Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Accattone (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1961)

There are few directorial debuts as impressive as Pasolini's Accattone. The master who would go on to direct Teorema and Salo (which I still have not seen), among other controversial classics, and who would be murdered under very suspicious circumstances right after the release of Salo, started his directorial career with this tale of Accattone, a Roman pimp who struggles to survive in post-war Italy. Accattone, at the beginning of the film, is pimping Maddalena (Silvana Corsini, who is beautiful and magnetic in a strange way, which is how I feel about many of Pasolini's heroines), who has a broken leg, yet is forced out onto the street anyway. She is picked up by a group of guys, then, in the film's most disturbing sequence (to me), is beaten up, raped, robbed, and left for dead in the middle of nowhere. Although she is able to identify her attackers to the police, they somehow get out of jail and she is put in jail for a year for perjury. This, rather than most of the overt poverty and squalor, is what upset me most about the movie, the asking-for-it and victim blaming mentality of this society. Accattone doesn't even care when he finds out Maddalena is in jail, despite being not only his main source of income, but also (probably) his girlfriend. Accattone falls in love with proper, naive Stella, and eventually gets her on the street, as well.

This is my favorite Italian neo-realist film I have seen so far, with the brutality of the Italian economy beating down these characters. If it is this impossible for people who do not have "legitimate" jobs to survive, one imagines what it must have been like for the other sectors of society. The jobs characters are shown having are either Stella's work cleaning bottles, for which she says she gets paid just enough not to starve, and Accattone's one day of work hauling six tons of steel into a truck. This is a society beaten down by war, being the loser in a gigantic war, and the citizens that inhabit this story barely survive. The most poignant and painful moment in the film comes when Accattone visits his young son, who doesn't recognize him, and steals a gold necklace from him, just to pawn for a little bit of cash.

Neo-realism doesn't get much more depressing than this, but the beauty of human life shines through in little pieces, such as flowers, stars, or Stella's pretty dress. The inevitably tragic ending underscores that these little things are what make life worth living, as everything comes crashing down in the end anyhow. Although Pasolini would probably scoff at my optimistic view, I like to think that in order to not let this beautiful film crush a part of my spirit.

A quick note on the DVD itself: it's terrible. The transfer is crappy, the white subtitles against a black & white print make them intelligible at times (and there are even missing subtitles at points), and, worst of all, there are no DVD chapters. Just a warning; however, the movie is well worth seeing, even through the terrible DVD. Criterion, issue this movie! A Pasolini box set is well past due.


RIYL: Roberto Rossellini, Bernardo Bertolucci (who was the AD on this movie)

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