Friday, August 19, 2016

Bread and Chocolate/Pane e cioccolata (1974)

The Hero Nino and Chocolate (Pane e cioccolata) is a delightful comedy by Franco Brusati. The film is rooted in a social commentary and as implied by the title, the juxtaposition of Italian and Swiss cultures. The social commentary of Bread and Chocolate remains relevant in the modern era throughout the world. The film uses humor to address prejudice, problems within the Catholic Church, and the universal theme of a man trying to carve out his place in the world.

At the heart of Bread and Chocolate is the character Nino Garofoli played by Nino Manfredi. Nino is an Italian immigrant living in Switzerland trying to build a better life. Although the audience is continually laughing at the trials and tribulations of Nino, Nino continually faces an underlying tragedy.  Despite Nino’s efforts to fit in and obtain the acceptance of the Swiss people, he must embrace the notion that some goals are never accomplished. moved to Switzerland, because he was not able to make a living wage in Italy. At the beginning of the film, Nino is optimistic and relishes in the Swiss culture, but the audience soon learns that Nino’s unrefined and Italian ways clash with the sensibilities of the Swiss. Nino chain-smokes where smoking is prohibited. He litters next to garbage cans, and he urinates in public. Even Nino’s eating disrupts the peaceful music of the Swiss people. Nino eats a chocolate sandwich during the opening, and the musicians playing music in the park stop while Nino chews. They are appalled that he would chew bread in the park. Nino is allowed to work in Switzerland, but he is not welcomed by the Swiss with open arms. Instead, the Swiss often treat Nino like an uncultured and unwanted buffoon. Despite the conflict of cultures, Nino remains proud to work and live in Switzerland.
On the surface, Switzerland appears to be a place where nothing can go wrong. It seems as though everyone is highly sophisticated and morally superior. During the opening of the film, the Swiss ride horses, listen to violins in the park, and everything they do seems picturesque. At one point, a dog runs with two children elegantly carrying a basket of flowers in its mouth. The image arouses the notion that even the Swiss dogs are more sophisticated than Nino, the stereotypical Italian (Candela). However, Nino quickly learns that Switzerland is not perfect, and many of the Swiss people are highly flawed. Although Nino attempts to have a relaxing day in the park, the discovery of a young girl’s dead body quickly interrupts Nino’s respite. A priest quietly stands behind a tree as Nino attempts to make sense of the situation. Although the Swiss police arrest Nino for the murder of the girl, the priest eventually confesses to the murder, and the police set Nino free. The crimes perpetrated against children by priests are certainly not unique to Switzerland, and the audience gets the impression that internal problems within the Catholic Church transcend borders and denominations.
Meanwhile, prejudice against Italians in Switzerland is also a prominent theme of the film. Nino’s friend arrives to work late, because he was in a fight with Swiss people that were talking poorly about Italians. Although the Swiss find Nino and Italians in general to be crude and unrefined, Nino believes that the Swiss people treat him better than the northerners of Italy treated him. Additionally, one evening when speaking to a photo of his family, Nino proclaims that he could never make the type of money that he makes in Switzerland if he was still living in Italy. Nonetheless, despite many attempts, Nino never ceases being an Italian. In the beginning, Nino is a child trapped in a man’s body, but his failed attempts to relate with children on numerous occasions foreshadow the notion that Nino will eventually lose his innocence and have to grow up. In fact, Brusati signals Nino’s maturation throughout the film, as he grows more and more tired of the delusional optimism of signing Italians.
After the police release Nino, he wanders the streets of Switzerland. While absorbed in thought, Nino urinates on a wall in front of two Swiss people taking pictures. The two Swiss people report the incident, and Nino ends up losing his work permit. Nino gets on a train back to Italy, but he quickly decides that he will not go back to Italy. He goes to his former neighbor Elena for a place to stay. She is not fond of the idea, because she is already hiding her son Grigory from the Swiss authorities. Elena and Grigory are political refugees. Eventually, Elena allows Nino to stay at her home for a short period. Although Nino does not have a work permit, he attempts to work for an Italian industrialist and at a chicken farm. However, both jobs end in tragedy and folly. The Italian industrialist commits suicide and loses Nino’s money. Shortly after, Nino gets an unsanctioned job and place to live at a chicken farm. However, Nino realizes that life on a chicken farm is exactly the type of life that caused Nino to leave Italy. Instead of incessantly signing Italians, on the chicken farm Nino must endure his companions clucking and acting like chickens. Much like Nino, the chicken farmers are too naïve and “chicken” to face the reality of their situation. They stare at the Swiss people with admiration as though the Swiss are gods and goddesses, but they are not. They are simply people with different colored hair., Nino dyes his hair blonde in order to pass as a Swiss native. He looks somewhat ridiculous, but others treat him with more respect. At first, it seems as though Nino is happy to pretend as though he is from Switzerland. Nonetheless, his blonde façade merely mirrors the discontent that he and other Italians mask with humor and signing. During a televised soccer match at a pub, Nino attempts to blend in and roots against the Italian team. Meanwhile, Nino realizes that he cannot be an accomplice to the cruelty and prejudice toward Italians, and he begins cheering for the Italian team proclaiming, “sono italiano” (“I am Italian”) to all the patrons of the pub. He stares at himself in a mirror that hangs in the pub. Although Nino thought that dying his hair would be the answer to his problems, he despises his ridiculous and fake hair. He cannot stand to look at his own reflection, and he smashes his head into the mirror shattering the image he has of himself and the Swiss people. The patrons of the pub throw Nino out of the pub onto the street, and shortly after the Swiss authorities force Nino to leave Switzerland.        
Nino embraces Italian stereotypes as he walks with a Swiss escort to a train back to Italy. He knows that resisting the Swiss’ prejudice toward Italians is futile. He tears posters off the train station walls, blaming his Italian nature. He slaps an older woman on the rear end, and he blames his hand. Before boarding the train, Nino attempts to urinate in the open again, and his Swiss escort merely tells him to stop, dismissing the action as something Italians must do all the time. Once Nino boards the train, a loudspeaker begins calling his name, and Elena walks by the train. Nino is surprised and excited to see Elena, and he rushes back off the train to talk to her. This short exchange between Nino and Elena captures the spirit and tone of the entire film. Nino’s hair is an overtly noted symbol of both Nino’s character and the thematic devices used throughout the film. When Elena comments on Nino’s half-blonde, half-brunette hair, Nino explains that his hair inadvertently reflects who he is, “That’s me, neither here nor there.” However, Elena does not believe him, and she refuses to sympathize with Nino’s tragedy. Instead, she tells Nino that the problem is not Italy or Switzerland, but rather that Nino must eventually choose to live and embrace life. Elena informs Nino that she was able to get his work permit reinstated, but Nino refuses the offer.
Regardless of Elena’s attempts to cheer Nino up and persuade him to stay, Nino decides to remain on the train back to Italy. As the train departs for Italy, the other Italians on the train begin singing about the sun and the sea. Nino knows that he needs more from life than just the sun and the sea. the other Italians sign and play the accordion, the train enters a tunnel into a black hole of frivolous indifference and delusional happiness. Nino pulls the emergency brake, gets off the train, and walks out of the tunnel back onto the Swiss landscape. In this moment, Nino demonstrates a sense of strength and determination. He ran away from his problems from Italy. Instead of running back to Italy from the problems he faced in Switzerland, Nino decides to face his troubles. He accepts that which he cannot change. Nino takes Elena’s advice, and he chooses to live.
Bread and Chocolate is not only a wonderful comedy and social commentary, but also an exquisite example of filmmaking. Brusati’s directing, the use of music, the performances, and the dynamic themes of the film overshadow any minor imperfections, such as the camera going out of focus. Regardless of any imperfections and flaws, the audience cannot help but love the character of Nino, and he is truly an understated hero. The German part of Switzerland depicted in the film was one of the most racist parts of Europe during the time (Candela). However, in the end, Nino transcends the Swiss’ racism. He refuses to let prejudice and rejection dominate his life, and he continues to fight for his pursuit of a better life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Miles Ahead (2015)

"When creating your own shit man... Even the sky ain't the limit." - Miles Davis When I saw Miles Ahead in Redbox for the first time a few weeks or so ago, I thought, "Don Cheadle can't play Miles Davis." However, I was rather shocked by how good Miles Ahead turned out to be, and I guess I never really gave Cheadle the credit that he deserves.

I've enjoyed his performances in plenty of films, but nothing truly impressed me. I generally felt as though he was a bit of a one-note actor. That's partly his charm in his Boogie Nights role, he's kinda bland. However, I think somewhere in the back of all of our minds we know that Cheadle is capable of far more than he is often given in certain roles. For me, even his critically acclaimed roles are somewhat bland.

Despite my initial presumptions and diatribe about Cheadle's ability to play the trumpet wielding Davis and past roles, the reality of the matter is that Cheadle provides an exquisite portrayal of Miles Davis. And he is certainly not a one-note actor. In fact, he acted all the notes masterfully. (Fuck, so lame, had to do it as a musician and a blogger.) in mind that Cheadle also directed the film and wrote the screenplay with Steven Baigelman. So he's not just a badass actor, now he's a badass writer/director. The film is also partly funded by an Indiegogo campaign, so it has cool indie street cred, and not the boring kind. The kind that finally helps put good shit into the world, Miles Ahead and Quitter by horizon i = two best Indiegogo campaigns as far as UTDF is concerned.

Nonetheless, the film was intense, yet it managed to remain lighthearted while always respectful of telling an entertaining story with "attitude" about Miles Davis. I'm the type of beatnik hipster that likes buying Miles Davis albums in San Fransisco and driving home to Phoenix alternating from Kind of Blue by Davis and different punk rock albums, and for me, the film hits all the important tones.

The ending is a bit cheesy, but in some ways so was Davis's late career. It was still fun, and he will always remain a genius and a legend. What do I know though? I am not an expert on his body of work, and I couldn't even tell you if the story told within the film is entirely true. I'm simply a huge fan of a couple of Miles Davis albums and jazz. And as they say, "Jazz is life. Life is jazz."

Miles Ahead is an intense and often depressing journey that retains a sense of humor and pulls the audience into the reality of Davis rather than a straight narrative. The movie really has it all:
Money, fame, women, racism, substance abuse, the struggle of artistic genius, jazz or "social music," action, comedy, drama, and so much more.

The editing was incredible. Honestly, I could go on and on about the editing. The editing and music outperform all other aspects as far as I'm concerned, but we don't have the kind of time for that type of analysis, do we? Some of the best transitions/cuts that I've seen in a movie over the last year. Cheadle and Ewan McGregor are incredible, certainly one of McGregors sillier roles. It goes without saying that the soundtrack is incredible. How could it not be? Basically, Miles Ahead is incredible, and it is instantly one of my favorite biopics. Definitely not better than The Doors or Ed Wood, but better than Walk the Line as far as I'm concerned. Didn't that one win or get nominated for a bunch of awards or something?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Precious Cargo (2016)
Precious Cargo is not a good movie. It is somewhat entertaining, and certainly worth watching if you're interested in a Mark-Paul Gosselaar v. Bruce Willis film. That's basically the only reason for watching the movie.

The script was generally okay, but also just down right terrible at times. Additionally, outside of the Willis and Mark-Paul, the casting was kinda shity, especially the casting of the female leads. I will not even comment on their performances. Jenna B. Kelley did well as Mark-Paul's sidekick, but the ladies just didn't feel right for the parts or alongside Mark-Paul. It's almost as though the casting department could not get the fact the Mark-Paul is no longer a teenager in high school out of their heads.

Nonetheless, the movie did not suck because of Mark-Paul. He was the best part. The movie just kinda sucked. The screenplay could have used a couple more polishes, especially in the character department, and the casting was awkward. However, the action was often incredible, and I continue to be an advocate for Mark-Paul having more roles (lifelong fan).

After The Sopranos ended, Mark-Paul and Luke Perry were in the time-slot replacement series John from Cincinnati. They were both great in the show and should team up again sometime soon. For the record too, the up-and-coming writer/director Max Adams is a good filmmaker. This film just fell a bit too short. I imagine he will make something really cool eventually.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Movie Poster Monday: Garbage Pail Kids

Garbage Pail Kids (1987). The movie poster is really all you need from this movie. I like the movie a little bit more than most, because I am a die hard Garbage Pal Kids fan. However, I can admit when shit is shit, and yes, this movie is basically shit. That does not mean I would not put the poster on my wall though.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Wave/Bølgen (2015) Wave (Bølgen) is a decent movie. The plot was interesting, there were moments that had me biting my nails in true suspense, and I liked all of the characters and performances.  

The Wave is a foreign film that comes from Norway. Outside of Dead Snow, I have not watched any other Norwegian films that I know of, but the two Norwegian films I have seen, Dead Snow and The Wave, are both solid films. Prior to watching The Wave, I read a few reviews that called the movie, "The best disaster film of all time."

The Wave was good, but I don't know about that whole best-disaster-movie business. I think when people say stuff like that they tend to neglect the experience of past movies. Do I want to watch Twister right now? Not really, but Twister, when it came out, was a super fun disaster flick. Would I rather watch The Wave again right now, instead of Twister? Sure. However, I'd much rather relive the experience of seeing Twister when it first came to theaters than I would The Wave.

I guess at the end of the day, it also depends on how one defines a disaster film. I would consider The Road some sort of disaster film. Some people group some alien-invasion movies in with the disaster genre, so who knows really? Personally, I really enjoyed the wave, but I wouldn't call it "The best disaster movie ever."

Nonetheless, it's definitely up there when we get down to a more precise environmental-disaster movie. The Wave is undoubtedly a higher quality film than San Andreas, but The Wave is not attempting to compete with a big-Hollywood-summer-CGI fest.

The Wave was released on Netflix streaming a few weeks ago.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Suicide Squad (2016)
Suicide Squad is way better than I thought it would be. Naturally, the movie was cheesy and over the top. However, I enjoyed the movie from the beginning to the end. Will Smith is badass as Deadshot, I thought he would suck. Margot Robbie was incredible, that was apparent in the trailer. Killer Croc, Diablo, Rick Flag, Boomerang, Katana, and many other characters/performances are much better than I expected.

The only aspect of the movie that I did not like was Jared Leto. I've admittedly have never really cared for Jared Leto or his band Whispering Wednesdays (no, that's not the real name of his band.) However, I suspended my judgements of Leto playing Joker for well over a year. For a brief moment, I even bought into the notion that Leto might bring something new and special to the character.

Nope. Not at all. I could not have been be more disappointed with Jared Leto's Joker. I'm not going to be a Batman fanboy about it. I don't have to be.'s performance as the Joker was simply lame, misguided, and completely inauthentic. It did not merely "fall flat," it fell right through the floor out of the gate. Leto's Joker makes me cringe. I have no interest in seeing him play the Joker again, and if there is that type of movie underway, that's disappointing.

Jared Leto is the worst on-screen Joker of all time. Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Mark Hamill, Cesar Romero, etc. Out of all the Jokers I can think of offhand, Leto is by far the worst. I was on Team Batfleck from day one, so I am not opposed to change and I was willing to give Leto a chance. After seeing Suicide Squad though, it is clear to me that the reason the film has a 26% (or whatever) on Rotten Tomatoes is simply because of the rotten Leto Joker. Ugh, so sad. The reviews may talk trash about other elements of the film, but they're simply critics that are not in control of their emotions. All tributaries of shit flow to Jared Leto. know they did reshoots for this film. They were probably unnecessary. They probably just needed to superimpose any of the aforementioned previous Jokers over Leto's face and the problem would have been solved.

Maybe that's me and I'm being too harsh. My impressions are rather negative, and maybe if they do make another movie with Leto, he will be better. Probably not, but one can hope. Just like how I hope the studio bites the bullet and does not use Leto again instead. If you can replace Batman, you sure as shit can, and should, replace the Joker. I heard that Leto is upset they cut a lot of his scenes from the film. I am not. was never really excited about Suicide Squad. As I stated, Robbie seemed like a badass from the beginning, but I was pre-disappointed with the movie when I saw the first trailer (however long ago that was). But, as it turns out, I actually really like the movie. It's a super-cool, summer-team-up flick, and totally worth seeing, especially if you're a DC fan. I love seeing movies in 3D, many people don't. I'm not only glad that I ended up seeing Suicide Squad in theaters, but also rather pleased that I saw it in 3D. It's definitely my kind of 3D movie. The recent DC films have struggled to make Marvel-sized impression at the box office and with audiences, but other than the Leto factor, Suicide Squad demonstrates a good amount of promise for the fledgling DC Extended Universe.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

For the Love of Film Pt. II struggle: What to watch tonight? This question sometimes haunts me. I have more DVDs and BluRays than anyone I know and access to thousands of movie via a few streaming services, but I always have a bit of a difficult time trying to choose a movie.

It's weird. I don't do it as much anymore, but I remember before I met my wife, I use to stand in front of a huge shelving unit of DVDs endlessly trying to determine the right movie to watch. These days, I do not repeat watch films as much as I use to when I was younger. Instead, I have a serial problem with watching something new every night.

Digital Film Lover by Opiumfire Photography
Whether it be a TV episode, a mini-binge streaming a new show, or the preferable new movie, I want new content and I want it more and more and more. I struggle with it. I honestly miss the days where I would see a good movie a few times in the theaters and watch it endlessly when it came out on video. I like Redbox and Netflix and all the streaming stuff, but I miss video stores.

In fact, I tend to go to the movies more, because it's really the only standing place that has ever-changing movie posters hanging up and the best new movies. Sure there's the shared experience mumbo jumbo, the concession stand, the big fuck-off screen and sound system, and all the other fun theater-going nuisances, but I honestly just prefer going into movie places. I like movie places a lot. I miss being able to walk out of a movie place with a huge stack of rentals, there's the public library but something's not the same.
Zia Records is more of a movie place than it use to be, and I like it more than just a straight record shop. I like FYE, where ever that went; I miss Suncoast and their over-priced bullshit too. Universal Studios Hollywood was my favorite amusement park growing up, and if I got to chose to go to any amusement park right now, I would choose Universal Studios. However, that would probably eventually be negotiated to Legoland. I have kids. My selfish movie-nerd fanboy behavior can only go far without being put in check. that I think about it, I definitely buy more movies than I should, and I guess all that stupid money could have gone in a savings fund. Nonetheless, the point is my kids are not deprived in the slightest and my movies are basically my one frivolous expense, forget about it. Well, and stupid cigarettes, but that's a different blog post. This is about my cinematic struggle and strain. And my kids love movies dammit!'s a couple cool looking foreign films that I want to watch, but I like to have my prissy-ass dinner while watching a movie and I find the subtitles to be a problem when I'm trying to eat. Either way, I'll end up watching something tonight. And many times, it is one of the first movies that I considered.
However, I have to make sure: maybe there's something new that I'm missing. It's borderline an obsession. However, that's simply one way of looking at it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Film Editor Profile: Howard Smith

Editing and Howard Smith
            In Wendy Apple’s The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing, film editing is commonly referred to as, “The invisible art.” Although audience members see editing throughout a film, it often goes unnoticed by the conscious mind. Therefore, film editing is not necessarily invisible, but rather the art of the unnoticed. Howard Smith is a film editor featured in The Cutting Edge. According to the Internet Movie Database, Howard Smith has edited 43 films since 1982 (shorts and features). The films that he has worked on span across a variety of themes and genres. While directors are often associated with a particular style or defining characteristics of their films, the work of film editors is often void of such distinctions. Howard Smith’s editing possesses a distinct yet fluid and ever-changing approach to film editing.  While Howard Smith has worked on films such as Strange Days and The Crow: Salvation, two of his most defining and acclaimed films are Glengarry Glen Ross and Point Break. These films demonstrate the magic and capacity for emotional arousal that skilled film editing contributes to a movie.            Despite film editing generally washing over the audience unnoticed, this does not mean that an editor’s work cannot be identified through careful examination and simple focused attention. Despite the lack of a definitive style to Howard Smith’s work, he employs many commonly used film editing techniques and approaches within his body of work. According to R. Cheyne, there are two primary types of film editing, deductive and inductive. Deductive editing is the type of film editing that several editors in Apple’s The Cutting Edge refer to as, “Classical” or “Traditional” editing. In deductive editing, a scene generally starts with an establishing shot of the location, and as the scene progresses the camera cuts to closer shots of the action and finally close-ups (Cheyne). This type of editing provides a uniform and logical structure to the scene. The audience is told where the scene takes place, who is in the scene, and what is happening in scene without having to deduct the information.
Meanwhile, inductive editing is the reverse of deductive editing, and the technique starts a scene with a close-up, and the scene generally ends on a wide shot (Cheyne). Howard Smith uses this approach masterfully in Strange Days.

The films starts with an extreme close-up of an eye blinking. The final frame of the eye closes, and the audience is instantly transported to the futuristic world of the movie and the mind of the on-screen subject. Smith’s smooth use of the inductive technique throughout the film draws the viewer into the minds of the characters and their experiences.            Glengarry Glen Ross is a dialogue-driven film with only few locations and several amazing performances. In the film, Howard Smith once again tends to use a more inductive approach to film editing. However, the technique appears in a more subtle and less jarring manner than in Strange Days. Rather than attempt to draw the audience into the minds of the characters, Smith uses the inductive method as a way to put the audience in the middle of the conversation and the scene. The film starts with a close-up of a passing subway train, and the viewer is moved to get on board for the ride. Exterior shots are utilized conservatively throughout the film, and most of the story is told through medium shots and close-ups of the actors. Meanwhile, it is important to note that the director, James Foley, guides many of these choices., Smith guides the pace as he jump cuts throughout Glengarry Glen Ross, skipping ahead within the action. However, unlike many of the examples in Apple’s The Cutting Edge, in which the action jumps ahead several days or years later, Smith uses jump cuts in a subtle and almost invisible manner. For example, when a character leaves a bathroom and walks down a hall, rather than showing the actor opening the door, exiting, the door closing behind him, and then walking down the hall, the audience only sees an actor reaching for the door. In the next frame, the character is already walking down the hall. Smith jumps forward in time slightly and keeps the pace of the movie more fluid. The technique demonstrates the psychological control an editor has over the audience. Although each of the steps in the action are not shown, the simple implication pushes the viewer’s mind to fill in the blanks without noticing the subtle jumps in time.
            Tomaric suggests that emotion is the primary element an editor must consider when making a cut (417). In other words, if a particular cut does not assist in arousing emotion in the audience, the editor has not done the job effectively. Point Break is an undeniable example of how Howard Smith’s editing choices arouse emotion. Unlike Strange Days and Glengarry Glen Ross, Smith uses a deductive approach to editing Point Break. Additionally, a variety of common editing techniques are used throughout the film with precision and elegance. one point, Johnny Utah’s partner Angelo, in reference to learning surfing, states, “How hard can it be?” The scene cuts to Johnny Utah attempting to manage the crashing waves of the ocean. The timing of the cut allows for the line to permeate throughout the scene and provides an answer as Johnny Utah falls into the ocean and almost drowns. Smith’s editing in Point Break ensures that there is never a dull moment, and the audience is always engaged. At the end of the film, Johnny Utah throws his FBI badge into the ocean. The action lasts for two seconds. The short glimpse is an ideal example of Howard Smith’s craft at work. In those two seconds, a statement about the nature of the world, a deeper understanding of Johnny Utah, a sociopolitical commentary about modern culture, and the conclusion to the film are all presented to the audience. Quentin Tarantino, in Apple’s The Cutting Edge, stated that the film editor is who constructs the final draft of the screenplay. Strange Days, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Point Break are three of the 43 films that Howard Smith has edited, and they all confirm Tarantino’s sentiment. Within each of these films, Smith utilizes many of the same techniques, such as inductive editing. However, they are applied in a different manner with each film. The decision to use these techniques demonstrates that Howard Smith bases his editing decisions on that which best suits the story and tone of a film. In other words, Howard Smith is not only an editor of film, but also an editor of emotion.
Click here for Howard Smith's IMDB

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Battle of Algiers/La battaglia di Algeri (1966)

The Battles of Today            The Battle of Algiers (La battaglia di Algeri) is not only a cinematic masterpiece, but also a look back at history that asks us to look at the world today. Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo and scored by the illustrious Ennio Morricone, the film provides a hyper-realistic and dynamic perspective of the French occupation of Algeria in the 1950s. Pontecorvo’s masterful mise-en-scène and graceful cinematic techniques are as revolutionary as the story they tell. On the surface, The Battle of Algiers is a historical war film. However, Pontecorvo does not use war as a vehicle to excite and entertain the audience. War is merely the historical world in which The Battle of Algiers is situated, and it is a means of exposing the truth.  The Battle of Algiers is violent and messy, yet it is thoughtful and beautifully produced. Although the events portrayed and sensitive subject matter of the film are often difficult to endure, The Battle of Algiers is a powerful story and a crowning achievement of Italian cinema.
            History is more complex than most war movies communicate to viewers. News media, politicians, and Hollywood war movies often lead us to believe that there is a clear-cut line between enemy and compatriot, antagonist and protagonist. However, The Battle of Algiers demonstrates that in real life this line is not always as clear and visible as a Hollywood film. The Battle of Algiers takes place in Algeria of the 1950s. During that time, the French had occupied Algeria for several decades. Despite the French colonials’ belief that their claim to Algeria had solidified, the Arabic Algerians began to feel imprisoned and oppressed by the French occupation of their country. The Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) formed in response to this oppression.
            While the FLN was a relatively small and radicalized group of freedom fighters, eventually the Algerian people as a whole began to resist the French occupation of Algeria. Helpless and without power, the FLN began taking extremely violent and brutal measures to obtain independence from France. Today, these measures would quickly be reduced to and labeled as terrorism. However, rather than automatically condemning the actions of individuals seeking freedom from oppression, The Battle of Algiers does not utilize the dismissive rhetorical device to explain the events that took place in Algeria. Instead, Pontecorvo situates the viewer within the historical realm of the story, and this enables the audience to draw their own impressions and conclusions about the events. Pontecorvo does not sympathize or ally with the FLN. His allegiance, in true neorealist fashion, lies with the common people of Algeria. Pontecorvo provides a voice for the voiceless, and he shines a light on a moment in history that the French government attempted to suppress (Virtue).            At the center of the FLN is Ali La Pointe, played by Brahim Hadjadj. In the beginning of the film, La Pointe is merely an illiterate petty criminal. His intellectual and social statuses have alienated him from society. He is a troubled outsider with nothing to live for and a rebel without a cause. The alienation and unrest he experiences naturally compliment his rebellious nature, and eventually, La Pointe becomes the leader of the FLN. After the first series of devastating bombings perpetrated by the FLN, the French government sends additional military forces to Algeria in an effort to snuff out the FLN and the Algerian uprising. Colonel Mathieu, played by Jean Martin, leads the fight against the FLN. Martin is the only professional actor in the film and, his performance blends naturally with the raw and untrained acting of the amateur cast. At first, it seems as though Colonel Mathieu symbolizes French solidarity, sophistication, and righteousness. However, as the story proceeds, the audience eventually learns that Colonel Mathieu is merely another pawn in a complex game of political unrest. Riddled with uncertainty, Mathieu simply wants to put an end to the mess and go back home.
            Although Mathieu seems to have pure motives, he proves to be just as violent and brutal as the FLN when he blows up Ali La Pointe and a child toward the end of the film. The Battle of Algiers does not have a clearly defined protagonist and antagonist. While the actions of the FLN are abhorrent and tragic, Colonel Mathieu and the French military do not seek a resolution. They do not consider the demands of the Algerian people and the actions of the FLN critically. Instead, they act in wanton disregard for the Algerian people and merely meet violence with more violence, under the guise of self-proclaimed superiority. Neither Ali La Pointe nor Colonel Mathieu is the protagonist of the film. They are both antagonists that position the Algerian people in the middle of their battle. The Algerian people are the protagonists that eventually win the war and their independence., the film does not end with the sense of Hollywood happiness that comes with winning a war. Over a million people died in the Algerian War, and humanity continues to face the same type of conflicts in the modern era (Candela). The Battle of Algiers is one of the most powerful films I have seen in my life. The line between fictional narrative and historical fact is seemingly nonexistent. The production techniques, camera framing, use of score, and a variety of other elements through the film are captivating and awe inspiring. The film is effectively subversive, and as stated by Peter Matthews, “An absolute pinnacle of counter-cinema, a ne plus ultra of a mode that seeks to intervene strategically in the war for social change.” Prior to viewing The Battle of Algiers, I had only heard of Gillo Pontecorvo. Although I am a fan of violent and bloody films, generally speaking, I am often not a fan of films that depict war. Pontecorvo’s film is instantly my favorite war film of all time. The Battle of Algiers is the first war movie that I have seen that forces the audience to, regardless of their stance or political views, question the world of the past and the world of today.
Although the use of a war film to take reflective look into the past is not an invention of Pontecorvo’s, his style, filmmaking methods, and choice of historical event transcend the common war movie. Meanwhile, the film does not merely inform the viewer; it pushes the viewer’s perspective to new worlds and cultures. At times, the film utilizes a documentary or newsreel style. However, The Battle for Algiers is not a documentary. In fact, Pontecorvo was always offended when people referred to his film as a documentary (Virtue 323).  Pontecorvo’s frustration with the sentiment is entirely reasonable. To consider The Battle of Algiers a type of fictionalized documentary merely cheapens and degrades the precise and masterful camera direction and mise-en-scène of Pontecorvo. The Battle of Algiers is not a documentary. It is cinema at its finest, and it demonstrates why cinema is one of humanity’s highest forms of art. One of the most powerful techniques Pontecorvo uses in the film is the use of score. Scored by Oscar winner Ennio Morricone and Pontecorvo, the music in the film is graceful and compliments the camera and action. As the “Fin” title card dissolves at the end of the film, a brief composition, highly indicative of Morricone’s musical thumbprint, plays in the background. The audience has learned that after millions of deaths and years of war, the Algerians won their independence. In this moment, Morricone’s score sends shivers down the spine. The score acts as a vessel for easing the audience out of the narrative in silent reflection.
While I am admittedly fond of violent films, The Battle of Algiers leaves me questioning both the modern day conventions of depicting violence and the current state of international affairs. Americans love violent films, and I am no exception. My favorite films are violent, and their purpose for cinematic violence is often merely for entertainment. viewing The Battle of Algiers, it is never more apparent that fictional depictions of violence have meaning and purpose. The modern world is a wonderful place to be depending on where an individual lives. However, billions of people struggle to survive, and senseless violence is committed against innocent people every day. Western civilization has learned very little from the Algerian War. The American military prominently remains in several countries throughout the world. The news media and politicians tell the American people that their military is spreading freedom, democracy, and a better way of life to foreign countries. However, The Battle of Algiers shows the viewer that France claimed to have similar motives in Algeria, and those motives resulted in war and death. Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers is a beautifully made film. Throughout the entire film, Pontecorvo remains sensitive to both the history he attempts to tell and the viewers that watch his film. He does not seek to alienate the audience from his film. Instead, Pontecorvo shoves the audience into the middle of the action. The Battle of Algiers urges the viewer to look at the modern day world critically and seriously considered the ramifications of our politics and international policies. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Movie Poster Monday: Non apirte quella porta

In Italia, "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" è Non apirte quella porta (1974) o nel inglese "Don't open that door!" Mi piace molto il film Non apirte quella porta e il personaggio Leatherface.