Monday, February 15, 2010

La Notte

Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1961 film La notte is about an established author, Giovanni, and his wife Lidia in post war Milan. La notte has been a highly respected motion picture worldwide, receiving numerous awards including the Berlin International Film Festival “Golden Berlin Bear” award for best film and the highly respected David di Donatello award (similar to America’s Academy awards), given to Antonioni for best director.

La notte introduces its audience to Giovanni and Lidia as they visit an ailing friend in the hospital before making an appearance at Giovanni’s book signing party. This initial scene reveals the movie’s set-up including moments discomfort, separation, and unusual silence. Throughout the film, there are many occurrences where words or conversation would seem appropriate, and at times crucial. However, Antonioni includes these moments to strengthen the notion of despondency between the main characters. Lidia’s abrupt solo exit of the hospital room and the following scene of her alone, crying, and in pain due to Tommaso’s state of health are evidence of her own life, revealing the pain and isolation within her marriage.

Many times throughout the film deliberate silence and gazes are exploited to dramatize the visual happenings, leaving the audience employed to insert their own dialogue and emotion. Giovanni and the deranged patient, the fight Lidia witnesses, her walk through the city, and the awkward meeting of Valentina with Giovanni and Lidia with the male party guest, are times where words are replaced with gazes, stares, and contemplation. At times, silence is disturbed with natural noises of planes, sirens, a baby crying, and rockets.

This void the director depicts in the film is exemplified by Giovanni’s wife Lidia. She made a vow to love her husband but finds it increasingly difficult to respect him and his profession as his attention is constantly elsewhere. The depressing emptiness the audience feels, is also felt by Lidia. She leaves the book signing party unnoticed and wanders the city in hopes of some excitement or meaning. As she drifts through the city she comes across a clock, broken with motionless hands, a symbol of her stagnant marriage and the constant void she is longing to change, but may be too late.

The film’s climax occurs at Gherardini’s evening party. It seems as though Giovanni senses his wife’s distance. He flirts with the host’s daughter Valentina. She insists that he should reunite with his wife. Giovanni dismisses this claim by saying Lidia sent him to her. Lidia, from afar, sees them together but decides not to stop them as she knows her relationship with Giovanni is coming to an end. With lost hope Lidia tries to make the most of her evening. One of few scenes where Lidia smiles and is seen enjoying herself is when she receives attention from a male party guest and is approached, inviting her to dance. Later Valentina confronts Lidia about her actions that evening with Giovanni, yet Lidia interrupts, making a confession of her own to Valentina. Her marriage is not what it once was.

The last few moments unravels the overwhelming feeling throughout the film. Lidia reveals her nightclub thought to Giovanni that remained a mystery until this point. Throughout the whole film, Giovanni and Lidia lacked affection towards one another; their interactions usually consist of short conversations with abrupt subject changes, avoiding argument and confrontation. Lidia expresses that the love she once felt has been exhausted. She made a choice to love Giovanni over Tommaso, but her love has extinguished.

The ending scene of Lidia and Giovanni together brings about a mix of emotions. The live band on Gherardini’s lawn sets the melancholy mood. When Lidia reads the love letter she pulls from her purse to Giovanni, he feels uncomfortable and queries who wrote such words of affection and devotion to Lidia. After he questions the letter’s author, Lidia turns to him in astonishment. “You did” she replies to Giovanni. His failure to remember his own words reassured Lidia that his professed love did not exist.

La notte may have left some empty, cold, angry, or sympathetic. The lack of words in the film is made up in emotion we feel for the characters. Director Antonioni embraces the fact that we are what we make of ourselves. For Giovanni his addiction wasn’t from “tasting the wine and becoming an alcoholic”(as he talks to Signora Resy), but can be metaphorically applied to his intellectual stature, success, and attention that blinded him from the love he had for Lidia.

Aside from the interesting voyage we took following the course of Lidia and Giovanni, I particularly found Antonioni’s cinematography visually pleasing as artist. Antonioni marvels his audience with his artistic expression in his cinematic creations. The director’s first name may be coincidental to one of Italy’s most celebrated painters and sculptors of the fifteenth and sixteenth century, but Antonioni doesn’t disappoint in his modern artistic expression of art using actors and motion picture as paint for his canvas. Antonioni may give the audience of La notte an additional reason to watch just for his stunning cinematography capturing Italy’s post war beauty. La notte is sprinkled with busy cityscapes, serene landscapes, vivid reflections, natural use of light, and extreme tonal contrasts to add an additional element of uniqueness. Antonioni’s attention to artistic beauty is just one of many aspects the audience of La notte will witness throughout the movie.

Here are a few sites that offer great additional information on the film and the director Michelangelo Antonioni:
(Themes in the film La notte)
(Reviews on the film)
(Biography of Antonioni)
(Overview of Antonioni and his films)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Le chiavi di casa

The 2004 film directed by Gianni Amelio Le chiavi di casa (The Keys to the House) is a very emotional film that deals with illness, family values, and unconditional love. It is a story that any human being can appreciate, no matter where you come from. It is a story of a man who, for the first time in his life, is meeting his fifteen year old son. What sets this story apart from the rest is this man, whose name is Gianni, not only has a fifteen year old son that he has never met, but his son is handicapped with muscular dystrophy. Seeing their relationship develop in the 105 minutes in which the film takes place is very touching to watch. You see these two strangers get to know each other over the course of a short period of time, and you get to see the love they begin to have for one another. Watching them onscreen together is something that touched me. The way that Gianni would look at his son was so full of raw emotion. You could tell as an audience member that he knew he missed a lot of things in Paolo’s life, and he didn’t want to miss anything else ever again. The conversations they have are never ones of importance (they talk about really general things), but even though the topics were not that important, the way they talked to each other was. They were getting to know each other, and it was very emotional to see them do that throughout the film.

This is also a story of forgiveness. When his son was born, Gianni walked out on him. The boy’s mother dies giving birth to him, and when Gianni learns that not only is the mother dead but the child will have many complications for the rest of his life, he immediately flees. He doesn’t even look at his son before he abandons him. The handicapped child, whose name is Paolo, is raised by his aunt and uncle. He never actually meets his real father until now. When this was all told in the beginning of the story, I wanted to hate the character of Gianni. How can somebody be such a coward and leave their newborn son like that? But as time went on, you can’t help but like Gianni. I wanted him to do well, I wanted him and his son to bond, and I wanted him to become a real father to this wonderful child. Andrea Rossi, the actor who plays Paolo, actually has muscular dystrophy in real life. Watching him on the screen was amazing. He was brilliant in this role, and actually having to live with this disease throughout his whole life made it all that more real and moving. The way these two people interact was something you could not look away from.

Another important character in this film was that of Nicole, played by Charlotte Rampling. She was someone that Gianni met in the hospital, and she too has a mentally and physically handicapped child named Nadine. She and Gianni become fast friends, and she teaches him so much about life and the struggles that are apart of it. She never ran away from her responsibilities as a mother, but she also doesn’t fault Gianni for running away from his. She gives him hope, and she ultimately makes him want to become a better person, for himself and for his son.

In conclusion, this film really spoke to me. Having members of my family that are handicapped (although not as severely as the children in this film), it is nice to see a film about handicapped people without one mean or negative thing said about them. Gianni isn’t afraid anymore of what he must do for his son. He just doesn’t want to see his own flesh and blood in any more pain. (There is even a scene in the film where Paolo is in the hospital getting his blood taken, and Gianni has to leave the room). He knows he is new to all of this, but he is willing to do whatever it takes to be there for his child. This is essentially a love story, but not between two adult people, but between and man and the son he never knew. It is a beautiful film.

I also looked online to see what other people thought of the film. It was interesting to see their reactions to it. Here are a few links I found that had some opinions of the film.

movie review of the film

rotten tomatoes review of the film

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Le Fate Ignoranti

A movie full of confusion, scandalizing events, and broken hearts, Le Fate Ignoranti (2001) won awards at a number of Gay and Lesbian Film Festivals such as; ‘Best Film’ at the New York Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and ‘Best Film’ at the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival. Ferzan Ă–zpetek, the director, is of Turkish descent but resides in Italy. He is an openly gay director who deals with numerous sexual issues in several of his films, including this feature film and also La finestra di fronte (2003).

This movie begins as Antonia strolls around an art gallery, anxiously awaiting her husband. A man eventually approaches her and at first seems to be a complete stranger: she blows him off. Shortly after it becomes evident that this stranger is in fact her husband Massimo, and Antonia was ignoring him because of his late arrival. This opening scene offsets the movie right away; it gives us the idea that their relationship was a bit strange, due to meeting at an art gallery and him arriving reasonably late.

In early scenes of the movie we discover a typical relationship between the two spouses, yet they seem to be a bit distant: he departs frequently for business trips and soccer games. One day when Massimo was leaving for an entire day to go watch a soccer game with his friends, he was crossing a busy road and an SMS message distracted him. While grabbing for the phone, in the midst of crossing the road, a car struck him and he was viciously whipped in the air and died on impact.

A newly developed scene arises and it seems as if a couple of weeks have passed by, due to Antonia clearing through all of Massimo’s things. While scavenging through his belongings she finds a large painting that seemed to be a present someone had given Massimo. She reaches for the painting and discovers that there was a hidden message on the back from what seemed to be a mistress of some sort. It was signed, ‘La tua fata ignorante’ (your ignorant fairy)

With Massimo deceased, Antonia is devastated to have found out that he was probably having an affair with this mystery person for who knows how long. She goes off and tries to discover this mistress and does her best with the leads she has. She stumbles upon an apartment complex and finds a group of individuals that seem to be a bit different; due to hair style and the way they dress. Antonia asks to see if she can possibly speak to a certain lady (she found out the name of the person who sent Massimo the painting) but the individuals who live there say that she is gone and isn’t coming back for a while. This seems to intrigue Antonia and she comes back frequently to see if she can possibly encounter this mistress or possibly pick up more evidence.

On her frequent visits she becomes close to all these individuals of the apartment complex because they seem to brighten her spirits. They are always together, compared to her being at her house virtually alone. It eventually becomes evident that this group of friends forms a community that involves many different categories of people; homosexuals, transsexuals, and even heterosexual immigrants. Antonia isn’t bothered at all by this because they were always very friendly and open hearted. Quickly after Antonia discovers who the mistress of her husband actually is, turns out it was actually the most kind of all the people at the apartment complex, a man by the name of Michele. Massimo was cheating on Antonia with a gay man for 7 years. This basically tore Antonia to pieces, but due to her being very close to this new group of friends, Antonia seems curious to discover what Michele and his world has to offer.

The rest of the film is an adventure to see what this Michele was all about. Antonia was frequently with this homosexual ‘mistress’ and they became very good friends, almost too close.

It was in a book store while searching for a book, a collection of poetry by Nazim Hikmet, upon finding the book, Massimo approached him and offered practically anything for it. Michele explained that he was shocked because he never met anyone that liked the same poet as himself. The scene develops with Antonia figuring out exactly what book he was talking about. She then proceeds to recite some verses by the author, that of which Massimo knew. Michele asked Antonia if she and Massimo would recite Hikmet with each other often. She told him that Massimo had no idea who Hikmet even was; the book was for her.

Another interesting scene is when Michele was upset with himself for having an affair with Massimo all these years. Antonia and Michele, both moved, experienced an emotional connection which for a moment became a romantic connection, as they leaned and in to kiss one another. Antonia was being sexual with the homosexual man that her deceased husband was having an affair with for 7 years.
These scenes tied everything together for me. It seems as if the two were actually perfect for each other. Massimo found similar qualities in Antonia and Michele so therefore it led him to having a relationship with both of them. So when Antonia and Michele actually got to know each other they quickly began liking each other more and more, probably because they are more compatible with each other than Massimo was with either of them.

I personally found this film to be a bit strange, very out there. It is a movie that needs to be viewed more than once to appreciate its true value. It’s a story of love, a strange kind of love, a love that is never truly fulfilled. I viewed Massimo as being almost a middleman in the perfect relationship; he had a relationship with two individuals that were more perfect for each other. Massimo was one that would be able to please two different people very well, but he did it in a very mysterious fashion. His actions were probably due to him not being able to connect extremely well with the two so he had to get the best of both worlds, little bits at a time. When Massimo was out of the picture an amazing chemistry developed between Antonia and Michele. Something was there that I truly believe Massimo didn’t have with either of the two.

I thought that the American trailer of the film was pretty interesting to watch due to the very sexual vibe you get from watching it. Even though the film itself wasn't very sexual.

This Italian trailer makes a lot more sense. The film itself was presented a lot better and clearly in this trailer. The different reading of the movie from watching two different trailers to me is quite interesting.