A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Grim Reaper (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1962)

The Grim Reaper suffers from some inevitable comparisons. Because it's a film in which police investigating a crime are given accounts by people with varying points of view, it's often compared to Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950), even though Bertolucci claims he hadn't seen that film before making his. Because it's based on a story by Pier Paolo Pasolini, who also worked on the screenplay with Bertolucci and Sergio Citti, and producer Tonino Cervi said he wanted the film made in the style of a Pasolini movie, Bertolucci, who had worked on Pasolini's first hit, Accatone (1961), was judged and found wanting accordingly. And finally, the film doesn't measure up to Bertolucci's later work, such as The Conformist (1970) and Last Tango in Paris (1972). But considering that Bertolucci was barely into his 20s when he made The Grim Reaper, it's an impressive film, with a deft use of unknown actors and atmospheric Roman locations. The episodes in which the suspects are interrogated and we see the events they testify about in flashback are linked by a sudden thundershower in each episode and by sequences in which the victim, a prostitute, gets ready to go out to her fatal assignation. It's not compelling filmmaking, but a significant start to a major career.