Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Week in Review - 21/3/10

  • Roma (Federico Fellini, Italy/France, 1972)
  • À l’origine (In The Beginning, Xavier Giannoli, France, 2009)
  • Je suis heureux que ma mère soit vivante (I'm Glad My Mother is Alive, Claude Miller & Nathan Miller, France, 2009)
  • Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, USA, 1968)
Reading the Cinémathèque Annotations on Film from Senses of Cinema has aided me in understanding the work of the idiosyncratic Fellini. For what it's worth, as a Melbourne Cinémathèque committee member, I'm the one who prints these out and takes them to ACMI for the weekly screenings - it's a humble job, but someone's got to do it.

Fellini reminds me a little of Almodóvar. They both grew up in rural villages, they have similar senses of humour, their work is camp and fixates on big-breasted and big-assed women. Fellini's work is more autobiographical and less conventionally structured while Almodóvar gravitates towards melodrama of a soap opera nature, but mixes his genres. Fellini, despite his carnivalesque imagery (a cliche, I know) and fondness for the grotesque, seems to have a more serious underlying intent. But as I wrote about Amarcord last week, I still don't connect with his work.

This week, I had a more positive outlook on his work and enjoyed the start of the film. There's no doubt that Fellini has a wicked sense of humour. The child pissing in the theatre is an amusing incident that I presume is an example of the director's recollections. The various sexual allusions also lighten the screen. The film also serves as a fascinating document, such as the underground scenes.

As the film progresses, however, it feels like it drags on much more than necessary. The vaudeville scene, for example, just goes on and on. There's no sense of economy in the film, especially in terms of the audience's time. With various vignettes (skits, if you like), there's little to hold the film together emotionally. It has a run time over two hours, but it feels like it should finish before 90 minutes. I found myself uncomfortable in my seat and eager for it to finish for about 45 minutes.

Planet of the Apes
I was a mere eight years old when this film first released and I've always had the fondest of memories of it. I never saw any of the sequels, nor the remake, but the TV series was essential viewing in its during throughout the 1970s. With the passage of time, the film has well and truly dated, especially the technology, the outfits and the sets. The film's key strength is an abundance of ideas that capture another era. Released in the same year as 2001: A Space Odyssey, these two films would make excellent companion pieces for their questioning of the nature of civilisation - who and what we are, and where we come from.

Planet of the Apes is clearly allegorical, taking aim at society and two of its most corrupt pillars: politics and religion. It's two thousand years in the future and human civilisation has clearly all but destroyed itself, allowing another species to dominate. The apes have developed their own societies, seemingly barbaric but strikingly similar to our own. Justice is replaced by the rationale of convenience and spirituality is replaced by lies and dogma. There's even an indirect dig at the Joseph McCarthy, HUAC (House Committee on Un-American Activities) and it's Hollywood blacklisting.

The film looks crude compared to my recollections of it and it's full of Charlton Heston cornball. He was one of my heroes of the 1970s, in films like Earthquake, Poseidon Adventure and Omega Man. But damn he looks charming and it's a joy to see him again in action. I really enjoyed watching this and plan to catch up on the sequels.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rimini is not a rural village. I think Roma is a difficult film to penetrate, especially as a non European. The history, the social structures, the class observations, the politics are difficult to grasp. But full points for trying.