À bout de souffle

À bout de souffle (Jean-Luc Godard, 1959)

One day I've read somewhere that everything has been written, but not by me. Well, this review or essay will try to do what Godard did himself with À bout de souffle; everything has been done but not by him.

I have to admit that the first time I watched À bout de souffle I hated it to its deep core. I called JLG a dilettant and a boring pretentious wannabe filmmaker. You what? I think Godard intentionally made a film that could provoque this kind of reaction. He likes to provoke the spectator to make him think. Well it worked because many years after, the film stuck in my mind and different parts of it were recurent memries. After watching it again lately I had the urge to write down, or type down if you prefer, some thoughts about it.

Something new, no something different!
At the first viewing of À bout de souffle I must admit that I didn't knew very much who was Humphrey Bogart, Jean-Paul Belmondo or even Jean-Luc Godard himself. I am currently reading Antoine De Baecque's biography on Godard, that I deeply recommend by the way. The more I know about Godard the more I understand and appreciate his films.

The story of À bout de souffle is simple and very Hollywood film noir oriented: a young man Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) steals a car and on the run on a provincial route to Paris he kills a policeman. He goes to Paris and tries to get paid for some earlier car thief and most importantly he wants to find Patricia (Jean Seberg) an American girl he "likes". Michel plays a tough guy "à la Humphrey Bogart" and even his twitch is inspired by Bogart's character in The Big Sleep; Bogart constantly rubs his ear.

From the first scene and even the first words pronounced in À bout de souffle we actually know that Poiccard is doomed: Je suis con! Ah ce que je suis con! "I'm dumb! Ah! I'm so dumb!". Just before he steals a car. Then he goes on the run and kills a cop. In these first scenes all the genius and creativity of Godard is demonstrated: the jump-cut and the narrative. The editing of the scene on the road is done with such slight angles between the takes that the viewer is destabilized. It's unnatural and if you asked a technician of the time he would say the scene just can't work. Well, it works very well! Without mentionning it or giving any indications on it the scenes are cut like a comic book. They seem to be shot in continuity but the eye knows that it is not the case. Same thing happens when Michel shots the policeman we see the gun for a second, we hear the gunshot and after we see the policeman falling near a tree. But we don't actually see Michel shooting the gun and the bullet entering the body. Why? Well Godard took for granted that any spectactor has seen this scene a thousand times shot the same classic way. Well, at first it may seem that Godard didn't knew how to shot a like that but it's the complet opposite he exactly knew how anyone would have shot that scene so he does something completly different.

If Antoine Doinel was François Truffaut, is Michel Poiccard Jean-Luc Godard?
There have been three biographies written on Jean-Luc Godard, a man that always tried to be mysterious and provocate with his films and declarations. I don't think that at nearly 80 years old he will ever write an autobiography, because there are so much in his films about himself that it is our job to take all the elements and put them together to try to understand the man, his oeuvre, and life itself.

Michel Poiccard represents the teenage years of JLG, like his character he used to steal, lie and sleep with many girls. Godard was in his teenage years a soft delinquent from a wealthy family on his mother side; the Monods. Like Poiccard, he tried to be against the current by stealing in order to get a little for each day. The long scene in Patricia's apartment represents the juvenile preoccupations; getting up at 12PM, sleeping and fooling around without any real ambition in life. Like Quentin Tarantino does in his films, Jean-Luc Godard gives lines to his characters that explains his preoccupations and his ideas. The interview scene when Patricia asks: "Quelle est votre ambition dans la vie?" for the second time and the writer answers: "Être immortel et ensuite mourrir" we can interpret thoses lines as the lines of Godard himself: with this film I want to become immortal. In the way of being recognized forever in the memory of humanity instead of never die.

Deep Impact or Jean-Luc Godard is Cinema
As of today, 50 years after its release, À bout de souffle is recognized by initiates as a masterpiece. To others, its the symbol of the French New Wave, and for some it's just another boring french film.

It's appreciation is not the most important, it's its impact on filmmaking and its reflexion of Cinema itself. In À bout de souffle when can find many references from the many filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard admired, the three scenes where conversations are muted by noises, just like Alfred Hitchcock's films. The use of handheld cameras. The exteriors filmed on the Champs Élysés and the streets of Paris instead of the studios. The many improvised scenes like Roberto Rossellini's Neorealist films and we can go on for another 1000 words on the references. In France the impact was huge and after this approach or this way of filming inspired the generation of the second golden Age of Hollywood Cinema the 1970's: Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, Terrence Malick, etc.

À bout de souffle carried every ingredient that Godard praised in 1950's Hollywood Cinema and reinterpreted its recipe to serve it back. Sometimes an external point of view gives you the push you needed to push yourself to a level you wouldn't expect yourself to able to attain.

If you don't like Godard, you don't like Cinema! to cite someone I don't remember whom but I think it was so right.

This is an uncommon lenght for a review here but I think great films inspire dense reviews. À bout de souffle is a passionate film from a passionate filmmaker.


Meet Average Joe

Meet John Doe (Frank Capra, 1941)

Forged like many Frank Capra's films, Meet John Doe is an efficient feelgood entertainment. Beginning with the fraud of the invention of the character John Doe (Gary Cooper) itself, Ann (Barbara Stanwyck) is an opportunist daughter of a great thinker. The values carried by John Doe are American conformism at its best, sometimes the film cheers them up and other times it feels more like a critic of their overuse to manipulate the average Joe that John Doe represents.

Even with all its feelgood/conformism for the masses, Meet John Doe has something particularly interesting about: the film was made at a time where America stood by itself without entering into World War II. The approach adopted by Capra is a little cynicism coming from the mouth of John's bum friend. He actually gives the chance to the film to express some anti-conformism speech about society, wealth, materialism, love, etc.

But like any Capra picture the speech never felt into philosophical questions or intense debates on society. They are films that give you hope on humans by showing average men that accomplish little things that symbolizes greater ones. One last thing, is it me or Frank Capra likes to have endings on Chrsitmas day?

A review by Michaël Parent


Viaggio in Italia

Viaggio in Italia (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)

To many critics, Viaggio in Italia is the culmination of Roberto Rossellini's oeuvre. Well, far from being his worst film it's his most personal offering and maybe his best collaboration with Ingrid Bergman.

Katherine (Ingrid Bergman) and Alex (George Sanders) Joyce are a British couple on a trip to Italy to sell Alex's late uncle house. Beside being a business or pleasant trip they are on a journey into the core of their relationship. The film is a reflexion of the Rossellini-Bergman couple. It will be their final collaboration together and they split up at about that time.

Rossellini's camera becomes a microscope on the relationship of every couple that last long enough to feel that it is ending or stagnant. They are at a point where the failure of their marriage is only mentioned by cynical remarks to each other. They both know that their couple is drowning and they don't do anything to keep it from falling apart. They both feel jealous to each other and their incomfort when they are alone with on another reflects their failure and their lack of will.

Ingrid Bergman is once again the best actress of her time as Katherine Joyce. The husband, Alex, portrayed by George Sanders who I think is a perfect alter-ego to Roberto Rossellini for his physical appearance to his tired expression. Their delivery is so real that we feel like we are entering in their intimacy...

Rossellini's style evolved from his first Neorealist films to a more personal approach to cinema, he uses more editing and shorter takes. He seems to master better the narrative elements of his story and the impact of his dramatic elements.

In Viaggio in Italia we see the true or the real Roberto Rossellini, this is why this film is considered by many as his masterpiece.


Dracula (1931)

TSPDT Greatest Films #835 Dracula (Tod Browning, 1931)

From one of the best director of Horror films, Tod Browning, the greatest horror novel of all time comes alive with the best impersonnator of the greatest vampire!

The story, if you haven't seen it or read it already, tells how the count Dracula moves from his home castle in Transylvania to London to breed on fresh blood and young victims. He seems to have a sort of taste for young women. The interpretations of this book are wide and some are very personal or extravagant. My view on it is that the count Dracula is the tempation, evil, well the devil himself. He represents the beast that wants to fornicate with the young women and spoiled them. They seem to fall under his charm when they discover the charm of the flesh (love). The fangs that penetrate the necks of his victims are the symbolization of the phallic penetrating the victims.

The problem for some people with this theory is that Dracula has male victims too. Well, how choking evil was it to have homo-erotic symbols in the time Dracula was written or even in 1931? Dracula symbolizes the immorality of the joys of flesh and the dark side of every human being: if you get Dracula's bite everyone can get his urges to feed on "blood"!

Tod Browning's adaptation is well executed and maintains the core of Bram Stocker's story but compared to Nosferatu (Murnau 1922, Herzog 1978) Horror of Dracula (Terrence Fisher, 1958) and even Coppola's cheesy Bram Stocker's Dracula it handles the road only because of the prensence of Bela Lugosi. For most, he is Dracula and even him thought he was him for a while in his life... But comparion is good the determine which movie is better than the other. However, on every level, especially Karl Freund's photography, Tod Browning's Dracula is a must see!

A review by Michaël Parent


Requiem For a Dream

TSPDT Greatest Films #812 Requiem For A Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)
This film has been equally adored and equally hated by cinephiles since it came out. From the director of the celebrated The Wrestler and the esoteric The Fountain. He may not manage to show as much talent as a P.T. Anderson for example, but I personally think that he is one of the "young" American directors to follow in the years to come.


Jeanne d'Arc selon Dreyer

TSPDT Greatest Films #20 La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (Carl Th. Dreyer, 1928)

I often get questions like: What is the best film of all-time? or What are the true cinematic masterpieces? Well, most of the times we hear Citizen Kane, Vertigo, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Bicycle Thieves, La règle du jeu, Seven Samurai, etc. Most of the time the silent masterpieces are forgotten. Maybe because these films are older or harder to find, but of all the masterpieces of the seventh art La passion de Jeanne d'Arc is a one of a kind film! Brilliantly revisited by Robert Bresson in 1962, the 1928 version is still deeper and even more metaphysical.

The story depicted in La passion de Jeanne d'Arc is represented by the messianic figure of Maria Falconetti from the trial of Joan of Arc to her tragic death on the stake. Shot entirely in close-ups by Dreyer who wanted to catch only the dramatic expressions from the face of his heroine. Other elements are out of focus and the sets are there to be backgrounds of the "mise-en-scène". The mise-en-chot became famous but never really used after because of the uncommon way and also because i could annoy the spectator the get all this intensity all along the film. I read somewhere that the sets used to shot this film was very expensive and all the Antiques were bought at high costs. To be only used out of focus...

Presented like that this film could sound very simple and maybe a little boring, the case is that La passion de Jeanne d'Arc is not that simple. It proposes that Joan of Arc was really a messianic figure while being made of flesh and blood. Also that purity and goodness can be found in any human being but also that we all can be executioners and victims. It reflects the time the movie was made: France won the War but suffered from the German attacks. The French nation have been victimized and executioners with the sentence imposed on Germany after World War I.

Carl Th. Dreyer is one of the most religious directors and most of his films are based on faith and the many representations we can find of. His films are austere but also purified the more simplistic. He used to take his actors like puppets and only allow them to move the way he intended them to move. Long shots and few if almost no editing caracterize his films. Those long shots seem like he tried to catch the perfect moment that could help him to catch the light of God. The slow action depicted in all his films feels like we are bewitched by the story and the imperceptible camera moves.

Far from being an easy film, La passion de Jeanne d'Arc is unique and crucial.

A review by Michaël Parent



Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock, 1944)

In Hitchcock's oeuvre, Lifeboat is a deviation from his own style which was more like the "Eisenstein technique" of editing multiple points of view. He generally did not go with the long take (exception here and Rope especially).

With his many success Hitchcock decided to impose to himself a restraint in the telling of his stories: location. The set is only the Lifeboat from the first to the last moment of the film. Like he did in Rope and Rear Window . The set and story of Lifeboat gives the opportunity to recreate a little society where everyone has a role. The abilities of everyone are solicited and their strength are used to maintain the boat tight. The story reminds William Golding's novel The Lord of the Flies where child boys are lost on a desert island and must instore an order to stay alive.

There are few directors that could have handled the right "mise-en-shot" to make work a daring project like Lifeboat. The tension is kept with the directing but also because the narrative of Hitchcock. To let us know that the enemy on board has more than just political opinions. The german soldier they help has greater skills than any man or woman on the lifeboat. He is superior with his strength and skills but the castaway allies are superior in number...

Often underrated and mostly overlooked in all Hitchcock's exceptional oeuvre Lifeboat is worth than just a look, for his ans it's a must see!

A review by Michaël Parent


Stromboli, terra di dio

TSPDT Greatest Films #520 Stromboli (Roberto Rossellini, 1950)

The first collaboration of actress Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini. It is during the production of Stromboli that Bergman had an extra-marital affair with Rossellini and got pregnant. At the time she got blacklisted by Hollywood.

Karin a young woman accepts to marry Antonio to escape from a WWII prisoner's camp. After the wedding they move to Antonio's hometown: Stromboli. A small island North of Sicilia where there's always a current menace of the eruptions of the volcano. In this story the volcano symbolizes the power and the wrath of god. The reason Karin married Antonio was to escape from the prisoner's camp, well she wanted freedom, but the island where she is confined is even worse than the camp.

Rossellini, who influenced largely some of the best directors of the French New Wave distincted himself for his approach; he worked without a script with only some personnal notes. It may be why there are many long takes. The long takes are also used here to emphasize the loneliness of Karin in her house and on the island. In some case it gives a sense of realism to the story but also it lets enough space and time for the actors to improvise in many scenes. With Stromboli, Roberto Rossellini created moments of intensity that only Italian Neorealism could have achieved.

This other lesson about war demonstrated by Roberto Rossellini, shows how society (or Italy) should stop being so selfish and think to try to built a better world for its future. The idea of the story is very subtil and unlike Germany Year Zero of Rome Open City the broad lines are fuzier in Stromboli but no less interesting or clever.

A review by Michaël Parent


Ice Age Part III

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (Carlos Saldanha & Mike Thurmeier, 2009)

The third chapter of one of the most grossing animation franchise in Cinema History hit us back in 2009. While we are invaded by dozens and dozens of animated features each year some classics like Toy Story, Shrek, and Ice Age tend to monopolize the box office.

With the animations being more and more sophisticated and the releases of those films in 3D and/or IMAX theaters the studios spend good money on "sure shots" for the business. It's all for the great pleasure of its audience! Families, children of all ages (which I include myself at 26) are targeted in the success of animation feature.

Besides being moralistic like its precedent, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is more based on values like friendship, loyalty, respect, and how we manage to be ourselves in our world. Like I said before the line of the moral is very thin and it let the action and the story evolve and finish for the best.

After this third part it's maybe the moment to think about reverence or like the Toy Story franchise did: take a break and let some time pass on... Watching how ordinary and most of all repetitive the last Shrek was and how good pictures like Up! did in 2009 and Ratatouille in 2007, I think Ice Age could be on the ice for moment just to be back stronger and avoid being Shrek's underacheiver brother... But don't get me wrong, I actually liked Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs it's just that sometimes stopping in glory is better then retiring in shame.

A review by Michael Parent


28 Days Later (2002)

Quelques réflexions sur 28 Days Later de Danny Boyle

Il est très ironique de constater que c’est «l’insouciance » des jeunes activistes qui voulurent libérer des chimpanzés d’un laboratoire ou l’on expérimentait un virus mortel qui fut la cause de la contagion traitée dans 28dl. Il faut savoir qu’il existe un groupe d’environnementalistes qui souhaitent voir la race humaine disparaître pour laisser place à la faune et la flore. Ils prônent l’extinction de l’espèce qui menace le plus la planète Terre. Opinion discutable mais qui pourrait représenter la cause pourquoi ces jeunes étaient naïfs face à l’action politique qu’ils croyaient réaliser.
Toutefois, le cinéaste Danny Boyle ne fait qu’effleurer ce propos pour laisser plus de place à l’épidémie et à l’état apocalyptique qu’il représente en Angleterre. Les images frissonnantes d’un Londres abandonné par l’humanité marquent la mémoire du spectateur.  Son discours se situe beaucoup plus au niveau de l’effet qu’une épidémie causée par une erreur humaine plutôt qu’au niveau d’une intention d’une nation vengeresse ou d’une erreur militaire telle celle démontrée dans le Dr. Strangelove (1963) de Stanley Kubrick ou l’ironie prône ainsi que les inquiétudes de son auteur face à un éventuel conflit atomique au cours de la Guerre froide. L’influence de la vision de Kubrick est ressentie tout au long de la filmographie de Danny Boyle. Tout spécialement, pour 28dl c’est le ton ironique de la cause de l’apocalypse qu’il emprunte au Dr. Strangelove de Kubrick.

28dl, fut catégorisé comme étant un film de zombie nouveau genre. Cependant, le film de zombie « classique » a auparavant été surtout utilisé comme véhicule de dénonciation sociale. Si l’on observe, par exemple, le Night of the Living Dead (1968) de George A. Romero on peut y découvrir une dénonciation du racisme omniprésent en sol américain. Dans le cas de son Dawn of the Dead, Romero se permet une allégorie de la société de consommation de masse avec ces hordes de zombies qui pullulent vers le centre commercial ou se sont réfugiés les derniers survivants de l’apocalypse. Il démontre aussi comment une petite communauté qui malgré ses différends internes doit s’unir pour survivre et recréer un semblant d’humanité (thème Fordien exploité en huis clos).
Dans le cas du film de Boyle, le message se fait sur un niveau plus important que sur la simple critique sociale. C’est une forme de cri du cœur, très peu subtil, de la préoccupation de son auteur face à l’éventualité d’une erreur qui pourrait causer des dommages irréparables à l’humanité. Il se veut aussi une certaine dénonciation de la science qui, avide de gains, se rallie plus souvent aux belligérants malveillants qui recherchent toujours à dépasser les limites de l’armement au dépit des valeurs plus nobles que la science s’était octroyée, c’est-à-dire : le bien de l’humanité. Il en découle aussi de la banalisation et du manque marqué de précautions vis-à-vis de ces menaces mortelles.

Le monde post-apocalyptique de Boyle est inquiétant certes, mais il réfère aussi à la reconstruction de l’humanité ainsi que de sa survie. La communauté de Mark, Selena et Jim doit s’unir pour survire aux infectés. Ceux-ci, ayant des comportements agressifs de rage intense. Leur ultime défi est d’échapper à la colère qui risque de miner leur fragile harmonie. La représentation des zombies de Boyle est très intéressante : ils représentent des enragés ou plutôt des Hommes qui n’auraient pas évolué depuis leur passage du singe à homme : une référence aux singes qui sont libérés et qui répandront le virus. Ce virus représente la perte de l’humanité, des institutions et de l’évolution de l’Homme. Les infectés perdent tout sang froid et leur instinct destructeur écrase leur civilité. La réflexion que pose Boyle dans la seconde partie de 28dl est : est-il pire de détruire l’humanité d’un seul coup ou bien que la terre soit peuplée d’humains sans civilisation. De plus, il est primordial de se souvenir que la rage, la haine et la destruction sont des inventions de l’homme on peut faire ici un parallèle avec la création humaine du virus.

Du point de vue de la forme, 28dl fut un chantier d’expérimentations pour Boyle qui a tourné avec le numérique. Tout en donnant un fini grossier avec un grain important à l’écran ce type de support donne un aspect documentaire au film. Ce fini un peu brouillon ajoute une teinte de vérité et précarité aux scènes de survie, comme si on avait tourné en vitesse de vraies scènes un peu comme l’esprit du Cannibal Holocaust de Ruggero Deodato. Certaines scènes de l’isolation de Jim sont complètement muettes et laissent tout l’espace au dépaysement du spectateur qui ressent les mêmes émotions que le protagoniste à l’écran, on assiste à une maximisation de la catharsis dans un monde de fiction qui s’apparente à une réalité probante. Les rues de Londres, l’une des plus grandes villes européennes, désertes et surtout sans un bruit démontrent l’horreur pure sans artifice de la fin du monde tel qu’on le connaît.


The Thief of Bagdad

TSPDT Greatest Films #335 The Thief of Bagdad (Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, Tim Whelan, 1940)

This Technicolor entertainment of 1940 has everything to satisify viewers of any generation. I think Disney understood that when they made Aladdin. The plot is pretty much the same and the action is set in the same times. The main differences are that made in 1940 with real actors it took lots of creativity to adapt this story.

Well, even if it was not the first time it was made for the big screen the version Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger and Tim Whelan executed is by many opinion the best adaptation. Raoul Walsh's silent version of 1924 with Douglas Fairbanks is now on my wanted list.

The Thief of Bagdad is well made and its "mise-en-scène" is phenomenal! Sadly I don't own the Criterion release of that picture. Just to have the chance to see its new transfer to appreciate the colors and the textures of this wonderful film I hope to put my hands on Criterion's release. A must see!

A review by Michaël Parent


Is it worth a 25th Hour?

25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)

This film split critics on two sides, some loved it others hated it. I didn't knew what to think about it for a while aftger seing it. At first , I thought I would have liked it, but to me the message of the film was too dumb and too simple to me. I'm not a big fan of Spike Lee's films either. I hated Do The Right Thing, found Malcolm X ok, and liked The Inside Man.

Monty Brogan is going to jail for possession of Cannabis. This is his last day as a free man. He wants to see his friends, his father, his girlfriend whom he suspects she might have given the cue to the cops... This film is a post september-11 reflection of the American society. All its fears and all its hate is condensed in that film. Everything evolves around the way the life of Americans changed on that day.

At some points the film wants to be more than what it is. With the many pompous references: A Clockwork Orange is omni-present here and not in a good way, and all the skills Lee doesn't handle to make this film a tight story that could have been better in master's hands.

A sequence that annoyed me the most in 25th Hour was the dream at the end of the film. I don't like to spoil so I won't write what is it about but I think the film was too long for what it has to present and tell.

A review by Michaël Parent


The right one is in!

Lat den ratte komma in aka Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

With great expectations I bought Let The Right One In. Shortly after that I watch it with a little stress of liking it or hating it: when there's a big hype about a film I often avoid to see it, example I haven't seen Avatar yet nor Titanic... So the hype around LTROI was probably positive in the way that I love foreign films but I hate the term foreign film that determinates everything that is not American and/or English spoken. For now on, I will write about International films and you will never see the term foreign film here again.

Set somewhere in the 1980's, Oskar, a boy of about 12-13 years old is lonely and reads a lot. He gets picked on by other guys in his class. Their picking is very rude and Oskar feels miserable about it. One night he meets Eli who just moved next door to him. She is a girl of his age and she is very mysterious. They will become friends and Eli will help Oskar to get his pride back and have confidence. The fact that everyone knows: Eli is a vampire is not the turning point of the film, her life is not that simple and both will help the other to get on with their lives. Like many Horror films, Let The Right One In is about the teenage years of life and how our body and our minds changes. This is a film that is a lot more than just a vampire story.

Like I've read a lot when it came out I think every Twilight enthousiast should see Let the Right One In before watching another chapter of this "vampire" saga...

A review by Michaël Parent


May the original Mummy rise!

The Mummy (Karl Freund, 1932)

One of the best grossing movie genre is the Horror that always been popular and still is today. With more movies made and with many budgets and different levels of quality, Horror has been one of the most inventive genre in Cinema. Especially when you look at the films of the 1930's: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Unknown, Freaks, Wolfman, etc. Many, if not all, of these titles diserved remake(s). The Mummy is one of them, even if the story is completely different and that some dramatic scenes of the 1932 release may seem more hilarious than very frightening there are many aspect that are worth the look.

First of all, Boris Karloff's performance is haunting and just the way he walks gives the chills. There's a lot of sexual elements in The Mummy and in 1932 the Hays Code was not adopted. You just have to see Zita Johann's wardrobe at the final scene with Imhotep! Even today this dress could be regarded as very sexy. Egyptology always passionate the Occident but in the 1930's it was in vogue so the producers took this opportunity to insert some reconstitutions of the Ancient Egypt. Two years later Claudette Colbert will be doing Cleopatra in the film of the same name by the master of grand entertainment; Cecil B. DeMille.

As some people that knows me very well I'm not the biggest fan of Horror movies but I can't resist a classic Horror film like The Mummy. Be aware that this is not a film to get scare or to see gore but it's a classic and I define it as a little gem of American film History.

A review by Michaël Parent


Anno 1948 in Germania

TSPDT Greatest Films #251 Germania anno zero aka Germany Year Zero (Roberto Rossellini, 1948)

With his Roma, citta aperta, Roberto Rossellini invented the Italian Neorealism. It was not a film genre but more like a current or a different approach to filmmaking. Rossellini wanted to tell "real" stories of "real" people with the few or if possible no dramatic or manipulative elements.

With Germania anno zero Rossellini clearly annonces his intentions to bring hope and faith in the lives of all those who suffered during and after World War II. With objective camera and objective storytelling he wanted to tell the story of Edmund the more realistic possible. His camera is constantly moving, the lighting is crude or very dark, it gives a documentary-like aspect to the feature. This is Italian Neorealism at its best.

A young boy, Edmund twelve years old lives with his sick father, his older sister waiting for her husband to come back from the front, and his older brother hiding from the police because he didn't surrender when Allies troops entered Berlin.
They manage to survive with the minimum.

Those desperate times meant desperate measures and to feed his family Edmund stole and sold records of speechs by the Führer for his ex-teacher.
This teacher has an important influence on Edmund. When the boy turns back again to his teacher for more help because his father is very ill he misundertood what the teacher told him and made an irrevesible mistake. He murders his father with poison. On some level it could be a very compassionate gesture to be able to dispense his father from pain and his family from this weight they had to carry.

It could only be a child that could think without remorse like that. It shows how the people of Germany (Edmund) were intoxicated by the Führer(the teacher)'s speechs and they could have murdered millions of jews in cold blood. The worst in that case was that the murders past on the people of Germany but were conducted by the Nazi regime that hypnotized and manipulated the population.

This landmark in Italian film is remarquable and I truly consider it as a masterpiece. Having only seen Roberto Rossellini's Roma, citta aperta I'm looking forward to see his Stromboli, Journey to Italy, and The Rise to Power of Louis XIV, etc.

A review by Michaël Parent
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...