasis on contemporary consumerism, Fellini’s La dolce vita (1960) is a sociological portrait of 1960s economic boom Italy. The film is divided into episodes that offer a journey through Roman society from the world of the jaded celebrity journalist Marcello, to the decadence of the Roman aristocracy and the banality of late night prostitution. La dolce vita caused scandal due to its striptease sequence, which heightened its box office appeal. In this vein the film is party to the erotic genre of the period, such as the Brigitte Bardot films directed by Roger Vadim in France or Alessandro Blasetti’s Europa di notte/Europe by Night (1959) box office hit, which offered a glimpse into the world of European striptease par- lors. La dolce vita is also remembered for the manner in which the stars Marcello Mastroianni and Swedish bombshell Anita Ekberg communicated a sense of Italian fashion to a world audience. The film contributed ot the English language through the reference to the scandal photographer Paparazzo whose name refers to celebrity photographers to the present day.

Fellini followed La dolce vita with one of his most autobiographical films, 81⁄2 (1963). Fellini had previously made six feature length films and had contributed “half ” segments to three others, so he considered 81⁄2 as his eighth-and-a-half film. The protagonist is a film director who can no longer decide what films to make, a crisis connected to his problematic relationships with three different women: his wife, his mistress, and an angelic fantasy figure played by Claudia Cardinale. The story jumps rapidly from present to past, from reality to dream and fantasy as Fellini addresses the authoritarianism of the Roman Catholic Church and its effects on adolescents, the absurdity of the world of film production, and the par- adox of living between reality and illusion. The film ends where it began; with a parade of characters performing at the director’s whims.

Similar themes are present in Fellini’s Giulietta degli spiriti/Juliet of the Spirits (1965), a film that puts the themes of middle-class alienation from Rossellini’s Europa ’51 and Antonioni’s L’Avventura into the style of spaghetti nightmare hor- ror films. Giulietta is a middle-aged married woman faced with her husband’s extramarital affair. She undergoes a series of traumatic experiences: spiritual séances, encounters with phony oriental prophets, outings with her oversexed, stunningly beautiful neighbor, and haunting by her inner ghosts. These latter include an overpowering mother figure, a beloved, rebellious grandfather, archaic figures, and Catholic martyr nightmares. Eventually, Giulietta chases away her ghosts to face the outside world.2 Though Giulietta arrives at a certain sense of wisdom, there is a fatalistic realization that little will change for her.

Toby Dammit (1967) is Fellini’s short film based upon Edgar Allan Poe’s short story Never Bet the Devil Your Head, which appeared in the multi-director effort Spirits of the Dead. Fellini’s contribution is a parody of many of the currents in film in the 1960s: horror, pornography, westerns, and art cinema. Fellini had already parodied the Italian film industry’s reliance on the maggiorata fisica actresses such as Anita Ekberg and the Hercules series peplums starring American strongman Steve Reeves in La dolce vita. In Toby Dammit, Terrence Stamp plays a dipsomaniac English actor suffering from visions of the Devil as a little blond girl chasing a large white ball. Toby has been cast as Jesus in the first Catholic western in which the Savior returns to the desolate, violent plains of the American west with a plot reminiscent of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story, The Grand Inquisitor. Fellini takes aim at the world of film theory influential in the mid-1960s in the sequence when the producers’ representative, Father Spagna (many so-called spaghetti westerns were filmed in Spain), introduces Toby to the directors who explain the theoreti- cal basis for their film project as Fellini’s camera scans his artificially re-created Roman streets. Fellini parodies film theory when the directors offer a quick syn- opsis of the theoretical grounding of their film: Roland Barthes’s textual analysis, Georg Lukac’s Marxist social determinism, the Hollywood montage style of Fred Zinneman—the director of the Gary Cooper western High Noon (1952). Toby finally performs the nihilistic soliloquy “Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow” from MacBeth at Fellini’s surrealistic re-creation of an Italian film award banquet.3

Fellini extended his parodies of popular genres to the peplum with Satirycon (1969), a disturbing, dreamlike vision of the fragmentary classical tale by classical author Petronius, which Fellini turns into a cautionary tale about the decline of ancient Roman society with the expressionistic style of a horror film. Clowns (1970) is a semi-documentary that discusses the disappearance of the clown as an entertainment phenomenon. With Roma (1971), Fellini repeated the autobio- graphical themes he had explored in 81/2 with an episodic film about the Italian capital that contrasts Fellini’s memories of the city when he first arrived in the Fascist period with his impressions as a middle-aged director. For Fellini, Rome is not just a city, but a second home, a mother, a depository of ancient mysteries and current decadence, of filth, life, death, and renewal. After an enigmatic cameo of Anna Magnani, the film ends with an apocalyptic and ironic sequence about a new horde of scooter riding barbarians returning as if to sack Rome one more time.

 

Michelangelo Antonioni

Michelangelo Antonioni began as a critic in the Italian professional cinema of the 1940s and made neorealist style documentaries in the late 1940s including Nettezze Urbane/N.U. (1948), a faithful account of a day in the life of city garbage collectors. Antonioni brought the documentary long-shot camera style to his early feature films Story of a Love Affair (1950) and his docudrama about troubled youth in Europe I vinti/The Vanquished (1952). He gained international acclaim with L’Avventura (1959), the story of a group of wealthy vacationers who cannot find one of their party, Anna.4 L’Avventura was censored in several countries and its projection suspended for six months in Milan for “obscenity” because of scenes of actresses undressing in front of the camera. In the film the only information that spectators have about Anna before her mysterious disappearance is that she is involved romantically with Sandro, and hers is the first female body seen undress- ing on screen. Otherwise she remains an enigmatic character whose disappearance offers an unanswerable philosophical parable regarding existence. The film became

104 GUIDE TO ITALIAN CINEMA

emblematic of art cinema for the manner in which Antonioni challenged the stylistic and narrative conventions of commercial cinema. His extended long shots and narrative without closure were in opposition to the Hollywood model.

Other Antonioni films include La Notte/The Night (1960), the story of a novel- ist suffering from writer’s block who is also dissatisfied in his marriage. Antonioni expertly employs the setting of an all night party against the anonymous backdrop of industrial Milan as a metaphor for the estrangement between the film’s protag- onists. L’Eclissi/The Eclipse (1961) examines themes of alienation and separation from the natural world, a theme continued in Deserto rosso/Red Desert (1964). Antonioni has a reputation for being more sensitive to women’s issues than Visconti or Fellini. His trilogy of solitude, however, and especially L’Avventura and The Eclipse, reveals an equally male-dominated handling of the female image. Yet Antonioni also made films that questioned the essence of reality with Blow-Up (1966) set in the London of the swinging 1960s, which features a cameo of rock guitarist Jimmy Page playing with rock group the Yardbirds. The film is a murder mystery in which the existence of a chance photograph of the murder scene by a callow English fashion photographer begs questions about the perception of real- ity. Antonioni continued to experiment with new narrative approaches with his film on youth rebellion in the Sam Shepard scripted Zabrieskie Point (1970) and the Peter Wollen scripted Professione: Reporter/The Passenger (1975) starring Jack Nicholson in an enigmatic story about a man who assumes the identity of another, filmed in a style that was the height of the long-shot art cinema style to reach commercial theaters. Antonioni has remained sporadically active in later years with the historical film Il mistero di Oberwald/The Oberwald Mystery (1980) as well as Identificazione di una donna/Identification of a Woman (1982) and Beyond the Clouds/Al di là delle nuvole (1995).

David Inshaw, British painter

David Inshaw (b 1943), British painter. His work makes me think to Jamie Wyeth, and Alex Colville too, of course. Quiet, too clean, surreal, dreamy, what else? I love it!

Alex Coxville, Canadian painter

 

David Inshaw https://www.tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.comDavid Inshaw https://www.tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.comdavid-inshaw-the-cricket-game-iii-2004Inshaw-Coast-Guard-66ADD-1024x1014

Zeen Chin, Malaysian Illustrator

Zeen Chin, Malaysian Illustrator, has his own universe, right? Great pastellish colors, great use of them, obsession with masks, baby-like creatures and monsters, and a curious sense of intimacy…

It stopped me on Pinterest. Here are some. Many more at :

https://www.artstation.com/zeen

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Record Labels I remember

What are the Record Labels I remember?

 

ZTT (b.1983) was for Zang Tumb Tuum, Propaganda, Art of Noise, Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Great cover art, and sophisticated dance/pop music, with luxurious arrangements and production (Trevor Horn).

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4AD (b. 1980) : Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil. Sophisticated, English, great sleeves…

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Virgin (1972 – Richard Branson). Mike Oldfield of course. Tangerine Dream. But also Simple Minds (New Gold Dream), Steve Hillage…

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Charisma (b 1969) : the sound of Genesis (and Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett). This progressive rock sound is sooo English!

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Mute (b 1978) : New wave! Depeche Mode, Yazoo, The Assembly, Laibach. The eighties were fascinating with this way of putting synths into pop music – Depeche Mode, for me, staying the best group of this era…

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Private Music (b. 1984) was founded by an ex-Tangerine Dream. It was New Age music, the American way – very digital, very “DDD”. It had clearly a sound, often too much sugar for me (too much reverb, too much synths, cf Yanni), but I found some pearls. Patrick O’Hearn. The minimalism & Fairlights of Sanford Ponder. Suzanne Ciani’s piano. The Art-of-Noisish David Van Tieghem. Lucia Hwong!

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EG : Fripp, Eno, Budd, but also Jon Hassel and Penguin Cafe Orchestra, this label is almost the fabric of my twenties. I listened to these sophisticated musics for hours…

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Factory (b 1978 in Manchester) : Durutti Column (Post-Rock before it ever existed), fragile, naive, so touching, and New Order. Both inexplicably haunting…

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Les Disques du Crépuscule (b 1980) : From Brussels with Love is a record I listened to thousands of time.

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Have fun! Thanks for reading!

 

Passive-Aggressive? Fine!

ONE (behavior)

Passive-aggressive behavior is characterized by a pattern of passive hostility and an avoidance of direct communication”, says Wikipedia.

One specialization of this is the Malicious Compliance, intentionally inflicting harm by strictly following the orders of a superior. This is bad, I know! But who could tell that they’ve not been there?

Here’s a story for you : In France, a few decades ago, during a very cold winter, a private, during his military service, was freezing his arse off at the entrance of a base, shift time. Imagine him holding his rifle, taping his foot on ice and snow. At one moment the base’s big boss nasty general came with his car and parked near the front desk, asking the duty little soldier this : “Private! Come here! My windshield is full of ice. I order you to throw a full bucket of hot water on it, at once!”. Of course, the little soldier opened the faucet and waited for the water to be boiling hot (malicious complicance!) before sparging it (at once) on the glass – which, of course, exploded immediately.

There’s a joy into this, right?

 

TWO (words)

What we see daily, what we read daily, is passive-aggressive tone in words. This is very common these days. You just have to say something gentle, knowing (hoping?) that the other side will understand it’s sarcastic.

“Thank you for cleaning the table! It’s very kind!” to someone who did not, for example – instead of saying : “I’m sad that you didn’t clean it, we should talk about organization”.

The easiest passive-aggressive sentence is pretty common, it’s :

“Fine!”

or

“Whatever!”

…both mean exactly the contrary, right?

 

I really often read passive-aggressive speech on social medias. “Honestly he’s sooo talented it’s so amazing I’m so impressed”. A laughing emoji can help us realize this person writes the contrary of what they think.

“Oh what a great (function) he is!!”…

 

Curiously, there’s no joy (at all) in writing the contrary of one thinks. It says : “I’m too weak to fight, and I’m afraid to say my truth”. It says : “As a matter of fact I don’t want to fix or change anything”. Passive.

 

THREE

But maybe one day someone will grow up, and won’t answer “Fine!”. They’ll answer : “This is not fine, let’s talk about it and decide together something”.

Maybe one day someone will grow up and answer : “I don’t like this, I’m not amazed, nor impressed – let’s find out why”. But now there’s a problem : it’s that the readers are SO used to passive-aggressive tone that they’ll think one just said the contrary! Damned!

 

Using a passive-aggressive behavior or tone in front of someone is to acknowledge the other one is stronger than you.

  • It’s why it’s a joy when you use it in front of stupid hierarchy. Because it gives you a way out, a way to “win”.
  • It’s why it’s sad in front of people around you. Passiveness means you acknowledge the other one is stronger, or, at least, that you don’t want to fight.

 

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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Fruitful Constraints in creativity & the wall of “I don’t know this”

I wrote an article about Fruitful Constraints & Creativity in 2017. Here it is :

It’s an old tool many artists know : many constraints are fruitful. Mainly because a constraint is a problem calling for a solution, therefore you have to move, to be creative.

All jobs and activities have constraints : budget, environment, other people, time, space, your skills, your tools.

If it’s too loose, though, you feel a freedom, which can be messy. You can not catch anything. Stuck. You maybe need to tight something up, to find “your” freedom within a new frame.

Brian Eno invented the Oblique Strategies (mainly for musicians) as a card game. You pick a card and you have to obey (sometimes it’s terrible!). Some directors are well known to tell the actors to follow precisely something (the dialogs, or the places they have to move on the set, etc) before shooting. Some digital artists sometimes go out in a park with a pencil and a notebook. A photographer can go outside with the limit of 20 pictures taken, not much. And G. Perec wrote an entire book without the letter “e”.

Constraints are fruitful. You probably have many disposable levers for these. A poet can obey : write something in alexandrine; without any letter “p”, in less than 5 minutes. You may have to present a project in ONE minute only, and… with no words. What are your levers?

You can pull a lever to Zero, it’s the Total Constraint. For example, you’re a photographer and you go out without any camera. Just your eye. You’ll feel the need, you’ll feel your brain simmering. As you can only watch and… think, you’ll maybe have bursts of ideas (instead of taking pictures). Take notes!

Of course it’s an example of “Amor Fati”, being content with what happens to you, even if it seems bad. Embracing fate : every constraint, if you can’t avoid it, should (and will have to) be danced with.

 

Today I’d like to extend this. If “constraints in Arts” is a well known concept, what about life, or culture?

Obviously, it’s linked to the idea of “Comfort Zone”. Let’s take movies, or music…

If one listens to the music they love, good to them. But how do we discover other musics, in fields we’re not used to dig? We have to think, make efforts, find a way and a place, informations. Then we begin, and our brain is surrounded with constraints : we don’t necessarily feel pleasure, there are things we don’t get, and our lazy head pushes us to stop.

It’s the same for painters we don’t like, movies we usually avoid, etc.

Out of our comfort zone, we have to make efforts, we must use an amount of curiosity, we must find or draw maps. In fact, we build, we extend, we grow.

The wall of “I don’t know this” can be an obstacle. Do we skip over, making efforts and feeling the fecund constraints of the undiscovered, or do we go back to the mellowness of what we already love?

Is the real new fruitful for us? How?

If exploring is sometimes unpleasant, is it worthy to fight the unpleasantness (OK : displeasure) and why? You have to invent new tools to think? You could find pearls and emeralds and gold?

What haven’t I explored until now?

 

Thanks for reading!

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Trent Parke