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).

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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Works that create an irrepressible need to express yourself

Works that create an irrepressible need to express yourself

Take music, for example, you can study it in many ways : historically, genres, energy, impact on society, lyrics, etc…

There’s a book I love (Francis Wolff, Pourquoi la Musique ?) which studies the impact of music on human kind. What music does to us.

Any work of Art can be studied that way, a book, a sonata, a painting or a poem.

What does it do?

  1. Emotion
  2. Remembrance
  3. A need to dance
  4. A need to know more about the artist
  5. A need to get more of her/him!
  6. Relief
  7. Calm down
  8. Focus
  9. Meditation
  10. Understandings of the things of life
  11. Knowledge
  12. Beauty sparks

 

Etc…

Some artists are so… peculiar that they can trigger this : “An irrepressible need to express yourself”.

Why? How? How does it work?

I read it about Proust, and I agree : it’s because his huge Lost Time group of books, besides being a fantastic work of literature, is also a big, constant river of ideas, of “tropisms”, little movements of the mind. It touches little parts of your brain you know very well but, well, nobody talked about it to you before. Therefore you have the constant impression that this guy knows you very, very well. It can become a drug (and it is !).

This puts you into a movement. You need to move, to work, to write, to tell. Your well set big trunks of ideas, in your head, begin to move. Things get alive. They want to get out.

Also, there’s the risk of mimicking the artist who triggered it. Get over it. Don’t care : the flow is here, ready to do its flow thing.

Work, work, work. And thank the person who, in the past, had the talent to open your desire to express.

Who are the person who did this to you?

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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Proust crée chez son lecteur un besoin irrépressible de s’exprimer.

Is the form imposed by… itself?

I asked a writer about the interesting “forms” of his books. One looks like two different territories separated by an event. The other is weaved with “devices” which acts like small intermissions or surprising dreams reports.

I’m interested by forms in literature, from style to tricks with narration or punctuation (who said Faulkner?), and I stay amazed by the american ways of using storytelling (like in Siri Hustvedt’s essays, which mix her personal life with ideas and concepts).

The writer told me that he doesn’t “think” about the form : it comes in the moment, it imposes itself.

That made me think about this photographer, who said :

“A photographer solves a picture, more than composes one.”

Stephen Shore

As if there was just ONE way to take the picture, in a given place.

That’s my tool today : is the form of a piece of work imposed by itself? As the artist, here, of course, only decides : what does that mean? Where do you know this? In other arts? How does this work?

Thanks for reading!

asx-tv-stephen-shore-behind-mythology-2013.htmlPhoto : Stephen Shore

“Great” photography & Pompier painters, part 1/2

Ce qui est trop parfait met Dieu en colère
“What is too perfect makes God angry”

 

Academic Art is the art and artists influenced by the standards of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts. In the 19th Century, the French called it “l’art pompier”, especially historical or allegorical ones. It derives from the helmets with horse-hair tails, worn at the time by French firemen, which are similar to the Attic helmet often worn in such works by allegorical personifications, classical warriors, or Napoleonic cavalry. It also suggests pompeux (“pompous”).

Pompier art was seen by those who used the term as the epitome of the values of the bourgeoisie, and as insincere and overblown.

(Thank you, Wikipedia)

These painters (like Gérôme or Bouguereau) had a splendid technique, but they stayed in History, in this Pompier catégory : boring and perfectly made.

 

Now I admit there’s a guilty pleasure watching these guys’s works. But this is NOT what you want to study for months, right? Which I did with Manet…

There’s a pattern here : an annoying dance between “It’s splendidly made” and “It’s nowhere inventing here”, no emotion, just technique…

If we agree with the core of Arts (“What’s new here?”) – and that there’s nothing new here – we can watch this pattern/structure in other places, like photography. This will be the part 2!

Thanks for reading!

“Do it on your cam” – Are you a photographer or a computer tinkerer?

No effects : “Do it on your cam” – Are you a photographer or a computer tinkerer?

Photography is a great hobby, and we all do it differently.

Digital and Big Giga SD cards allow us to take thousands of pictures. Then, for each, we can play a long time on our computer, pushing/pulling cursors for light, sharpness, special effects and filters. That’s fun!

In a way, I’m sure that we all realize one day or another that… it’s too much.

I heard many times about how photographers “invent” limits to reframe their Art. You have, as often, to invent some fruitful limits to climb into a higher level of… requirement.

Some go back to analogue, films. It’s expensive (you have to buy film rolls), therefore you really, suddenly, have to THINK before you trigger. It’s good to think about what we do!

What I chose to do is to know my cam enough to take the picture I want to get, without spending time to “fix” it on my Macintosh.

Thus, I often take the picture I want to get. I have to think about frames, grain, color, darkness and light, shadows. I don’t touch it, then. I sometimes reframe a bit, or add a little sharpness, that’s all. No filter, no color alteration, no RAW, etc…

I took these pictures today.

Voilà. The tool is yours : what will you… decrease, limit, in your Art-Too-Much? When you’re too rich on something, what do you stop, or choose 2%? What for? What would you win?

Thanks for reading!

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Working with what is around

ONE

I heard about a comic-strip artist who works with 3 panels. He says that he was SO used to work in this format that it became almost impossible for him to make longer stories.

TWO

As I bought a new camera, I decided yesterday to take pictures “outside viewed from my apartment only”. Here are 4 of them :

THREE

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xavier_de_Maistre was arrested – therefore he wrote “Voyage Around My Room”.

The Yoknapatawpha Rule – it’s when you write about what you know, what is around.

Fruitful Constraints & Creativity – that’s an old classic.

FOUR

There are two concepts here, who want to dance together :

  1. If you are limited by your capacities, your budget, or… what is around you
  2. If you DECIDE to invent limits and ties and constraints

You are creative. You HAVE TO.

Everything that goes wrong… goes right

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See me coming : do you need to invent constraints to be creative? Where? Can you invent? Do you have to ask someone else?

Isn’t a “given constraint” (Amor fati) a good thing? What about marriage? Or the size of a painting?

What happens when a modern photographer uses an analog camera, where he has to PAY for each picture?

What’s the difference between “What is around and you can use” (because you lack something, money or else) and “Working under invented limits”… just to be creative?

Thanks for reading!

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