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Re: Rossellini

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  • Dan Sallitt
    Sorry it took me so long to post this. ... The conflicts between the two series were unpleasant, but I wound up seeing 17 of the Rossellini programs, and I
    Message 1 of 16 , Jan 11, 2007
      Sorry it took me so long to post this.

      --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Zach Campbell" <rashomon82@...> wrote:

      > Perhaps one reason there wasn't a ton of Rossellini discussion here, as
      > prompted by the retrospective, is because NYC cinephiles (myself
      > excepted) seemed to congegrate around the Rivette series instead?

      The conflicts between the two series were unpleasant, but I wound up
      seeing 17 of the Rossellini programs, and I think Fred Veith saw a whole
      bunch of them as well.

      > DESIDERIO was possibly the biggest surprise for me. It was not even
      > finished by Rossellini. I don't know who did what, or even what
      > percentages of the final product (full disclosure: I haven't read
      > Tag Gallagher's book, but it's on my list).

      Gallagher says, if I recall correctly, that the second half of the film is
      Pagliero. I've heard other people say that Pagliero did most or all of
      it. I certainly got a strong Rossellini vibe from the first part of the
      film, and the vibe slipped away for me sometime after the heroine returned
      to her family home (but not immediately - the scenes of her arrival were
      striking).

      > Who knows what Marcello Pagliero has done elsewhere in cinema (anyone
      > seen his other work e.g. ROMA CITTA LIBERA?)

      I don't think I've seen his other films. But he worked in France after
      the war, and directed one of the key Tradition of Quality films, UN HOMME
      MARCHE DANS LA VILLE. He was supposedly a friend of Sartre, and he
      directed an adaptation of LA PUTAIN RESPECTUEUSE, and acted in LES JEUX
      SONT FAITS.

      > The "blandness" that marks
      > late Rossellini, maybe sits over some of it like a veil, is really a
      > certain reluctance to employ any strategy too heavily.

      > BLAISE PASCAL and AGOSTINO D'IPPONA are both good examples (PASCAL
      > struck me as aesthetically & intellectually stronger by several
      > magnitudes) of Rossellini's subsequent forays into a kind of a 'pure
      > space,'

      I wondered sometimes during the series whether the late films are even
      trying to do aesthetics. BLAISE PASCAL is a bit more aestheticized than
      some of the others, but I wasn't sure that that was a plus in context: in
      a film where performers deliver pure content under the flimsiest
      conversational pretexts, why obscure the information channel with stylized
      death scenes and such?

      > As with Yoel I'd love to see more Rossellini discussion, and would
      > particularly like to hear people's thoughts on this travelling
      > retrospective.

      A few random thoughts:

      - A whole lot of the great shots in Rossellini have to do with putting
      people in a geographical or social context via the image. It's even one
      of the things that makes the first half of DESIDERIO feel different from
      the second half; and the impulse carries through all the way to the
      educational films, where a lot of the interest comes from a visualization
      of, for instance, the kind of room that the Apostle Paul might have sat
      in. So it's intriguing to see films like THE HUMAN VOICE and realize that
      providing visual context is not part of Rossellini's mission statement,
      that he doesn't seem to consider it an essential part of his art.

      - The beautiful ending of STROMBOLI, upon which the entire film depends,
      is all about stylization, aestheticizing the effect: Renzo's prominent
      music is a crucial part of the mood, as are the otherworldly,
      non-naturalistic images of a momentary paradise with stars, vistas, and
      silence. Without this abstraction, Bergman's shift to a new form of
      self-awareness would probably not work. It's a form of melodrama, really.

      - Over and over again, big emotional effects are yanked away really
      quickly by Rossellini's editing. I wrote about this a long time ago in
      post #5510, with regard to THE FLOWERS OF ST. FRANCIS. PAISA was all
      about hit-and-run emotionality - every episode ends abruptly. So many
      famous Rossellini moments are pulled away too quickly: Magnani's famous
      death scene in OPEN CITY, the boy's in GERMANY YEAR ZERO, the miracle in
      VOYAGE TO ITALY. The impulse continues into the 60s - I'm thinking of
      Giovanni Ralli's moving self-sacrifice in VIVA L'ITALIA. Music is often
      but not always a part of the accelerated emotionality of these moments.

      - VIVA L'ITALIA is an amazing convergence of things that fit together
      well: the war film, big-budget landscapes full of extras, and the Pancinor
      zoom. If there was any doubt about Rossellini's middle-aged zoom
      addiction having real aesthetic value, the amazing action in this film
      dispels it: how else could one integrate so much action and landscape into
      a visual whole? The great location for that first battle in Sicily really
      helps out: by finding the right place to put his camera, Rossellini could
      look down and zoom around an entire valley, giving the space a weird,
      flattened, disorienting aspect, as if it could unfold infinitely.

      - I sometimes feel that Rossellini's overt attitude toward his subjects
      isn't the most complex or interesting thing about his films. He can be a
      little romantic and simple when he approves of something (Garibaldi, for
      instance, or the vibe of India's culture).

      - The Fascist-era films start really bad, to my mind, and get better. LA
      NAVE BIANCA strikes me as totally devoid of interest; MAN OF THE CROSS is
      hopeless, but starts to feature beautiful visuals and occasional strong
      effects; DESIDERIO shows the mature Rossellini, at least in sections.
      (MOMA hasn't yet screened A PILOT RETURNS - it's coming in the next few
      months.)

      - I'm sorry to see that almost every major commentator runs down GENERAL
      DELLA ROVERE as a hack job. I guess people don't like seeing fakey sets
      in Rossellini, when he's done so much with real locations. But I'm amazed
      that Rossellini actually makes this subject matter psychologically
      plausible: the idea of the actor transformed by his performance is handled
      with nuance.

      - Rossellini went out on a nice moment: the BEAUBOURG doc gave Rossellini
      his most expensive set since VIVA L'ITALIA, and he uses the zoom in much
      the same way, often tilting the camera down to turn a vertically organized
      environment into a terrain in relief.

      - Dan
    • MG4273@aol.com
      In a message dated 07-01-11 14:18:04 EST, you write: Who knows what Marcello Pagliero has done elsewhere in cinema (anyone
      Message 2 of 16 , Jan 12, 2007
        In a message dated 07-01-11 14:18:04 EST, you write:

        << > Who knows what Marcello Pagliero has done elsewhere in cinema (anyone
        > seen his other work e.g. ROMA CITTA LIBERA?) >>
      • Yoel Meranda
        I have seen both Viva L Italia and Il Messia since my last post and they are incredibly beautiful, the summum bonum points of the art called cinema. And
        Message 3 of 16 , Jan 12, 2007
          I have seen both "Viva L'Italia" and "Il Messia" since my last post
          and they are incredibly beautiful, the summum bonum points of the art
          called cinema.

          And both Zach Campbell's and Dan Sallitt's posts were so
          overwhelmingly interesting that I had nothing to reply to, I'm still
          registering them.

          Yoel
        • Fred Camper
          I have been meaning to post the quote below for a few months, since I first came across it in Tag Gallgher s book, The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini. For
          Message 4 of 16 , Jan 5, 2008
            I have been meaning to post the quote below for a few months, since I
            first came across it in Tag Gallgher's book, "The Adventures of Roberto
            Rossellini." For some strange reason I can't quite put my finger on,
            this seems like a good time to post this.

            It is Federico Fellini's description of how and why working on "Paisan"
            was the turning point in his own life, but I think what it actually
            does is "get" Rossellini, and what his films are all about, as well as
            anything else I've read. It's posted here with Tag's permission:

            “....seeing Rossellini at work, I discovered for the first time that it
            was possible to make films with the same intimate, direct, immediate
            rapport as a writer writes or a painter paints. I understood…there
            wasn’t anything particularly difficult about filming, or so mysterious
            or technical about all that equipment as to require special
            initiation—except knowing how to say with simplicity what one had
            seen.…I suddenly glimpsed a whole new world: that look full of love with
            which he enveloped things and which inspired each one of his shots.…The
            principal lesson I got from Rossellini was a lesson in humility. His
            humility in front of life…, his extraordinary trust in things, in
            people, in people’s faces, in reality. Looking at thing[s] with love,
            and with that communion that is established from one moment to another
            between a face and me, an object and me, I understood that the
            profession of director could fill my life, could be rich enough,
            passionate enough, exalting enough, to help me to find a sense in
            existence."

            The "humility," "trust," and "love" that Fellini notes are key in
            Rossellini's work. Rossellini has a peculiarly all-embracing,
            world-embracing vision; his films have an expansive, even "oceanic"
            quality. His starting point is to see with "humbly," "trust," and
            "love," but he takes it further, wishing, in the words of the "mad"
            protagonist of "Europe 51," which I don't remember exactly, to feel a
            love that embraces the whole world. The zooms in the films from 1967
            onwards tend to have a related effect, in that their continual movements
            outward and inward creates a "roving" perspective, expanding and
            focusing down and then expanding again, that seeks to always suggest
            that there exists more than one can show in any one image.

            Fred Camper
          • Richard Modiano
            ... ...The zooms in the films from 1967 onwards tend to have a related effect, in that their continual movements outward and inward creates a roving
            Message 5 of 16 , Jan 6, 2008
              --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Fred Camper <f@...> wrote:
              >
              "...The zooms in the films from 1967 onwards tend to have a related
              effect, in that their continual movements outward and inward creates
              a "roving" perspective, expanding and focusing down and then expanding
              again, that seeks to always suggest that there exists more than one can
              show in any one image."

              Did Rossellini start using zooms in SOCRATES? I ask because I thought
              the use of zooms in that film was a way showing the agora and how
              Socrates was part of a whole fabric of life, and that Rossellini
              continued using zooms because of their expansive and all inclusive
              properties like Socrates' discourses.

              Richard
            • Zach Campbell
              ... From what I ve read Rossellini first used his Pancinor lens on IL GENERALE DELLA ROVERE, and it was a fairly regular feature by the time he had turned to
              Message 6 of 16 , Jan 6, 2008
                Richard wrote:
                > Did Rossellini start using zooms in SOCRATES? I ask because I thought
                > the use of zooms in that film was a way showing the agora and how
                > Socrates was part of a whole fabric of life, and that Rossellini
                > continued using zooms because of their expansive and all inclusive
                > properties like Socrates' discourses.

                From what I've read Rossellini first used his Pancinor lens on IL
                GENERALE DELLA ROVERE, and it was a fairly regular feature by the time
                he had turned to the historical telefilms in the mid-60s. Regardless
                of the date they came into being, your and Fred's comments on its
                significance (as an image unable to be wholly seen, and as a way to
                suggest a 'fabric of life') seem pretty good parameters for what role
                the zooms play, conceptually, in Rossellini's cinema.

                --Zach
              • Fred Camper
                Yes, as Zach points out, there are zooms in Il Generale della Rovere. Curiously, though, they are, as I remember, rather un-Rossellni like, just a few used
                Message 7 of 16 , Jan 6, 2008
                  Yes, as Zach points out, there are zooms in "Il Generale della Rovere."
                  Curiously, though, they are, as I remember, rather un-Rossellni like,
                  just a few used at dramatic moments for dramatic emphasis. But all the
                  TV films from "The Rise of Louis XIV" on include the zoom as a key
                  element. Rossellini even had a custom zoom designed that allowed him to
                  control the zooming remotely. I have the impression he was doing so
                  without actually even looking through the viewfinder; if anyone knows
                  more, please post.

                  About the "expansive and all inclusive properties" of Socrates's
                  discourses, these late TV films tended to focus on turning points
                  historically, "The Age of the Medici" being a prime example, in which a
                  moment of change is made to include much more than where the change is
                  leading.

                  But then pivotal moments of change have been key in Rossellini's work at
                  least since the priest's final realization in the monastery episode of
                  "Paisan," or the black soldier's at the end of his episode in the same film.

                  Fred Camper
                • Maxime_Renaudin
                  Rossellini about India : Indian it s a choice. It s an attempt to be as honest as possible, but with a definite judgment. Or, at least, if there is no
                  Message 8 of 16 , Jan 6, 2008
                    Rossellini about India : "Indian it's a choice. It's an attempt to be
                    as honest as possible, but with a definite judgment. Or, at least, if
                    there is no judgment, with a definite love. In any case, no
                    indifference."

                    I believe that this statement, as well as Fellini's description, goes
                    far beyond Rossellini's cinema. A film-maker has to situate himself in
                    connection to what he films, as a moral stance on the world he wants to
                    embrace, and whatever the ideas he wants to convey are. He must stand
                    himself, free and alive, behind every single shot. This cannot be
                    achieved without a minimum of honesty.

                    --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Fred Camper <f@...> wrote:
                  • Maxime_Renaudin
                    ... Very true. A documentary made during the shooting of Rossellini s Beaubourg (and not ever released...) has been shown at Bolognia last summer. This is an
                    Message 9 of 16 , Jan 6, 2008
                      --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Fred Camper <f@...> wrote:
                      >I have the impression he was doing so
                      > without actually even looking through the viewfinder; if anyone knows
                      > more, please post.

                      Very true. A documentary made during the shooting of Rossellini's
                      Beaubourg (and not ever released...) has been shown at Bolognia last
                      summer. This is an very impressive document about Rossellini at work.
                      He was actually not looking through the viewfinder when shooting. With
                      two direction centres on the set, first the camera, and, aside, above,
                      Rossellini with the zooming remote control, trying to feel the right
                      pace for the movements.
                    • Richard Modiano
                      ... ...as Zach points out, there are zooms in Il Generale della Rovere. Curiously, though, they are, as I remember, rather un-Rossellni like, just a few
                      Message 10 of 16 , Jan 6, 2008
                        --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Fred Camper <f@...> wrote:

                        "...as Zach points out, there are zooms in "Il Generale della Rovere."
                        Curiously, though, they are, as I remember, rather un-Rossellni like,
                        just a few used at dramatic moments for dramatic emphasis. But all the
                        TV films from "The Rise of Louis XIV" on include the zoom as a key
                        element..."

                        I had forgotten about the zooms in both movies, but it's been many
                        years since I've seen them. The zooms in SOCRATES were more memorable
                        to me (although I'd seen it more recently than either "della Rovere"
                        or "Louis XIV"; 10 years ago as opposed to 20 for the others) because
                        they fit the subject so well.

                        The zooms in the movies after SOCRATES suggest to me that Rossellini
                        was making a "Socratic" exploration of those historical turning points
                        that you mention and imply a larger context than their historical
                        demarcations.

                        Richard
                      • peterhenne
                        Fred, This was nicely said, and I have exactly the same feeling about the zooms across a wide expanse of land toward a hillside, in that prologned battle scene
                        Message 11 of 16 , Jan 7, 2008
                          Fred,

                          This was nicely said, and I have exactly the same feeling about the
                          zooms across a wide expanse of land toward a hillside, in that
                          prologned battle scene from "Viva L'Italia," not a television film
                          and several years after "Rovere," filmed in 1960 and released in
                          1961. Here, too, there is a sense of RR's camera making tentative
                          choices of what to frame, as though disclosing a battle (real or
                          staged) cannot be exhaustively mapped by any camerawork, and the
                          director is investigating what could be, what might be most essential
                          to its outcome. There is a sense to me of the camera lighting upon
                          now one engagement, now another, with the purpose of searching for
                          the turning point in the battle while never presuming a final truth
                          can be delivered.

                          Peter Henne


                          --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, Fred Camper <f@...> wrote:
                          >
                          The zooms in the films from 1967
                          > onwards tend to have a related effect, in that their continual
                          movements
                          > outward and inward creates a "roving" perspective, expanding and
                          > focusing down and then expanding again, that seeks to always
                          suggest
                          > that there exists more than one can show in any one image.
                          >
                          > Fred Camper
                          >
                        • Maxime_Renaudin
                          I don t particularly remember such agora use of the zooming in Socrates. Some zooms onto Socrates face for sure, and numerous shot- reverse shot scenes. I
                          Message 12 of 16 , Jan 7, 2008
                            I don't particularly remember such "agora" use of the zooming in
                            Socrates. Some zooms onto Socrates' face for sure, and numerous shot-
                            reverse shot scenes. I rather remember, overall, a flat, sad and ugly
                            piece of film, without light, without breath. Where zoom was not such
                            a key term in the filmic language.

                            I actually feel dissatisfied with most of R. late pictures, with a
                            few exceptions. I've, notably, always made a special case for
                            Beaubourg. I've said here not that long ago, on the (sort of) same
                            subject:

                            "Beaubourg – I love that film. What strikes me the most in the whole
                            piece is the absence of shot / reverse shot, where such program could
                            be naturally expected. When Bergman walked trough the empty rooms of
                            the Naples museum, her lone and distraught gaze hit the eternal
                            stones, face against face. When Rossellini's camera wanders in
                            Beaubourg, with a continuous grace, the only echo is the confused
                            murmur of the visitors' voices. The film is flowed by this constant
                            and impossible dialogue, the one of a never understood otherness.
                            When, in a sublime scene, the camera escapes to the roof, just for a
                            moment, and contemplates the stone gods standing there, the far
                            brouhaha from the inside shouts the strangeness of our world."

                            Then, yes, something is happening here and I don't know what it is...
                            This indefinite feeling that the world is at its high point, close to
                            collapse, the very image in a burning state of eternity.

                            I acknowledge for sure that Rossellini invention was a sublime way to
                            achieve, freely, what he was looking for but... Zooming or not
                            zooming? That's no the point if there is actually nobody behind the
                            camera, except for a remote control device. None to impulse any
                            breath, any care, any love for what the world has to offer.

                            --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Richard Modiano" <tharpa2002@...>
                            > Did Rossellini start using zooms in SOCRATES? I ask because I
                            thought
                            > the use of zooms in that film was a way showing the agora and how
                            > Socrates was part of a whole fabric of life, and that Rossellini
                            > continued using zooms because of their expansive and all inclusive
                            > properties like Socrates' discourses.
                            >
                            > Richard
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