'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

15 September 2010

The Italian Directors

What is it about cinema that so attracts an audience. Who knows? It is far from the greatest of art forms, but certainly it is the most popular of recent times. Once I was a film addict who belonged to various cinema groups, enthused over the bleakness of Igmar Bergman, the filminess of Fellini or the elegance of Visconti. I became devastated by 'A day in the life of Joe Egg', and was oh so titillated by the sight of the slightest hint of nudity in the late sixties /early seventies. Oh how one's taste can change. I guess cinema today (particularly European and Chinese cinema)  is largely better, or more honest  than it once was, except for the Hollywood studio, lowest common denominator, mass appeal style of entertainment which in its stupidity and blandness lacks artistic or moral value of any kind.  I do however enjoy the technology of modern affects, but why, with such expenditure, do they forget to invest in writers with a soul.  Today I enjoy the mysteries of a Peter Greenaway film, the indulgence of the late Derek Jarman and, surprisingly to me, the many great films at last coming from an assortment of Australian directors, but once I had to say that all my favourite films were from the Italian Masters.
What makes a great director? A unique perspective that can be transmitted to others, an intelligence that can draw on the wealth of human understanding, so that it sparks deep memories of our common experience, a certain elegance in style and an ability to entertain. It is not necessary that they appeal to everyone, for that would negate the individuality of us all and deny our humanity. Taste is something that is nurtured and expands with our exposure to and assessment of a variety of experiences. Only when we are willing to, and permitted to be exposed to everything can we freely choose. That is why censorship is a failed hindrance to our development. We can not judge, disagree with or assimilate what we do not know. This is my opinion and of course many will not agree, which is fine, for they have their own reasons for appreciation. Mine too will change according to time and mood, but there are many that have stood the test of time, or should I say, my time.
Probably amongst my lifetime favourite directors are the great Italians. I respect and collect the work of many others from around the world, but seldom with the passion with which I have always been drawn to the works of these masters.

Federico Fellini
The great master of cinema as art. Fellini used his wife Giulietta Masina often in his sometimes autobiographical masterpieces. The exotic large breasted whores were his trademark, He even asked Joan Sutherland to be in a film, but she declined. Smart woman I would say. He is also the only one of my favourite Italians who was not gay.

My DVDs - 8 1/2, Amarcord, Boccaccio '70, Fellini-Satyricon, Il Bidone, IlCasanova do Frederico Fellini, I Vitelloni.

Franco Zeffirelli
The great opera director who created the role of Lucia di Lammermoor for Joan Sutherland is also a film maker, creating such wonderful pieces as Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew and Jesus of Nazareth and Brother Sun Sister Moon. Zeffirelli also created some wonderful opera films such as La Traviata and Otello. One of his old films on Toscanini has Elizabeth Taylor miming the role of Aida in magnificent sets designed by Zeffirelli himself and  which I once saw in a Rome production where Zeffirili made an appearance to take bows until the last twenty people remained in the theatre. I think I was more excited by seeing him than by the opera which was grand and magnificent.
My DVDs - Aida, Brother Sun Sister Moon, Callas forever, Cavalleria Rusticana, Don Carlo, Jesus of Nazareth, Otello, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, La Traviata.

Luciano Visconti

Count of Lonate Pozzolo (2 November 1906 - 17 March 1976) 
Visconti was known for celebrated opera productions, including those with Maria Callas. His films have a sophistication and elegance found in few other directors.

My DVDs - Boccaccio '70, La Terra trema, The Leopard, L'Innocente, Death In Venice, The Damned, Ludwig, Rocco and His Brothers, Conversation Piece.
Bernardo Bertolucci

Born in Parma, Italy, in 1940 Bertolucci attended Rome University and became famous as a poet at age 20. He changed career after his introduction to filming was as production assistant for his friend the great ground-breaking poet, director, writer and thinker Pier Paolo Pasolini for the film Accattone! in 1961. He soon moved to be a prolific and influential director.
A Quote:-"I am still against any kind of censorship. It's a subject in my life that has been very important."

My DVDs - The Conformist, The Dreamers, The Last Emperor, Last Tango in Paris, Little Buddha, La Luna, Novecento, The Sheltering Sky.
Michelangelo Antonioni

Born in 1912 and beginning as a painter and critic he moved to being a director in 1959.In the 60's he made the films for which I chiefely remember him. La Notte, Blow Up and Zabriski Point were integral elements of the period. He was prevented from working bu a stroke in 1985 and died in 2007.

My DVD's - Blowup, L'Eclisse.

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