Following yesterday’s post on German films, I have decided to keep the European film theme going for now, so here are some recommended Italian films. As with the other post, I will keep it read-ably short for now, bearing in mind that there are lots more of course, and some may get a mention another time.
Cinema Paradiso. This is from 1998, and won the Oscar for best foreign Film. Set in Sicily, though starring a French actor, Phillipe Noiret. It is a story of a love affair with films and cinema, spanning the life of a young boy, who grows into a man, and returns to his Sicilian roots. It is simply a joy, with marvellous performances from the whole cast, and a subject to gladden the heart of any lover of films. Here is the official American trailer for the DVD release.
Rome, Open City. A film directed by Roberto Rossellini in 1945, at the very end of the war. This fairly short film is one of the first examples of the ‘realist’ movement in cinema, and has the feel of a documentary. German troops are searching for partisan leaders, who are in hiding with the main characters. The eventual outcome is as expected, yet much of the film feels so authentic, it is almost like watching the news. The central performance from Anna Magnani, is riveting to behold, and there is the sense that you are watching a new way of film-making, one that we were soon to see become more widespread. This short clip. beautifully shot in black and white, shows the killing of Pina.
La Dolce Vita. One of the most acclaimed films of modern times, this moralist tale of the pointless, pleasure-seeking lives of the main protagonists, is considered by many to be the greatest work of Frederico Fellini. The film was made in 1960, and heralds the beginning of the ‘swinging sixties’, with the wild parties, casual attitudes to sex, and nihilistic behaviour of the characters. The Swedish actress Anita Ekberg takes the main female lead of Sylvia. This lady is a sight to behold, the ultimate statuesque sex-siren of the 1960’s. Her famous scene in the Trevi Fountain has become one of the iconic images of cinema history. Here is that scene, in Italian.
The Conformist. Considered by many to be the best, and most important work in the history of Italian film-making, this 1970 film, directed by Bernardo Bertolluci, is set in pre-war fascist Italy. The main character, played by the French actor, Jean-Louis Trintignant, joins an organisation that is determined to find, and kill, all the leading anti-fascist elements in the country. Full of political machinations, double-dealing, and intrigue, it is also filmed in a grand style, with monumental sets, and lighting that is often breathtaking to behold. This should be on the list of any serious film fan. Here is a short clip, with the two leading actors. It has English subtitles.
La Scorta. Another more modern example, made in 1994, and directed by Ricky Tognazzi, this is stripped-down work, that sometimes feels like a well made TV episode. Don’t let that put you off. The storyline is great, dealing with ‘The escort’, the group of Italian Carabinieri who are assigned to protect judges in Sicily, where their lives are threatened by the Mafia. It shows the underfunding, the unreliable cars, the corruption, and the lack of support and equipment, that makes their job even harder than it should be. The film keeps the tension spring fully wound, and the mood dark; a real cracker. Here is a short scene, in Italian.
There you are. Five films, all completely different, yet all well worth your time. Lots more to come, but I hope that whets your appetite for now.