Saturday, December 12, 2015

Irrational Man

I make a big deal about the benefits of the experience of viewing a movie in a theater projected from film. I've always thought computers are stupid and boring. But now computers are used to shoot, record sound, light, edit, and project movies. I don't care how computers work. Although with film I love thinking about the clear base reacting photochemically with silver halide crystals getting exposed to light causing them to expand in varying densities and opacities captured on the dull gray emulsion of negative film stocks, and graphed by sensitometry, the toe and shoulder, latitude, and D-log E curve. All that stuff is interesting and fun.

As long as the Internet's been around I've enjoyed being able to visit the webpage of the Cannes Film Festival. Seeing what gets chosen for the Cannes Classics section always makes me wish I could be there. That section's details include who and how the films were restored. Many are now restored to dcp. Oh well, way of the future.

So, in defense of computer technology, a very well done meticulous 4K scan restoration of an original film negative can be breathtaking to behold projected in 4K.

Such was the case around Thanksgiving a few weeks ago when I was able to attend a screening of a new restoration that was completed March 2015 of Marco Bellocchio's debut feature from 1965 .

I pugni in tasca (1965, Marco Bellocchio) is not erotic, it's sexy--with the stunning black and white cinematography, the young siblings and all of their effortlessly chic clothing and hairstyles, and the Morricone orchestrations, for starters. SANDRO (Lou Castel) is the center of the movie. Sandro is spoiled, psychotic, mischievous, a sociopath, and along with his three brothers and sister, one of the children of a blind widow whom all but the oldest son leach off of financially. The oldest son AUGOSTO (Marino Masé) has a company man job and manages the allowances of his siblings. I pugni in tasca makes the bourgeoisie look like shit. Specifically Sandro with his lack of ambition or work ethic, of course this aside from a brief dallying with a business venture he considers that involves selling chinchillas.

Sandro is evil. He suffers from jealousy over Augosto's hot girlfriend, greed for more money--to the point where he murders his mother because Augosto mentions that it's expensive to keep her at home and feed her instead of sending her to a nursing home, causing Sandro to calculate that with her dead he could afford the chinchilla enterprise--lust for his sister GIULIA (Paola Pitagora), you know, pretty much every one of the seven deadly sins. He also murders his little brother by watching him go into an epileptic seizure and intentionally withholding his medicine.

But the scene at Augosto's girlfriend's birthday party that Sandro attends made me empathize with him. A girl flirts with him and it becomes clear that he has no social life but desires one. The nuanced portrayal here of youth along with its heightened emotions, hormones, sexual frustration, and desperate need to belong and gain acceptance by your peers is something I strongly identified with. With all of his mean taunting, conniving, fits of alarming manic laughter and general insanity, I still find in him the understandable causes that led to his misery and just how close anyone can be from giving up and just saying fuck it, fuck being rational, and breaking the sound barrier towards their own self-destructive oblivion, which is the motor that drives the types of characters found in my favorite domestic melodramas.

Another powerfully devastating aspect of the narrative occurs after the mother's funeral, when Sandro and Giulia destroy their very recently deceased mom's possessions for kicks. It's terrifying to be confronted with the reality that some of us humans are capable of being that callous and brutally disrespectful to our parents. And on top of this scene Augosto enters and pleads with them to stop trashing mom's bedroom, but as it turns out his motive only concerns the magazines they're tearing up, because he says they might be worth a lot of money someday. I pugni in tasca feels like it's aimed at satirically mocking each and every Catholic law from the ten commandments onward, and that the magazines are a monthly Catholic publication adds on just the right layers to what gives the movie it's own unique verisimilitude.

I feel sorry for Guilia and even LUCIA because they're not so bad and one wonders how different their lives would have turned out without Sandro. There is no beauty like the ghosts of the black and white 60s Italian movie starlet's performances, and Giulia is really something. A sequence that singles itself out is when Sandro provokes a child to go out on the terrace of one of the upstairs bedrooms that Sandro's and Giulia's rooms each both exit out to, where Giulia is sunbathing, Sandro asking the young boy to go out there and "tell me what you see." The gorgeously sensuous Giulia elegantly clad in a simple black robe reclines in a chair with her bare legs propped on the railing, with her eyes closed in the masterfully crafted depiction of imagined and unspoken projection of our own desires amid a majestically sprawling deep focus backdrop of giant snow covered mountains that nestles the family's palatial estate.

I pugni in tasca is very impressive for being the work of a first time director and all of the images and compositions are illuminated by a magic that is timeless. It's dramatic elements are pretty messed up though. But that's what I go for. I like seeing our ugly side.


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