Review: Sivas (2015)

When looking for a theme in which to select films from the start of November until Thanksgiving being literal is not the best option. Films centered around Thanksgiving tend to be overly obsessed with dysfunctional families. So in thinking about the nature of the day which was initially a celebration of survival in the New World, I thought why not focus on foreign films.


Sivas is the Turkish submission for the Academy Award race, and is a debut feature film from writer/director Kaan Müjdeci. It takes a naturalistic, externalized look at a coming-of-age cum boy-and-his-dog story.

Aslan (Dogan Izci) becomes attached to, and wants to keep a dogfighting sheepdog Sivas after he’s been left for dead following a fight in Aslan’s hometown.

The best way to contextualize this film for western mores would perhaps be bullfighting stories. Even as a child I was never particularly fond of the sport before the notion of animal rights was even a sensical phrase in my brian. However, I have seen titles about bullfighting and bullfighters, such as The Brave One, and been able to connect through it via the guise of the characters’ individual wants and needs.

Sivas (2015, Coloured Giraffes)

The strongest overall sequence in the film is definitely when Aslan and Sivas bond overnight. The dog is severly wounded, handshy, and skittish. Aslan insists on staying with him overnight when his older brother, Şahin (Ozan Çelik), insists that he leave Sivas behind and Aslan refuses.

Through the same guise of character wants/needs the decision Aslan first makes as a dogowner, as he is given sole responsibility for the dog when everyone, his Father (Hazan Yazilitas) included, believes that the dog will serve them no purpose; the provocation of his rival Hasan (Hasan Ozdemir) makes it an obvious choice, and one where it is easy to grin-and-bear it hoping for the desired result.

Dogan Izci is particularly strong as the young lead in one scene when his rage gets the better of him and he makes his biggest, and arguably last, stand in defense of his dog’s rights and insistence on being included in decisions having to do with his well-being and living conditions. The raw emotion tapped by Izci and captured by Müjdeci are breathtaking and are the height of the film unquestionably.

Sivas (2015, Coloured Giraffes)

Unfortunately, the concluding third, barring one standard sequence of suspense as their carload of passenger and the dog seek to escape notice of the authorities is a bit nebulous, and left wanting. Aslan’s emotional state at the end is one of steadfast resoluteness in no longer subjecting his dog to the rigors and cruelties he’s already allowed, but any indication of whether or not his request is heeded is left to our imagination. All certainty is expunged for us, all we know for sure is that we watched him grow, and in some respects have seen him come full circle in an unusual way: he reached a new sense of maturity and responsibility when he bonded to and felt protective of Sivas. Yet that was him looking before he leapt, and he had to fight to be able to get back there again.

More so than the usual the dog in question is more a framing mechanism for the tale than the central focal point of the plot. The film may be called Sivas but it’s Aslan’s strength and maturation, and his ability (or inability) to live up to the meaning of his name (“lion”) that is meant to keep us engaged.

Mini-Review: At the Gate of the Ghost


This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

At the Gate of the Ghost

As soon as I saw that this film was an adaptation of Rashomon, I knew I wanted to see it. Now, knowing that some statements need to be made: Firstly, there mere fact that it builds its narrative on a great skeleton is not enough to make or break it. It also bears noting that even Kurosawa’s version was based on earlier Japanese texts so the opportunity to create new renditions of the tales exist all the time, and doesn’t really fit into any perceived “scourge of remakes” complaints one might have. The same goes with Hitchock’s films as he dealt almost exclusively in literary adaptations. Any other asides to these effects are likely covered in my fanboy series, so I shall proceed.

What makes a new, transplanted version of a known classic tale either work or not usually has to do with what’s done to make the story particular to the new locale and how well it embodies the spirit of the original narrative rather than how dogmatically it sticks to the script. The new locale is incorporated quite well, on the surface turning a Shinto priest into a Buddhist monk might seem a superficial change, that analysis would be too reductive. It would discount the connection between religion and national identity far too much, especially considering the period in which this film is set (16th Century Thailand).

The other thing this film does well is that it quickly inserts an artfully rendered, character-building montage so that the monk’s inner-turmoil is explained and we get a sense of him and what he sees his duties as. At the start of the film he makes a difficult decision. We then see all that factored into the aforementioned decision and the bulk of the film is about the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak.

As with any tale based on Rashomon, or of a similar construction, much of the success hinges of the perspective and execution of the varied interpretations of an incident from different points of view. The wildly variegated versions delivered here are nearly flawless told and very well-executed with fantastic acting throughout.

If you have not seen Rashomon I would, of course, recommend you see that first. However, whether you have or have not, I think this alternate take is one that is likely to find many fans of its own as it is a rather gripping, evocative and emotionally charged version in its own right.


Mini-Review: Yossi


This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!


If there’s one thing I didn’t want inferred in my writing about North Sea Texas, is that all gay cinema should send out that ray of hope. There are as many stories as there are people. What I feel is important about that film cinematically and socially is that now that story exists in the face of many overwhelmingly dour and/or tragic tales. That’s not to say that it’s a mandate. Granted there’s drama in a tragic set of circumstances, at times unparalleled in pathos, but the seeming disproportion also needs to be held in check. However, this by no means there should be a Hollywood formula implemented.

I say this by way of introduction to Yossi because a few things need to be taken into consideration when viewing it. Firstly, even if targeting a niche, a film needn’t have far-reaching ramifications, but can be merely a character study. Secondly, there is the matter of another culture at play so we’d be wise not to judge the film by our standards mores. However, those concerns are mostly about lesser details.

What does bear considering cinematically is that this is a sequel and it would behoove you to see the first part before this one as I did. It finishes up a story neatly and rather well after much internal conflict. The only issue that’s created is that the end is kind of abrupt. However, there is a slow progress, slower than preferable, but it’s true to the character. What’s most intriguing is that it is a two-part process of being inwardly comfortable and outwardly comfortable with oneself. It happens in babysteps without fireworks or a parade, but there is an arc and there are moving scenes specifically one played among Orly Silbersatz, Raffi Tevor and Ohad Knoller that each echoes the last film. This is a film worth viewing in tandem with its predecessor Yossi & Jagger.


Tarkovsky Thursday: Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

If you’re not already aware of Open Culture you should bookmark or follow them for they are great resource. One post on their site notified me to the fact that the films of Andrei Tarkovsky are online legitimately. In the case of his last student film: the great The Steamroller and the Violin it’s been taken down, but the others are good to go. Be sure to click on the “cc” for subtitles.

It’s hard to believe that Tarkovsky authored but seven features. What he lacked prolifically he made up for with his impact. If you follow the blog closely you’ll note that this film was the selection for the first Arts on Film. However, reading the poetry disembodied from the film they are cited in is hardly the same. So here it is for your edification.

Mini-Review: Post Tenebras Lux


This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Post Tenebras Lux

At some point while watching Post Tenebras Lux I paused to make sure I had an a correct understanding of what the title meant. I knew it was Latin, I had a notion of each individual word, but wanted to make sure that in context it meant “After Darkness, Light.”

Slowly after the film was complete I had a theory about what it was I had read as I crossed the terrain. In a fashion not dissimilar to when I first saw Holy Motors, where it has sections that I had to ferret out rather than an ultimate goal, or feeling; here it was a bit of both that needed to be ferreted out simultaneously. I believe I have those answers now. However, the overriding point of a film in the style of Post Tenebras Lux is not ultimately what is its “truth,” but how it weaves its mysterious web, what an audience’s level of engagement is and if you find a connection to it.

It’s almost disappointing to describe it in such an alchemical way, but what it boils down to is do its ellipses, its seeming impenetrability, repel or compel you; frustrate or fascinate; goad or gratify. In the end, I enjoyed the grapple more than I fought with it. I enjoyed parsing scenes, sequences and the whole based on what I perceived to be the perspective; whether I felt it reality or hallucination; past, present or future.

The impact I felt from it may not have been as big as the aforementioned Holy Motors, but it is quite nearly as fascinating, in a quieter, more introspective (just whose introspection it is, is debatable) rumination on life, culture and humanity.


Review: Abuse of Weakness

Abuse of Weakness concerns a filmmaker, Maud Shainberg (Isabelle Huppert) who has a stroke and then becomes the victim of a notorious con man, Vilko Piran (Kool Shen). If you know that which the film fairly readily give to you, you know the whole story essentially.

In this film very little is a surprise. It starts with the stroke: quickly and suddenly. However, without belaboring its rather enjoyable pantomime of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly it moves on to Maud being recovered. She is then looking for her next project and sees an interview on TV where Vilko talks candidly of his criminal past. He is not an actor, but she as a director sees something in him and is convinced he is the one for the movie even though he is not a professional actor.

Sadly, the film becomes a protracted and fairly clumsily laid-out self-fulfilling prophecy. Vilko on the television show explains his entire modus operandi. In this statement if the blueprint to how he will view their relationship. Now, the specifics of what he will do may be vague, but the outcome is apparent. He does not appear to be precisely intelligent, and neither did she appear to be that gullible and stupid such that hardly any charm or coersion is used to extract funds from her.

Another aspect of this film that is noteworthy is the performance of Huppert. She is brilliant in the small recovery section. She also nearly singlehandedly manages to keep this film afloat through most of its running time. However, the problems that plague this film not only remain, but seem to be exacerbated as the story progresses. Even giving her character a pass for her initial fascination we also see her psychic decomposition in an altogether disengaging fashion. She is initially tough and bullheaded. Tacks employed by her favorite conman never change, her resistance and rebellion just lessen over time.

Even if all that were forgivable there is a seemingly tacked-on closing expository scene, which as one might expect, does not offer any real resolution. Instead we watch her confusion as she thinks back and in hindsight tries to decipher why she acted as she did. It illuminates neither the narrative, nor her character in any real way so it could be truncated, if not excised entirely. It seems as if its crafted for potentially frustrated audience members, which at this point I most certainly was, but it offers no closure merely more running time.

That ending does play into a systemic temporal abuse that this film employs. Its pace dies as slow a death as its protagonists will dwindles. Some of that seems to be by design as the narrative chronology encompasses a long period. Yet there comes a point where the illustration has been made and the whole suffers.

There are many stories that are self-fulfilling prophecies. That is a given narrative truism: knowing where this story is going from the beginning does not doom the story to be of little to know interest. The protagonist knowingly going into a precarious situation does make it a harder trick to turn, and does render him or her less identifiable. There is a distancing we feel from events, a torpor of voyeurism that creates a hollow experience. At the beginning and the end, at Maud’s most comprehensible and incomprehensible emotional ebbs, we are at our closest to her; in the interim we are persistently pushed away and forced to hold on for dear life if we care, either in empathetic or morbid way. In the end we care in no way and are left bereft of visceral interaction with the story and numbed from lack of palpable intellectual stimuli.


Review: I Am Yours

I Am Yours tells the tale of a young Norwegian Pakistani single-mother, Mina (Amrita Acharia), trying to balance the demands of family, her career as an actress and dating in Oslo.

For last year’s Thankful for World Cinema when deciding what topic I would tackle as the Oscar voters’ issue of the year the co-production was essentially the topic. In modern cinema even films that don’t necessarily have a multicultural aspect are produced by many countries and companies working in concert. Those co-productions are further encouraged by sociopolitical alliances and migratory patterns the world over. In short, the immigrant experience is now a tale that can be told the world over. Whereas Chaplin helmed and starred in the 20th Century’s iconic version, there can be many more visions for the 21st Century from the world over, and this is just one of those tales.

This is a different kind of experience as those which can be exposed through the new post-colonial cinema as I cited here. In films such as this and others such as Shun Li and the Poet the experience is other. While the themes of assimilation and embracing, and struggling with, one’s diversity are omnipresent it’s a different kind of story that can add new complications to age-old human dramas.

I can hear you, if you’re still with me and reading, saying: “Yeah, well that’s great, but how about this movie?” That’s kind of what I’m driving at. The ostensible narrative that of Mina trying to please, or just get along with, her parents (Rabia Noreen and Sudhir Komar Kohli); raise her son (Prince Singh); deal with her ex (Assad Siddique) and date Jesper (Ola Rapace) is not where the interest lies, which is the film’s greatest issue. Essentially, if you’re an optimist it’s a zero-sum operation wherein Mina has to learn to find, and fend for herself, and not try and meet anyone else’s expectations. At worse she loses almost everything in order to realize that she too has to find herself.

One can see through Mina’s passion, of sorts, influences of her ancestral home fighting with influences of her adopted home. They fight for her at different times and when she decides to run to one or the other she is pushed away as not wholly their’s. This read is made easier to infer due to the fact that some specifics of her story are glossed over or omitted entirely.

Due to the fact that I am a first generation American and a dual citizen I am more sensitive, and should be more inclined to be truly moved by such a tale. The issue ends up being that it’s an overly-academic exercise and not as much of a visceral connection. The superficial narrative is not engaging enough to find the riches of the potential symbology and commentary to be truly valuable.

The film functions as well as it does thanks to the captivating and charming interpretation of a pained young girl seeking fulfillment by Amrita Acharia. It truly is a star-making turn such that if the film lacked her contribution it would’ve been a completely lost cause. Instead it does have a heart and soul, it just has one that’s not adequately exposed onscreen to make the film rise above its ascribed station.

If there is any doubt about what some things that should be read, thought on and discussed with regards to this film the title dispels those doubts. Due to what it seeks to express, and the performance of Acharia, it is definitely worth seeking out. It may speak more strongly to others than it did to me, and it is definitely a dialogue that will be, and should be, revisited many times over.


Intro to Auteur Theory with Jean Renoir

Auteur criticism is a very particular brand of film critique and study in which one focuses on a particular director. Now this may seem like highly involved stuff, however, it need not be so complicated. If you like complications, and are a perfectionist, you can read biographies and the like, but let us start simply. These days with innumerable outlets for purchase and rental of films it’s easy enough to amass the films needed.

Through this specified study one will quickly learn quite a bit, all you really have to do is choose a film you liked and if you don’t already know who directed it find out and watch a series of their films in close succession.

Patterns in their choices visually, in editing, theme and story will quickly make themselves evident. Sometimes due to their similarity, sometimes because they are quite varied.

It is also extremely helpful, if one wants to become ensconced in the works of one particular director, to start with some of their lesser-known works. There are a few reasons for this. First, they are by nature less popular so the burden of expectation is lowered – you are not victim to any preconceived notions of what the film should be or is supposed to be. For example, in my experience with auteurs I had in the past seen some landmarks by famous filmmakers right off the bat and either they didn’t live up to expectations or the film was so good that I thought nothing that director could do otherwise could compare.

Don’t be deterred if you like the director but don’t connect with a particular title. Everyone is different. As long as you enjoy their work you should pursue it. Most importantly do not be afraid to form your own opinions on something. The first type of film I mention, “not living up to expectations,” refers to my experience with The Seventh Seal. When I saw it I was too young to get it and I had preconceived notions about what that film was and it ruined the movie. My being less-than-impressed with it kept me away from Bergman for a long time. He is now one of my favorite filmmakers, while I appreciate The Seventh Seal more now I still like at least a dozen of his films better than that one.

This is why I recommend going for the not so famous films of a director first. The second example I would cite would be Jean Renoir. I first saw The Grand Illusion in film school and thought it was fantastic and that he was fantastic for making it, however, I always shied away from his other works thinking it would pale in comparison.

Finally, I purchased a seven film box set of his works and have a much better understanding of him as an artist now. Here are some observations I had of the titles in the set:
The films in the Jean Renoir box set rank as follows.

T1. Charleston Parade (1927) & The Little Match Girl (1928)

The Little Match Girl (1928)

Both films are similar and should be watch back-to-back ideally these shorts are his most visually compelling and creative in the set. Both include very extensive and slightly surrealistic dream sequences. While the first is somewhat avant-garde the second is more traditional. They are both essentially fairy tales but very different in nature, one dealing with aliens and a dance craze and the latter with poverty and class struggle.

3. Whirlpool of Fate (1925)

Whirpool of Fate (1925)

This is a film that really lives up to the title and sets you up as circumstances for a young girl from the country drastically change at fate’s whim. This tale has an upward arc in terms of the character’s fortune as she goes from virtual slavery at the hands of an abusive uncle to marrying into money. It is one of the two films in the set which deal with a woman’s upward mobility through the class system. It subtly comments there and it is very interesting to see the contrast between the two.

4. The Doctor’s Horrible Experiment (1959)

The Doctor's Horrible Experiment (1959)

This is a subtle, well-done modern (in 1959) update of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde of course due to that fact it lacks unpredictability due to the general familiarity people have with that tale but it is quite an apt retelling that focuses on the characters rather than the alchemy of effects.

5. La Marseillaise (1938)

La Marseillaise (1938)

This is an interesting tapestry film about the French Revolution that does settle on what we presume to be a fictitious band of rebels as its protagonists but there are many characters. While it does get preachy at times, filled with metaphor of the verbal variety, albeit very intelligently written. It features entertaining acting if not classically good film acting- one actor was noted as being a guest from La Comédie-Française and I think most were theatre actors mainly, and they remained as such on occasion the vulgarity of a stage performance on screen makes itself quite evident but overall Renoir keeps his distance enough to give his players the room they necessitate to be as a effective as possible.

6. Nana

Nana (1926)

Nana is a rare film in which the protagonist isn’t likeable and it’s extremely melodramatic Zola, a tale of his that I and many Americans are likely unfamiliar with it’s similar to Whirlpool of Fate except the lead creates her own fate and it’s downhill in terms of her fortunes, not up despite her rise in social standing. It features some really great tinting after a brief B&W section to mark the midway point and beautiful purple section for the decline. Technically speaking a masterful film but also a perfect silent vehicle with too ludicrous a plot for people to tolerate if they were required to hear some of this dialogue instead of reading it. It also illustrates Catherine Hessling to be a great silent film actress because here for the first time she is portrayed as an unsympathetic figure and she pulls it off with great aplomb and is not likable at all.

7. The Elusive Corporal (1962)

The Elusive Corporal (1962)

A WWII tale, which while funny and smart does get repetitive. Can be seen as a funny version of The Grand Illusion but it doesn’t quite compare.

Renoir is the kind of filmmaker with a very laid back simplistic approach, at least in these titles, in terms of both his visuals (most of the time) and his storyline which will likely be hard to get a grasp of right away as the plots develop more organically and less in your face than with many films. This in essence makes him deceptively simple. The films in the set are compulsively watchable and it is truly in comparison and seeing how he’d take themes from one film and reverse them later on for similarly effective results in which he truly demonstrates his skills.


Jean Renoir, Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini

So, in this instance by getting a boxed set which featured lesser known titles and not going directly for Boudu Saved from Drowning or The Rules of the Game I got a sense of his style, sensibilities and the trajectory of his career. Renoir was quite a dazzling showman who seemed to revel in the silent film genre who toyed with the visual only medium so easily he scarcely required titling.

Sound changed the equation for him as it did for many others. While he did eventually move the camera about again he was not as wont to experiment a lot his films seeming to follow the John Ford edict of the frame being a window on the action. Yet while not trying to do too much he shows quite a great deal.

The great important films of historical significance are wonderful. They should be seen but it is the cinematic equivalent of island hopping. When one does that they are not getting the whole picture sometimes one should stop and enjoy the scenery for at times it will not be the ballyhooed and popular choice that will win you over but a film that is nearly forgotten in the canon of a great that will truly demonstrate the enormity of their skill.

Catholicism and Alienation in Fellini’s 8 1/2

In 8 ½ Federico Fellini uses the Catholic Church as a means to depict Guido’s isolation from society and by the end of the film we see how the church has completely outcast him and also how he has completely abandoned the Church. For it always works both ways. As we go on a fantastical journey through his memories and daydreams we see that the church is always present as an ideal he cannot accept. It comes to be the symbol for all that Guido is rejecting in his half-hearted attempt to make a film. Yet it is the Church’s rigidness and hypocrisy that has driven Guido to this point as Fellini shows.

The film starts off with a very famous sequence where Guido is stuck in traffic. The very fact that he is stuck will reverberate through the film, his relationships with the women don’t change and he avoids telling people about the film he has no intentions of making. The car starts to overheat and it’s the first time Fellini uses smoke or steam to symbolize Guido’s clouded vision and confusion as life is going on about him – lovers caress each other and old people stare at him he is lifted from the car, he literally dies, exalting himself to the heavens. After he makes it through the clouds we see him float above a beach, a man is holding a rope that is tied to his foot then an evil looking rendition of St. Peter says “Down, definitely down.” Guido then falls and wakes from his dream. The dream speaks volumes, however, Guido feels damned and confused about his life and one of the doctors at the spa caps off this sequence emotionally by saying “What are you working on another movie without hope?”

The first introduction to the clergy we get in this film is in the spa. Guido is walking around aimlessly and we are introduced to I think one of the most interesting symbols this film has to offer and they are the nuns carrying umbrellas. Now one would think with the wimple that wouldn’t be necessary. I think Fellini is trying to just show that they’re human and they to fear what God can bring upon them, in this scene there’s also a smiling priest on a bench. My favorite is when Guido goes to meet with actresses on a set there are some clergymen who walk in the opposite direction highlighting the separation of film and religion which will come up later on.

8 1/2 (1963, Criterion)

In this film Guido examines his whole life and goes back to his childhood in one scene he meets with his parents in a mausoleum. From them, as would any child, he seeks answers and solace yet finds none. His parents feel they have not been honored as states the 4th commandment. Yet so mundane and disconnected are these apparitions that they cannot see Guido is in a crisis or that he needs help. They cannot communicate with him on any real level. His mother for the second time complains of the tears he made her shed and his father oddly remarks of how low the ceiling of his tomb is. An odd insistence of vanity from someone who is supposed to be in heaven, so estranged is Guido from his parents that they are but ghosts in this film, especially, his mother who we will see is strictly religious and Guido has found through his life that he cannot agree with the monoliths the Catholic Church has constructed.

At the dinner scenes we get questions posed to Guido by who I like to call the Annoying American Intellectual. These questions very closely mirror the cause of his isolation. He asks two questions of which religion are the focus the first being: “Is Italy a fundamentally Catholic country?” and a girl gives the immediate stock response “Yes,” then the man she’s with says “Shut up, and eat your ice cream,” it’s a funny and great illustration of the religious ambiguity that pulses throughout this film. Guido doesn’t answer and the question remains hanging in the air. He then later asks in his staggered Italian “Could you create something meaningful and important on demand, for example, on commission from the Pope?” The idea of creating on demand in the context of this story is ludicrous because Guido can’t even make a film about his own life much less one someone tells him to. His answer, however, is more telling “I’ll think about it,” He says and that’s what he does through the whole film is think about his life. While talking to the Cardinal he drifts off and thinks about were his rift with the Church began. But before that at the dinner the entertainer asked if they could read his mind and they saw but three words: Ana Nisi Masa.

We go back to Guido’s childhood; he is at an age where he still runs away from baths. The women of the house all chase him down and throw him into the vat of wine with the other children. Later, when the lights are out, and a girl, likely his cousin, gets up and tells him to be alert because “Tonight is the night when the eyes on the painting move. And where the eyes go that’s where the treasure is.” And they start their incantation ‘Asa Nisi Masa,’ this scene is important not only because of the way it reflects on ‘The Harem Scene’ but because of the only intangible thing Guido ever believes in, “if I say these words the picture will move its eyes and we’ll be rich” it seems to say. Maybe this set up lead to his disillusion with the Church but Fellini does most definitely illustrate a turning point there as well.

8 1/2 (1963, Criterion)

In the interview with the Cardinal Fellini lays out in black and white what Guido thinks about religion. Guido says he wanted to examine the traditional Catholic Italian upbringing because he felt it had created many ‘complexes’ in the people. The Cardinal states simply “I don’t believe that film is the right medium to explore such issues. You mix spiritual love and sex too easily.” The Cardinal never directly answers Guido’s concern about the Church and never asks him why he might feel that way. His interest is a mass one because he has achieved stature he is beyond the people. The only statement he makes close to addressing Guido’s film in this meeting, he will make one in the second, is that “Film has the power to educate and to corrupt.” Guido believes the same about the Church and it is reinforced when he sees a woman walking down the hill that looks just like Saraghina.

We again flashback this time Guido is a grade schooler and at recess all his friends yell out to him “Saraghina!” There is a moment of indecision outside the school a statue of the pope is framed in the foreground overshadowing Guido, he then runs towards his friends and Saraghina. Leaving the statue shows Guido turning on religion’s inflexibility and conservatism. When the boys arrive at the beach they give Saraghina their money and watch her Rumba. The party ends when the priests show up, everyone gets away but Guido. Here Fellini has his fun with the clergy speeding up the film while they chase Guido making it seem like an absurd version of the Keystone Kops. When he is punished Guido hears the same things he’s been hearing all his life and that’s why we hear them in duplicate and triplicate “How shameful,” “It’s a mortal sin” and so on. Then at confession he is further pushed by being asked “Didn’t you know Saraghina’s the devil?” which is all part of the wonderful psychology of Early-20th Century Catholicism telling kids the Devil himself walks among us. And that’s pretty much ends Guido’s connection to the Catholic Church. So much so that he went back to see Saraghina right away he saw nothing Satanic there only beauty. The logic works: The Church put a dunce cap on me and a “Shame” sign on my back; the prostitute danced for me, it’s obvious.

We then find Guido talking to his producer and the producer says: “If you want to make a film about the Catholic conscience in Italy you have to do it on a higher intellectual and philosophical level…these are just detached memories.” This statement not only puts down Guido as an artist but says that his struggle within the Church and against the Church to find an identity doesn’t matter and that the public would only be able to accept the film if it were more of an allegory and less personal. It’s a blow saying his search for meaning through film and relationships has not mattered.

8 1/2 (1963, Criterion)

Guido is called out of his sauna for another discussion with the Cardinal. On the way out Guido faces a parade of people who want help with one thing or another that they want to ask the Cardinal. Again, irony creeps in as everyone thinks Guido can help them but he doesn’t know what he’s doing. When he arrives the Cardinal has a towel hung in front of him putting him in silhouette and creating a bizarre confessional. He then gives Guido some advice which is in essence condemning him saying “There is no salvation outside the Church. Outside the church there is no salvation. Everything outside the City of God belongs to the City of the Devil.” Guido who has abandoned the Church has now been convicted.

“He can’t communicate,” says one of the women on the way up to the space tower. And therein lies his sentence. Guido has removed himself from the Church and in essence has been excommunicated. They are visiting a structure to something that will never be reached, the space tower, a cinematic Tower of Babel. Guido’s alienation at this point is so extreme it’s obvious he’ll find some way to get out of making this movie.

This film ends in a circus-like parade which upon first seeing it seemed very facile. Looking at it from this point-of-view, however, I think it works. This is not an evil 16th-Century Excommunication I’m talking about but one that happens every being that the person doesn’t care to go back and the Church isn’t crying. In this light the ending is rather happy Guido having quit the film has stripped himself of the falsehoods in his life and is just going with the flow as is shown by the parade.