Tense, clever and with a murder at the centre of the story based on a morally repellent premise, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 Rope showcases two guys – who seem travesties of Nietzsche’s Übermensch – attempting a very misguided and ill-thought show of superior intellectual prowess.
In the end, what gets them caught is a stupid mistake, a sign of utter weakness: a hat forgotten inside a cloakroom. How ironic then that two supercilious individuals prove to be the perfect representation of their most derided weakness? Wanting to prove a point of a philosophy which is highly critical of the status quo and highlights the intelligence of those pointing the finger, they forget to check their own stupidity. They simply do not get that Nietzsche’s Superman is meant to represent a hypothetical counterpoint to our modern paradigm, and does not require any practical application. Continue reading
As the film negative of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Frank Capra’s 1946 It’s a Wonderful Life is a fantastical parable that goes straight to the core of the individualistic ethos and challenges everything that is dear to western societies and their ideas about self-realisation.
How does one reconcile the two contradictory aspects attached to this classic film, i.e. the long tradition of playing the movie as a Christmas staple with the fact that the story can be taken as a communist yarn? The whole tale of George Bailey and the obstacles he encounters in his pursuit of happiness could be summarised as the story of someone’s frustrated dreams. By the end, with a little help from an aural friend, he is convinced that his altruistic attitude has all been for the best. If such posture does not show America’s approval of the common good and the collective well-being, then I don’t know what does. Continue reading
Depicting the outset and transformation of our world, Orson Welles’ 1942 The Magnificent Ambersons, which deals with the all too relevant theme of progress and its effects on society, interweaves the personal with the political to tell a love story devoid of happy ending.
With all the jealousy, guilt trips, betrayal, scheming and a big and round Oedipus complex, Orson Welles’ second film is pure Greek tragedy: timeless and profound. And yet The Magnificent Ambersons is such a modern piece of storytelling. It deals with an issue that, although 200 years old, is still unsolved. How do we reconcile technological innovation and progress with the natural human need for slow and guided adaptation? The world changes and if we are to survive, we must change too, but peace of mind is essential for our sanity. Continue reading
An Italian neorealist masterpiece of immense stature and influence, Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 Bicycle Thieves, a film with an apparently simple story, has so much to say about political, psychological and social issues, the human condition and the complexity of life.
What would you do to feed your family? Anything? To what extent would you hold on to your morals when threatened by hunger and humiliation? Would you commit a crime in order to survive? It is a blessing mankind have invented the TV, the comfortable armchair and DVD discs… Thus we pass judgement and moralise on other people’s choices, sure that we do not ever have to face hardships like they do. How can a film like Bicycle Thieves [Ladri di Biciclette] convey such a multitude of meanings, each of them so simple and yet so profound? Continue reading
A pivotal, quintessential and seminal work of film noir cinema, Billy Wilder’s 1944 Double Indemnity, with the preeminent femme fatale at the centre of its story, parades a collection of immoral behaviour and provides a realistic and yet bleak opinion on the human condition.
Is the sexy and conniving Phyllis, with her beautiful legs and pretty anklet, simply the object of male desires and nothing else? Is she a cardboard-type character, who flirts, seduces and schemes like the devil, but has no dimension beyond this stereotypical representation of the blonde woman? Is she empowered or disenfranchised by such a representation? Interesting questions raised by this masterpiece of a film. Continue reading
A western with no action or a play with cowboys, William A. Wellman’s 1943 The Ox-Bow Incident tells the sad tale of three men facing the possibility of execution by the mob, where reason and compassion are overlooked in the name of impulsive, angry and swift ‘justice’.
It is not a coincidence that Henry Fonda’s character Gil Carter in The Ox-Bow Incident represents the audience’s alter ego and challenges the mob rule mentality, as he would do the same fourteen years later in Sidney Lumet’s classic 12 Angry Men. Fonda as an actor is perfect as the cool and rational human being who is capable of seeing things as they should be seen. Note here, not necessarily seeing thing as they really are, for that would imply that society, and especially American society, is just, and yet human beings are sometimes misguided. Continue reading