|Written on the Wind
|L' ULTIMA DONNA
|TIEMPO DE REVANCHA
|Les TROIS COURONNES DU MATELOT
|Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
All the roads lead to Hitchcock. Anyone who really loves cinema knows that. As if he were the good king of the stories of yesteryear, Hitchcock is still today the only one who can mediate between contradictions and bring together at the same table the fiercest enemies: the sensualists, who love film surfaces, glitter and spectacle, and the critics, who equally condemn entertainment and aestheticism and adhere to some form of modern asceticism. Within Hitchcock's belly rest Spielberg and Straub. Notorious reflects upon guilt, sacrifice and redemption. But for these speculations to really take place in the film, the important thing is not to know the Bible but to know how to film a kiss like the one between Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in the hotel in Rio. That’s where the spell takes place, between the lips of the stars. Such generosity!: Hitchcock draws us as viewers in a daydream that his characters also live. Love and cinema: the great perceptive drugs.
Written on the Wind
Money has such an important place in Hollywood that we couldn’t posibly cover the number of films dedicated to establishing its moral and existential limits. Basically: the evil in money is its speculative use and waste. The good in money is its productive use and charity. Sirk was clear on a central point: for virtue to be born out of vice, little less than divine intervention is needed; for vice to be born out of virtue, only a little time is needed. The film for the first case is Magnificent Obsession. The film for the second is Written on the Wind. We need only look at its beginning. Kyle, the wealthy heir to the Hadley family, returns home completely drunk. The shots show not only the path he travels but also the wealth that fell on him as fate and as a curse: the car he drives, the oil wells, the building of the family company that exploits them, the very name of the town (Hadley, of course). He goes through all this like someone going through hell. Shortly after his arrival, we hear the shot that kills him. Wealth doesn’t forgive.
In spite of the widespread superstition, basic plots and one-dimentional characters don't need to be a prison: there is more freedom in King Hu's prefabricated scripts (the bad guys do bad things, the good guys fight them, the good guys win) than in the psychoanalytic tricks or vociferous existential torments of more than one champion of authorism. Dragon Inn is the most complete sample of King Hu's talent. Neither narrative tricks, nor psychology, nor topics of social interest: only cinema, sustaining itself.
A poet of the land, like Dovzhenko and the Taviani brothers, Leonardo Favio reached with Juan Moreira the summit of popular cinema.
If tomorrow I die and God grants me the opportunity to give something to this valley of tears, I would say: I want people to know Revolver. I want bakeries be called Milo Ruiz in honor of Fabio Testi. Let the boys name their dogs Oliver. Let there be memes with Morricone slapping John Williams. The reason is simple: there aren't many movies like Revolver: so good, so thrilling, such a fucking great example of the greatness of this carnival trick.
L' ULTIMA DONNA
The repertoire of subjets in The Last Woman is surprisingly current: family, patriarchy, feminism and, in the foreground, the social roles of women and men. What is not current, fortunately, is the way they are treated. With tragic grandeur and with an extraordinary Gerard Depardieu, Ferreri films the end of man (and of the History that has him at its center) with a furious tenderness that no one else has ever known.
TIEMPO DE REVANCHA
Adolfo Aristarain always filmed from the loser’s point of view. Tiempo de revancha tells the story of a loser (Pedro Bengoa, masterfully played by Federico Luppi) who wins a lawsuit against the company of exploiters for which he used to work. He wins a good amount of money and also his pride: that of not having bowed his head before the powerful, that of having told them in their own home: "I am not for sale" and that of having made a gesture of brutal contempt, one of the great classist catharsis in the history of cinema. A story of David and Goliath in which David is a dynamiter and in which the giant doesn’t fall but for once doesn’t step on whoever confronts him. A masterpiece.
Les TROIS COURONNES DU MATELOT
Raúl Ruiz loved vicissitudes, and he loved them so much that he systematically refused to organise them in a straight line, like a succession of obstacles placed between a will and its objective. He preferred simultaneity, bifurcation, Byzantine accumulation, baroque labyrinths, dream associations and serial fantasies. At the opening of Three Crowns of the Sailor, the narrator say that he will tell his story in a simple way, and then indulges in dozens of twists, games of mirrors and paradoxes. No director was ever as imaginative and poetic as Ruiz.
In the Netherlands, Verhoeven filmed against Social Democratic puritanism. In the US, against the commonplaces of Hollywood (security, war, soft eroticism, entertainment, stories of overcoming). In France, against the refinement of its bourgeois cinema. It's as if he always said: I make movies that at the same time love everything they're made of and don't take it very seriously. Verhoeven always underlines the ridiculous elements in the world he portrays. But he never despises it. He never tries to redeem it outside of what that world really is. That is why his fundamental film is Showgirls. Verhoeven films cheap entertainment as if cinema could be nothing but. He doesn't laugh at Las Vegas without laughing at Hollywood and at himself. There is love in the musical numbers, in the bad performances and in the impossible scenes. An aesthetically radical film.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Once upon a time… in Hollywood is built like a tapestry of unworthy materials dignified not by Culture but by those who integrate them into their lives. Radio announcers, western novels, posters, billboards, cheap movies, magazines, spaghetti westerns, commercial music, Italian imitations of James Bond, television series that flood the city with their advertising on public benches, walls and buses. It’s an unstoppable flow, which Tarantino films with a grace and rigour that respectable people will never know, and which crosses the narrative levels without ever stopping. As if this were not enough, the crane shot with which the film ends condenses a thousand things. The commitment to an old-style cinema, with celluloid, sweat and machinery. The continuity between the house of the author Polanski and the house of the actor for series and Italian westerns, obviously an ars poetica. The anguish that takes over Tarantino's film little by little. What comes together in the embrace between Rick and Sharon? What happened and what will never happen. Film conjures time. Who said it was an art of the present?
It all comes down to Astronomy. The history of cinema includes meteor-films and white dwarf-films, both on that comfortable, polished surface we call canon and in the less-than-respectable areas that only cinephilles roam. It is becoming increasingly clear: there is a cinema – subject for studies, ultra-institutionalised, and there is a cinema – life. The first one is organised, it deals with current bibliography and incessantly reproduces what Gombrowicz called "the litany of illustrious names". The second one resembles life: an unspeakable and miraculous mess. For some reason, which cannot be reduced to the excellence of the chosen films (who wouldn't sing praises to Vertigo?), the polls reiterate the same titles over and over again. It's strange, because, with their proverbial mix of whimsy and enthusiasm, cinephilles enjoy discovering lost movies and moving those that can no longer be missed around. When they find a meteor-film, they know that something is going to explode, be it now or later, because even though it may have been made decades ago, it preserves the creative and final energy of the meteorite, and they also know that its strength is special, because the route it already travelled translates into speed and impact power. The white dwarf-film already gave everything it had to give. Its influence can be enormous. But the light it offers is a deferred light, whose source no longer exists, and in which the weakening, the deceleration, can be perceived. We can’t be sure, of course, that a white dwarf will not become a meteor, or a meteor, a white dwarf. History is full of astronomical permutations. But today it is like so, and it is pointless to remember that yesterday was different, that tomorrow it will be too, and that death awaits us all. Because of all this, perhaps it is better to think about the polls from the base and not from the top, perhaps it is down there that the movements that matter take place. Raging Bull, 2001: White Dwarfs. Meteorites: Revolver, The Last Woman.