Archive for David Lean

Book Fair

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2022 by dcairns

Some of these were too good to pass up, some were too cheap to pass up. There are some hints here as to a forthcoming project, but YOU’LL NEVER GUESS.

Probably some good page seventeens in here too.

8) Napoli -Rosi

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , on March 29, 2022 by dcairns

UNA CERTA IDEA DI NAPOLI is Francesco Rosi’s entry in the 12 REGISTI A 12 CITTA’ series, its ambition reflected in the fact that it has a proper title that’s not just the name of its setting. Rosi, of course, has scored a great city to make a film about. You have to think that Wertmuller and Lizzani drew short straws, though they still found plenty to celebrate.

This of course is Rosi’s return to the city he celebrated and mourned in HANDS OVER THE CITY back in 1963.

Scored with popular Neapolitan songs — as how could it not be? — with attendant phonograph crackle adding atmosphere — Rosi’s film, edited by Ruggero Mastroianni, looks great. Several of the other directors have used helicopters. But his city and his choice of music (O Sole Mio) make them that much more sweeping and impressive.

I tend to like the episodes in this series that eschew voiceover. Though a good VO can be an ornament to a documentary, nobody here has come up with an approach that escapes the curse of the travelogue or tour guide. In the documentaries of Franju or Resnais the narration assumes a powerful, poetic force, and is never a litany of tourist board facts. But Lizzani and Lattuada kind of fall into that trap. Rosi’s film manages to be “informative” with just images and music, and the way they’re juxtaposed. Vesuvius erupts — in paintings and sound effects, and the blast of lava changes the record.

More sonic disruptions are created by Mastroianni’s cutting — a fresh bout of helicopter shots is accompanied by aggressive eggbeater engine noise. Slowly cut into by church bells pealing. Then, Ruggero’s namesake, Ruggero Il Normanno, King of Sicily, appears standing in a niche, and a series of perfectly calibrated shots allows for a succession of kings to swap places with him, while the stone surround seems to stay the same. As a strategy, alternating between flowing movements and static cuts is eye-catching, but the execution here is dazzling. The little parade of statues is so effective, and so different from its surrounding sequences, that Rosi repeats it with new statues in a different location later in the film, so that it becomes a thing. You know, a thing.

The sound is a big part of the success here: when the bells continue over renaissance paintings of the city seen from above as if from Da Vinci’s helicopter, the chimes add to the sense of an aerial elevation. And then we cut to an actual helicopter shot. Hands over the city.

Religious music for shots of churches, but then it continues as we travel down mean streets, imparting an air of tragedy. Lattuada featured extremely narrow streets too, but he TOLD us about them. Freeing the soundtrack up for other material works wonders.

In general this little film is one of the best not so much for the way it creates moods through movement and music and framing, but in the way it BREAKS those moods with abrupt shifts on the soundtrack. Almost Godardian — but it’s very much Godard: Italian Style. So the jolts play in an exciting way, and don’t tend to feel like having a bucket of ice water thrown in your face, which is the sensation I sometimes get from JLG.

A brief modern bit — shots of women walking in the street, a very Italian thing to celebrate (there’s a whole segment of some Italian compendium that’s just watching women jiggle, I recall, and it’s made by someone otherwise respectable — Risi?). Pizzas are prepared. David Lean said of filming in tourist places, you have to include the expected sights, but you have to find fresh ways of presenting them. Here, it’s not so much the shots, it’s the cutting and sound.

Like Olmi, Rosi ends his show in the opera house, but he resists actually having anyone belt out a tune. Though some bits of his film are obvious — the disapproving montage of modern city life occurs elsewhere — his presentation, thanks to Mastroianni’s cutting, keeps defying expectations. Really nice.

1) Roma – Antonioni

Posted in FILM, Painting with tags , , , , , , on February 2, 2022 by dcairns

12 REGISTA PER 12 CITTA’ is a 1989 compendium film in which twelve Italian film directors, per the title, tackle twelve Italian cities. Nobody much talks about this film and it isn’t available commercially as far as I can see, so let’s go through it in detail for the hell of it. In twelve parts.

Compendium-films are notoriously uneven but the Italians made a lot of them. Usually in any collection of loosely related shores, somebody’s not trying very hard, somebody else has a good idea and doesn’t need to, somebody’s there for no reason you can think of. What did Roger Vadim ever do to get placed alongside Fellini and Malle?

Michelangelo Antonioni opens the film with his profile of Rome — well, that’s a pretty big subject to handle in under nine minutes. One can argue he drew the short straw, his mission is impossible. For any normal man. Antonioni is not normal. On the other hand, in 1983, Antonioni had suffered a stroke, leaving him aphasic — he couldn’t speak. A considerable handicap. That might account for some of his directorial choices here — on the other hand, they’re smart choices, however they were motivated.

Working with regular cinematographer Carlo Di Palma, Antonioni films Rome without words, focussing only on structures of the Rennaissance. Only once do human beings appear, in extreme long shot, crossing the Tiber. I suspect he would have excluded them if he could.

A silent, depopulated city, frozen four centuries back, a city in amber. The people we see are all painted or sculpted. Only the camera moves, in a MARIENBAD glide, through arches and doorways, caressing painted ceilings, circling marble giants. Classical music (uncredited – don’t ask me who it is) plays.

The danger of this kind of thing — well, do you remember The Landscape Channel? But the little filmlet is awe-inspiring. I gasped. Antonioni has sculpted his film, chiselling away all the aspects of Rome he couldn’t fit in, concentrating on the Eternal City, a cliché of course but one that holds a truth that can be illuminated. Antonioni, whose films are associated with a chilly modernity, offers an equally cold but stunning antiquity.

David Lean, describing his approach to Venice, said that of course you had to include the tourist views, but you had to transform them and make them fresh. Antonioni gives us the ceiling of the Sistine and makes us SEE it. He groups his images: a sequence on fountains, rooftops, ceilings. Just tracking towards a doorway can take your breath away.

It seems to me that Antonioni, whose compendium entries weren’t always up to his usual standard — his bit I TRE VOLTI is utter tripe — had something to prove. And proved it.

Next up: Lina Wertmuller!