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September 30, 2005

Love and Anger

Amore e Rabbia
Carlo Lizzani, Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jean-Luc Godard and Marco Bellochio - 1969
NoShame Region 0 DVD

Taken out of its historical context, I have to wonder about the value of Love and Anger. An omnibus film that tried to capture the spirit of what was happening in Europe in May of 1968, I suspect that the film may have seemed a bit dated by the time of release at the end of May 1969. The topicality and political stance as expressed make this film a cinematic time capsule of a brief moment in history when there was a genuine belief that art and politics would not only fuse, but change the world.

In the supplementary DVD, Carlo Lizzani explains his role as catalyst for this film. Originally to have several directors using the Gospels as the unifying thread, Love and Anger is a collection of shorts looking at aspects of the human condition. Because of the freedom given to the film makes, the sense that there is a theme tying the five films together is often ignored and finally lost.

I have not seen any of Carlo Lizzani's films previous to his entry here. An indictment of urban indifference, Lizzani cuts between shots of a rape observed but not reported or stopped, homeless men sleeping on the sidewalks of New York City, and an injured driver on a highway trying to get someone to take his injured wife to a hospital. The driver and his wife are reluctantly rescued by a man who turns out to be a criminal. While the film making technique is the most conventional, what ever Lizzani was trying to say is unclear.

Bertolucci's segment is not as interesting as an example of his film making as it is a record of The Living Theatre. Known for their controversial fusion of politics and theater, The Living Theatre during the Sixties stopped doing formally staged productions in favor of more interactive performance pieces that incorporated improvisation and audience participation. I had the opportunity to see them twice in Colorado when they were performing at college campuses in their return to the United States after living and performing in Europe. Especially as Living Theatre co-founder Julian Beck is best known for his last filmed performance, as the gaunt Reverend Kane in Poltergeist II, he can be seen at his intense best in Love and Anger. I will admit here that I can not be totally objective regarding The Living Theatre.

Pasolini filmed actor Ninetto Davoli walking down the street with documentary footage fading in and out. Off screen voices of God and the Devil provide commentary, and there is an Italian pop song on the soundtrack. I guess Pasolini was saying something about man's destiny but as a religious allegory, it comes off as cinematic doodling compared to The Gospel According to Matthew of Hawks and Sparrows.

Those who have read my previous postings know that I am something of a Marco Bellochio partisan. His short is of University of Rome students depicting the factionalism of the students and faculty, as well as of the differences within the left in what looks like an improvised work. In his interview in the supplement, Bellochio states that he felt he should have expressed a clearer point of view. As sincere as the politics of the students may have been, and I shared in some of these beliefs, they seem at best naive in retrospect. That students would claim to speak on behalf of workers was, looking back, extemely arrogant.

The politics in Godard's piece are also based on Marxist Utopianism. The framing narrative, a self-reflective bit of Godardian cinema with a couple discussing film in general is classic, with one of the characters declaring that true cinema is young Dreyer, or old Murnau. A second couple are suppose to be an Arab man and a Jewish woman, lovers on the verge of separation. Setting aside the politics, this is Godard again meditating on love. While I cringed at some of the "revolutionary" statements, the camera never faltered. Karl Marx may be discredited, but the image of a blonde French woman, stylishly dressed in red, smoking a Gauloise cigarette, never goes out of style.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 30, 2005 06:13 PM