Grade: C+ | 1st Viewing
My one big issue with Sofia Coppola’s films has been an issue of class. She tends to favor ridiculously wealthy protagonists living in painfully wealthy isolation (as the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, she is probably drawing from real life). It is an obstacle that starts her characters out as difficult to empathize, which she usually overcomes by the end of the film. In Somewhere she was only mildly successful at presenting Stephen Dorff’s A-list actor as a sympathetic character and she does so through supporting actress Elle Fanning, who proves once again she is one of the brightest up and coming talents in film.
Despite the general uninterestingness of the main character, there are some fantastic visual motifs that Coppola achieves that mostly redeem the viewing experience. However, one scene that sort of disturbed me was when the main character receives a massage from another man. The bit that ensues is supposed to be played for laughs, but it came across a bit homophobic, which I am sure was unintentional.
I Vitelloni (1953)
Grade: A- | 1st Viewing
Somewhat inspired by my trip to Rome, but mostly inspired by my simple lack of having seen them, I have been catching up on the films of Federico Fellini over the last week and I decided to begin with the film that established him as a genius filmmaking force. I Vitelloni was both bitterly funny and tremendously sad and it may be the most accessible Fellini film I have seen. It follows five young men who linger around their Italian town essentially doing nothing but exist. Each character exists on an alternate moral plane with Moraldo apparently the only one with a conscious (yet surprisingly one of the most interesting).
Apparently this is one of the more autobiographical films of Fellini’s (all of his films have an autobiographical element) and he was said to represent Moraldo, the character who leaves. Knowing what Fellini’s career will blossom into shows the incredible stakes of a character being faced with the choice to either stay and remain an unemployed child and leave and realize one’s true potential. I am very glad that Fellini made that choice.
La Strada (1954)
Grade: A | 2nd Viewing
Re-watching this Fellini masterpiece is a treat for numerous reasons, but one in particular is the performance of Fellini’s real-life wife Giullietta Masina. Right from the start when she learns that her sister has died and has to suppress her excitement at the fact that she will now take her place and go on the road with circus performer Zampano. Her facial expressions exhibit such a myriad of emotions – childlike enthusiasm, sadness, and eagerness – that she immediately grabs the viewer’s attention and simultaneously becomes a sympathetic character much like Chaplin’s Little Tramp.
Balancing out Masina’s Gelsomina is Anthony Quinn’s Zampano, a brutish and abusive street-performing hack. Gelsomina’s complete devotion to Zampano could be viewed as allegorical like Christ’s devotion to a sinner as it is revealed at the end that both parties rely on one another. Like many of Fellini’s films, La Strada can be described as a tragicomedy and it is one of his best.