Thursday, May 18, 2017

Stromboli, Europa '51, Viaggio in Italia

Stromboli (Rossellini, 1950) Rating: 10/10 stars.

Like an Italian Flannery O'Connor story. (Both influenced by Simone Weil: "Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it . . .") Aside from the New Wave and Antonioni, this must have had a major impact on Kiarostami--The Wind Will Carry Us is practically a more self-reflexive remake.
Here's Rohmer on its personal impact: "It was Rossellini who turned me away from existentialism. That took place in the middle of Stromboli. In the first minutes of the film I recognized the limits of the Sartrian realism to which I believed the film was going to limit itself. I hated the way of seeing the world it encouraged me to take, until I understood that it was also encouraging me to move beyond it. And then the conversion happened. That's what is amazing about Stromboli, it was my road to Damascus: in the middle of the film I was converted and I changed my way of seeing things."

Europa '51 (Rossellini, 1952) Rating: 10/10 stars.

Perhaps the least praised of the Rossellini/Bergman trilogy, no doubt because it seems the most melodramatic and least modern, I found it by far the most moving. True, the final act is forced in the way it seems to leave plausibility behind as society punishes Bergman's transgressions, but in another sense it is just as inexplicable as the endings of the other two films, though here tragic rather than eucatastrophic. Grace can come to an individual, but not to society as a whole. And if Bergman's character is inspired by St. Francis, she is a a Francis with no followers and no freedom--the film is an investigation of what someone would have to go through to truly view the world the way Francis did, and it turns out to be incredibly painful, unnatural, and perhaps unsustainable. Yet the challenge remains.

Journey to Italy (Rossellini, 1954) Rating: 10/10 stars.

There have been several times in cinema history where a single filmmaker has created an entire trilogy to explore the state of modern of Europe: Antonioni's L'Avventura/La Notte/L'Eclisse, Kieslowski's Three Colors, Gomes's Arabian Nights, and I guess Seidl's Paradise trilogy. Rossellini is the only director to give us two such trilogies, and inside of a single decade as well. (Though I wonder how Fear fits into the series--I need to see it as soon as I can.) Both Antonioni and Kieslowski owe an obvious debt here--indeed, Three Colors seems modeled on this earlier trilogy to a surprising extent, and someone should compare Kieslowski's use of his actresses to Rossellini's use of Bergman.
What else is there to say about this film that hasn't already been said better by so many others? Well, for one thing, it appears to me that Paul W.S. Anderson watched it before making Pompeii--and got something out of it, too.

The Flowers of St. Francis (Rossellini, 1950) Rating: 8/10 stars.

What is it to have the faith of a child? Look here, and know.
Wonderful Easter viewing.