Tag Archives: Bologna

Ritrovato Recap 1: Abbas Kiarostami’s ‘Ghazieh Shekle Aval Shekle Dovom’ or ‘First Case, Second Case’.

The best instance I´ve ever seen of film as philosophy. The set up is  simple: whilst a teacher draws an ear on a board, a student in the back row drown him out drumming up noise with a pencil on a desk. Each time the teacher turns around to face the students the noise stops only to returns as soon as he turns his back. Exasperated, he asks who did it. Faced with silence, he tells the seven students in the two back rows that unless someone turns in the culprit, they will all be suspended for a week.

The fact that it is an ear the teacher is drawing is, as Ehsan Khoshbakht writes in the catalogue for Ritrovato 2019, significant in that it introduces the theme of listening/surveillance.

In the first case students express solidarity and no one denounces anyone. The film then goes on to ask each of the parents of the children whether they think their child did it; if so, whether they should turn themselves in; and if not, whether they should denounce their colleague or express solidarity. As each of the parents answers, the plot thickens, class allegiances are teased out, the moral dilemmas become denser, more complex. In this first section some politicians, artists, writers –even the leaders of Jewish and Christian communities also weigh in.

In the second case, one of the accused names the culprit and is allowed to return to the classroom. And in this section, along with the parents, educational experts, ministers, and celebrities from the first section, Kiorastami also includes the opinions of members of the new regime. Was it right for the student to break solidarity with his colleagues and inform? What is the price of having done so for him and for his colleagues. What is the price of solidarity and what is the price of informing? Is the teacher to blame for having set up a situation in which no one can possibly benefit?

The film was made in the mids of the Iranian revolution for the Institution for the Educational and Intellectual Development of Youth and Children.  Filming started whilst the Shah was in power and ended after  the Ayatollah Khomeini declared an Islamic Republic. The film was banned immediately after its premiere only to resurface almost thirty years later online and at the Toronto Film Festival in 2009. Upon seeing it there Mehrzad Bakhtiar wrote that:

In addition to still-popular celebrities like Iranian actor Ezzatolah Entezami and filmmaker Masoud Kimiai, First Case, Second Case includes a cast of important political figures: Ebrahim Yazdi, for example, was an active member of the National Resistance Movement as well as the Freedom Movement of Iran. He became Foreign Minister after the revolution, only to step down in less than a year in opposition to the hostage crisis. Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, then director of the Islamic Republic’s Radio and Television Network, would replace Yazdi, only to be executed in less than a year for allegedly plotting to assassinate Khomeini. Other figures include Kamal Kharazi, who would become Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Khatami administration, and Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali, the notorious Revolutionary Court magistrate who sentenced a great number of former government officials to execution.

…The obvious, retrospective irony, of course — the element that makes this film even more compelling now than when it was made — is the sight of so many important figures supporting a revolution that would come to embody a totalitarian government, itself completely intolerant of the very same rebellion and resistance they promote in their films.´

Azin Feizabadi has written of how the film is a time capsule of the 1979 Iranian Revoultion and remains a pivotal political work:

‘The pedagogic problem which the film proposes had a strong symbolic value for the political circumstances of that time; namely a filtering program by a fraction of the Islamic Republic under the name of ‘Cultural Revolution’.

This filtering program consisted of purge, crackdown and arrests of members from other political groups in the chaos that followed the 1979 revolution. Their methods – similar to the disastrous pedagogic method of the teacher in the classroom scene of the film – were snitching, forced treason, forced confessions and forced whistle-blowing of targeted members from opposition parties against their own friends, family and comrades. By complying, they would receive lower prison sentences and reduced punishment. By refusing they were guaranteed life long prison sentences or the death penalty’

I did not know any of these experts or celebrities whilst watching the film. Or even much about the Iranian Revolution. And whilst such a knowledge certainly adds a layer of complexity to the film, it is not necessary to understanding the full moral force of the ideas being explored. A 46 minute film that gets richer, more complex, as it unfurls. A film rich in ideas whose viewing feels morally enriching. A great film.

José Arroyo

 

Richard Layne and Nicky Smith on Under Capricorn, Destry Rides Again and the first few days of Cinema Ritrovato 2019

Richard Layne, Nicky Smith and myself in a post-screening discussion of a 1968 print of Under Capricorn screened at Bologna´s Cinema Ritrovato that ranges from the impact of the colour to  the length of the shots, Bergman’s performance, the appeal of Michael Wilding, wether Joseph Cotten´s hair was a wig, the film´s connection to Hitchcock´s earlier Rebecca, and whether the character played by Margaret Leighton is Mrs. Danvers in Australia. The discussion then moves on to some commentary on Destry Rides Again, Jean Gabin, and how there´s no hope for cinema if even a Ritrovato audience is piggy about using their phones during screenings. It was recorded during lunch so there´s quite a bit of background noise which in my view adds ambience without detracting from the conversation itself.

DSC02916.jpg

José Arroyo

La verité (Henri-Georges Clouzot, France, 1960)

MV5BNDQyMmZkYjUtOTFhNC00NDdkLTg0N2MtZDMyNzc0MWE0NWZmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTE4OTU2NTc@._V1_UY268_CR9,0,182,268_AL_

A gorgeous restoration of a Clouzot classic. Bardot has killed the man she loves, who also happens to be her sister’s fiancée. But what she’s really on trial for is for being a woman, for being young and for being unconventional. It’s 1960 France that the film really judges and finds wanting. Clouzot fills the frame with dozens of  pretentious hypocrites or figures of authority, condemning them all.  Bardot, always at the centre, is a beacon of beauty, truth, and liberty. She accepts who she is, chooses to act in freedom, and takes responsibility for her action. Bardot’s Dominique Marceau is French Cinema’s greatest and most romantic existentialist heroine. Bardot in La verité is what people claim falsely for Brando in The Wild One.  She and the film are both great.

José Arroyo

It Always Rains on Sunday (Robert Hamer, UK 1947)

it alwasy rains

The thrills and quiet desperation of working class life in Bethnal Green, vividly rendered in this exciting noir. The film doesn’t just tell us a story but evokes the ‘structures of feeling’ of a whole way of life, one that unlike in Ken Loach’s films, recognises poor people’s pleasures: the thrill of illicit sex, of betting and crime, the joy of what can be done with a simple mouth organ; the little treacheries, the lies and power ploys that even nice people engage with to get what they want. The film works with the greys of family life, we get to know what it is to settle but also to love; the reasons why a stepmother might not be very nice to her stepdaughters, why otherwise good people give in to temptations, how a Jewish family with high moral standards resists and accommodates criminality and both suffer and gain from it as a result. Through it all, the tedium of this rainy Sunday in Bethnal Green is lashed through with crime and passion, ending with a marvellous set-piece at the rail-yard. Googie Withers is the personification of surly discontentment as a good-time girl who’s settled for a quiet life with an older man only to have all her old passions explode when her old flame escapes from prison and tries to find shelter in her busy home. She throws enough shade to shroud all of Bethnal Green in a fog of dashed hopes, sexual expectation and seething discontent.Brilliant.

 

José Arroyo

Nicky Smith and José Arroyo in Bologna

A crude home movie; made by someone who doesn’t really know how to make them — me; but which nonetheless evokes how wonderful it was to see classic films at the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna during the Giornate del Cinema Ritrovato.

José Arroyo

Watching Rocco And His Brothers in the Piazza Maggiore at the Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna.

There were all kinds of magical experiences watching films in the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna during the Giornate del Cinema Ritrovato but the one of seeing Rocco e i suoi  fratelli/ Rocco and His Brothers in this particular context – the Piazza Maggiore, with thousands of spectators, a huge screen, a special stand purpose-built for the projector so it can be sufficiently high to have enough ‘throw’ to fill that particularly huge screen – to be able to in this context ‘experience’ this particular story, the story of Italy, the story of leaving home, leaving mi paise, which stands not just for one’s village but for one’s land, one’s country as both an imaginary but also in a phenomenological sense, in which the film itself posited a kind of saudade, that kind of felt love for a people and place one longs for still but which is far away and maybe never was but that is imagined so vividly, and which one’s love for that imaginary is still felt so strongly that it is rendered alive, and the sadness for its loss so vividly juxtaposed with the fullness of the feeling for what once was; a country you feel, experience, touch, sense, and which you carry the memory of like a half-sensed reverie, missing and longing, yearning and loss, all mixed up with a desire for an entwined affect. This story of mid-century Italy is now also the story of so many in a 21st century world; and the problems of the film resonate not only with their specificity but with their universality. It was truly great; and not only the work in itself but also the experience of watching it in this particular context. Doubly great.

José Arroyo