hats of the damned: pasolini’s oedipus rex

I suppose I came to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film version of Oedipus Rex hoping that it would work with the meaning I had gotten out of the play, which I analyzed in some depth a few weeks ago. My conclusion was basically that Sophocles’ original play works best if we think of it as a parable about the sin we do unknowingly and the dangers of knowledge.

Pasolini’s film, however, doesn’t really focus on these aspects, or at least not in any way I can tell, and I’m kind of unsure what to make of it overall. The movie’s major innovation is that it begins and ends in 20th century Italy. In some early part of the 20th century (I can’t figure out what year exactly this would have been), Pasolini shows us a young military man who is jealous of the attention his wife pays to their infant son. Shortly, the setting changes to ancient Greece and tells us the traditional story of Oedipus in chronological order (as opposed to the play, where Oedipus is already king and we only learn of his true back story through exposition). Then, where the play would end with Oedipus blind and shamed, the movie magically transposes the same actor to 1970s Italy, making him a blind beggar.

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the cinematography of la dolce vita: that’s deep, man

I’ve got an essay coming on La Dolce Vita for the Brattle Theatre Film Notes blog — I’ll add a link when they put it up. The Brattle Theatre’s Film Notes blog just posted my essay about La Dolce Vita, but I also wanted to post these great screen grabs that show how damn satisfying the cinematography is and the incredible use of depth.

If you want the tl;dr version of this post, just look at these two compositions, which are the opening shots of their respective scenes:

Either one of these shots is near-perfect on its own, but they’re even better put side by side like this, because you can see the echoes: The top one is almost all white, the bottom almost all black; the top shot has a vanishing point somewhere on the right half; the bottom’s is at approximately the mirror point on the left.

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germany year zero: a heap of rubble can be fascinating when you know it used to be a city

I finally finished Germany Year Zero yesterday, a Netflix DVD I’ve had so long I literally refuse to check my queue to see how long I’ve been sitting on it.

It’s the third part of Roberto Rossellini’s “War Trilogy,” the second part of which, Paisan, bowled me over. Germany Year Zero, however, well, not so much. I’ve been having trouble figuring out why, since the two movies are mighty similar. For one, in the blatantly obvious category, there are the settings: Shot in Germany and Italy soon after the end of World War II, both movies show you the real bombed-out cityscapes, crumbling versions of Berlin, Florence, Rome, etc., that are halfway back to nature. This falling apart has a magical effect. When a building begins to resemble a pile of bricks more than a school, a factory, or whatever workaday government office it was before, it reminds us that whatever we took for granted there as a social institution would only last as long as society itself does.

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