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!

 

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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

“Here’s a window in the walls of cloth I’ve torn” – Efforts & Arts : watching Fellini’s movies

I’m in the process of watching all Fellini‘s movies, therefore, like in every great artist’s career, I detect “eras”, changes, evolution, attempts.

Of course I keep piling books and articles about the guy’s work, which needs to be explored, explained, viewed, considered…

I finished La Dolce Vita – I admit I had to cut it in three parts; the movie is very long (3 hours), very unusual. It becomes too long, or too Italianistically talkative.

Themes : quitting travelings, sisters, corteges, seashores, the sound of the wind, camera stares, but also invisible frontiers between the dreams and reality, hidden coincidences (Mastroianni “can’t hear” from the helicopter at the beginning, and can’t hear the young lady’s message, on the beach at the end – it’s a double door), artificialism, the use of light, the “choreographic” movements at key moments…

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It’s enthralling to read about these movies, from interpretations to replacing this one in a path-career, to how it’s been received at the time. Deciphering (or not).

And then : watching how Fellini pushes levers, shifts and sticks. Going further. 8 1/2 looks like a maze, a game : spleen, creation, disillusions. You don’t understand anything, and yet it’s dazzling, sumptuous!

If you go further, you can be lost. But you can try though…

Fellini hated the character of Casanova. Thus he chose D. Sutherland (which is not the idea of Casanova you have), and makes a movie like a terrible necklace of weird scenes. It’s exaggerated, seedy, outrageous, artificial, decadent. This it’s not easy AT ALL to watch it!

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Three examples as a path into… difficulties, but pleasure. Films complicated, fascinating, which make you think and wonder, or fight – and let your full of questions.

Like after important dreams, right?

 

That leads to the idea of “Efforts & Art”. Why should one make an effort to watch a movie? Why not? Do we have to be seduced, or not? At what level? What do we dig here?

What’s that pair, dancing : Brilliant / Complex? Why contradictory?

If Fellini is a Picasso of movies, who’s the writer? Proust? And the poet? Mallarmé?

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Here are 2 Picasso portraits, for no reason :

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The Clown Chastised

Eyes, lakes of my simple passion to be reborn
Other than as the actor who gestures with his hand
As with a pen, and evokes the foul soot of the lamps,
Here’s a window in the walls of cloth I’ve torn.

With legs and arms a limpid treacherous swimmer
With endless leaps, disowning the sickness
Hamlet! It’s as if I began to build in the ocean depths
A thousand tombs: to vanish still virgin there.

Mirthful gold of a cymbal beaten with fists,
The sun all at once strikes the pure nakedness
That breathed itself out of my coolness of nacre,

Rancid night of the skin, when you swept over me,
Not knowing, ungrateful one, that it was, this make-up,
My whole anointing, drowned in ice-water perfidy.

LE PITRE CHATIÉ

Yeux, lacs avec ma simple ivresse de renaître
Autre que l’histrion qui du geste évoquais
Comme plume la suie ignoble des quinquets,
J’ai troué dans le mur de toile une fenêtre.

De ma jambe et des bras limpide nageur traître,
À bonds multipliés, reniant le mauvais
Hamlet! c’est comme si dans l’onde j’innovais
Mille sépulcres pour y vierge disparaître.

Hilare or de cymbale à des poings irrité,
Tout à coup le soleil frappe la nudité
Qui pure s’exhala dans ma fraîcheur de nacre,

Rance nuit de la peau quand sur moi vous passiez,
Ne sachant pas, ingrat! que c’était tout mon sacre,
Ce fard noyé dans l’eau perfide des glaciers.

(Mallarmé)

What did they lose?

Brian de Palma, Dario Argento, Mike Oldfield are the first names which come to my mind when I think about artists who “lost it”.

There’s a recent documentary about Brian de Palma, where he smiles, admitting that many directors (himself, or Hitchcock) have a decay after a certain age. The end of their career approaches and the films aren’t this great anymore…

It’s so human, after all. Less steam… maybe? This seems complicated. What did they lose, after all? Let’s see :

  1. Less steam. The will to express vanishes with time. Youth gave the will and power to work.
  2. Less money. For some arts (like making movies), you need money, producers.
  3. Less ideas. Admitting there is a tank of ideas in one’s head…
  4. Disillusions and “so what”ness.
  5. The public changes. Young artists appear and make the other ones old.
  6. Bad choices. Like trying things (and failing) out of a domain (which is understandable, right?). See how Mike Oldfield stopped inventing his music after Amarok.
  7. Less success.
  8. Auto-sabotage (Orson Welles?).

All these weaved in a bad messy braid…

Who else?

Some rare guys though, seem to constantly be reborn, they have like… different careers. Pablo Picasso, Miles Davis, Steven Spielberg?

More : what do we lose?

What is worse? To lose one’s wallet of enthusiasm, or to work senselessly like a headless hen?

Sorry for my English. Thanks for reading!

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Safer paths?

There’s been an interesting post on the marvelous Facebook of Humans of New York (which you should follow, it’s… humanist).

One guy was in NYC, in his mid-30, struggling to be an actor with no or little success, living paycheck to paycheck. The people’s answers under the post were interesting, picking paths for him (from “go on you’ll make it” to “wisdom says you should let go now”).

I chose an answer from a reasonable person, who chose a family life. Drawing a three branched tree :

  1. People with a more safe and secure life, as a choice, staying anonymous.
  2. People with dreams and passion, wishing for success (in entertainment).
  3. People “mourning unfulfilled dreams” within an ordinary life : they were too afraid to try and dare.

With a conclusion : “Not all dreams work out” and people fall down. But also the maybeness of dreams become true – with the eternal behind-law which says approximatively “When the Gods want to punish you they fulfill your dreams”.

Of course, the actor was necklacing castings, with very little success. It looked like  lottery and gamble…

It becomes a game : What’s worse, to have an ordinary life complaining you should have been an artist, or to struggle for decades until nothing happens? What if you succeed, and it’s boring? What if my book is at least edited and no one buys it? Are there stages in these paths? What if you succeed and then fall into oblivion? What if you decide to move and act at mid-life? Or the contrary, disappear after success?

Oh oh, my three-branched tree became a tree!

Thanks for reading!

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What will you explore in the next 10 days?

What will you explore in the next 10 days?

 

• The best albums of Arvo Pärt? (or what’s the best version of Brahms 4)

https://www.gramophone.co.uk/feature/top-10-arvo-part-recordings

• Willa Cather‘s life? (or how Tennessee Williams is adapted in movies)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willa_Cather

• Why the black in Pierre Soulages paintings? (or Picasso in the 1930s)

https://www.artsy.net/artist/pierre-soulages

• What does Aldous Harding sing? (or Rose Elinor Dougall)

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvYnfuCRhq6PRYK2MltekXA

• Is it the moment to explore Francis Ford Coppola‘s movies? (or Truffaut’s)

All 24 Francis Ford Coppola Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

• What are the elements of the Battle of Kursk? Waterloo?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kursk

 

Who else? Pinker? Kundera? Losey? Plath? Masina? Hosoda? Pinter? Doisneau?

What else? Poetry translators’ difficulties? History of Roma? Nietzsche’s last books? Russian cinema? French musicals? Brasil’s cooks? Best Puccini’s operas?

How do you get out of “reacting” in front of what’s talked today?

How to do it? Web searches? Biographies? Books? Documentaries? YouTube?

 

Thanks for reading!

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