Bitty Ruminations #16

Posted on May 19, 2010


MAY 19– Among the treasures that spilled from a Bernardo Bertolucci boxed set that’s currently cannibalising my leisure time (or should that be work time?) is La Sua Giornata Di Gloria (His Day of Glory), a partner-documentary to Partner. From the opening minutes, a few words I feel compelled… nay, impelled to share:

“The spectator must actively participate in the show with his vigilant attention and critical spirit. As Barbaro said, ‘The suggestiveness of cinema as performance doesn’t exist. It depends only on the ingenuity of the person who contemplates the film.‘ In the early days, a train coming towards the cinema stalls made the audience run out. There’s even a story about a Carabiniere who actually fired his pistol at the bad guy on the screen. These days, no one shoots at the screen any more. Cinema is no longer an irresistible illusion.”

“Rather, it’s the screen that shoots at the audience. Indeed, it bombards them, trying to influence them. It’s a concentric attempt to recapture the lost irresistibility of cinema with 3-D films, subliminal messages, divas and myths, but, above all, with slogans like, ‘Go to the movies to relax! To forget! To stop thinking!’ No… I tell you to go to the cinema to resist! Oppose the film, or any performance you see. Question it while it’s underway. Agree with it, disagree with it, but don’t remain passive! Don’t let yourself be invaded by the images!”

PS: The Barbaro referred to, above, is this (relatively) unheralded gent. And the portion in bold is the only thing that interests me as a critic (or, you know, discussion-generator). I have little truck with what the director wants to accomplish, or whether a scene was intentionally designed so or if it was the result of a happy accident. The only thing that matters is how the film on screen speaks to me, namely “the person who contemplates the film.”

PPS: And speaking of Bertolucci, here’s one of my favourite scenes from Last Tango in Paris, where Brando is the very embodiment of how Pauline Kael described him in her review, “a drunk with a literary turn of mind.” (This may also be the scene that inspired Kamal Hassan’s chillingly profane outburst against the grandmother he so loved, and who has now abandoned him in her death. The film, of course, is the marvellous Virumaandi, which — unlike Anbe Sivam, which has diminished alarmingly with each viewing (and to paraphrase the Energizer Bunny) — just keeps growing and growing and growing.