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Archive for April 5th, 2011

Last night I tried signing up for the A-Z challenge but I think I am too late. I commend all of you who started on time and challenge yourself everyday to write a new post. I think it would be a little overwhelming for me to write a film review/reflection everyday. For some relfections I like to view the film again so I can have a fresh memory and point of view for the film in which I am writing about.

I am wondering, have any of you watched a foreign film before? If so, what was it and did you like it? If not, why? Do you think there is a difference between American films and Foreign films? What films in general are your personal favorites and why?

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This famous, highly acclaimed, Italian Neo-Realist film touches on the subjects of alienation, desperation, and post-war depression. Filmed in Rome in 1948, Vittorio de Sica reveals a world of war-torn, poverty stricken Italy. Viewers are introduced to Antonio Ricci, who like most men in Italy after World War II, is in a desperate search for work. Hired as a government worker who pastes film posters all around the war ravaged buildings of Rome, Antonio is told that he needs to have a bicycle if he wants the job. Anxiously in need of a bicycle, Antonio’s wife sells their bedroom sheets for money to purchase a bike for Antonio’s job. While first day on the job, Antonio’s bicycle is stolen from him by a young adolescent. In a frantic search through the streets of Rome, Antonio and his young son search for the thief and the bicycle. After no luck, Antonio is ready to give up all hope. In a last desperate effort, Antonio visits a fortune-teller (who he previously mocked when his wife went in search for answers when Antonio was unemployed) in order to find hopeful answers. As he walks outside from where the fortune-teller lives he sees the thief. As he embraces him and starts accusing the young man of stealing his bicycle, his son meanwhile fetches a policeman. The young man starts having a seizure and the officer tells Antonio that there is not enough evidence to convict the young man. Feeling dejected, Antonio leaves. In hopeless despair, Antonio sits on a curb where several bicycles are parked. Feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, and distressed Antonio steals a bicycle outside an apartment. A crowd of men see him take the bicycle. They catch Antonio and ridicule him mercilessly. Sadly Antonio’s young son witnesses all of this. As Antonio’s son becomes immensely upset at what is happening to his father, the owner of the bicycle sees the son’s pain and does not press any charges against Antonio.

Italian Neo-Realism is one of the most compelling and poignant genres of cinema. Relying on the real life situations faced by Italians after the Second World War, Neo-Realist directors conveyed the often experienced feelings of alienation, desperation, loneliness, and hopelessness. The desolate, austere, scarred buildings of Rome metaphorically symbolize the somber lives of its Roman inhabitants. It makes one wonder how a simple, widely accessible, fairly affordable mode of transportation like a bicycle can serve as a basis for survival.

Other Vittorio de Sica films that are worth checking out are: Shoeshine, Miracle in Milan, Umberto D, and Two Women

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I thought I would take up the A to Z challenge. I am a little behind but I will try to catch up. For the letter “A” I chose the 1987 French film, Au Revoir Les Enfants. Set in the rural countryside of Northern France during the Second World War, viewers are introduced to young school boys living and studying in a Catholic boarding school. The school year is about to begin and Julien, the main protagonist of the film, is still a young boy who is not yet ready to leave his mother’s side. As this intelligent sensitive boy settles in for another school year away from his mother, he takes solace in his secret habits of reading in bed with a flashlight while all of the other boys are asleep. One day a new student arrives and is appointed to be Julien’s roommate. Jean is a quite, self-conscious, intelligent boy. At first Julien expresses a strong animosity (that is rooted in jealousy because of Jean’s intelligence and piano talent) towards his new roommate. One night Julien awakens and discovers Jean praying in Hebrew. Although Julien does not say anything he searches Jean’s locker the next day and discovers that Jean’s real last name is not Bonnet but Kippelstein. The two boys eventually form a strong bond and become friends after a day of playing “capture the flag.” As Julien and Jean become close friends, Julien discovers that there are two more Jewish boys who are being sheltered and protected from the Nazis by the Catholic priests. This discovery is kept secret by Julien but sadly this secret will be disclosed to the dangerous powers of the Third Reich.

Based on true accounts, this film expresses imperative ideas and concepts about humanity. It provokes one to think about morals and responsibilities in conjunction with the relationships that we share with our brothers and sisters of the world. As a young boy, Julien confronted these life challenging responsibilities during a time of oppression, danger, and unrest. This thought-provoking and inspiring film is tremendously powerful. Malle’s use of close-ups (especially of Jean) are evocative and emotionally wrenching. Jean’s facial expressions reveals innocence, sensitivity, fear, and uncertainty. Jean’s face symbolizes the thousands of faces of Jewish children during the Second World War.

Another Louis Malle film that is worth checking out is: My Dinner with Andre

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