Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Year-End Reflections of 2017

Well, this has been a really fucked-up year for anyone still alive in a country that calls itself the United States of America yet it feels like it’s another country at this point. 2017 is insane in a lot of ways as we saw a shift from this idea of feeling free, secure, and content despite the fact that there were still problems to now feeling none of that and dealing with a shitload of problems. Being an American in 2017 is now filled with a sense of unease and uncertainty. You can’t really trust anyone. You’re filled with news that probably have no sense of truth. Everything feels off and chaotic. Plus, there is that sense that we’re all getting dumber as everything that happened in Mike Judge’s 2006 satire comedy Idiocracy is coming true and I think the ultimate question to all of this is…. How the fuck all of this bullshit happened?

For all of the shit that’s been happening, cinema has been a good escape in some ways though it also reflect of the things that are happening and what they predicted. In the year of 2017, I saw a total of 435 films in 280 first-timers and 155 re-watches. Definitely an improvement over the past 2 years, especially the year before which was horrible due to a lot that was happening as I’m glad that this year personally as far as film-watching is concerned was much better. Even as I was able to relax a bit more and take my time while I saw a total of 15 films in the theaters which was also a major improvement in comparison to the previous year. The highlights of course had been my Blind Spot choices for 2017 as here is how I rank them:

1. Hoop Dreams

2. A Brighter Summer Day

3. Rear Window

4. Akira

5. The Big Red One

6. Swing Time

7. World on a Wire

8. Rio Bravo

9. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life (The Decameron) – (The Canterbury Tales) – (Arabian Nights)

10. The Lady Eve

11. Ninotchka

12. How Green Was My Valley

2017 was a showcase of so many great movies that I had never seen before as this list represents fifty of the best films that I have seen this year, pre-2010 as the list of films of the 2010s will be part of a future list. So here are the 50 best first-timers that I saw this year:

1. Rocco and His Brothers

2. Until the End of the World

3. Onibaba

4. Stroszek

5. Super Fly

6. Le Cercle Rouge

7. The Young Girls of Rochefort

8. Godzilla

9. Picnic at Hanging Rock

10. Stalag 17

11. Zabriskie Point

12. Dirty Harry

13. Son of Rambow

14. Lady Snowblood & Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance

15. Paper Moon

16. Blithe Spirit

17. Nanook of the North

18. Hobson's Choice

19. Samurai Rebellion

20. Hour of the Wolf

21. God's Country

22. And the Ship Sails On

23. The Flowers of St. Francis

24. Wings

25. Dream of Light

26. Umberto D.

27. Identification of a Woman

28. Fantastic Planet

29. The Holy Girl

30. Ballad of a Soldier

31. La Ronde

32. Harakiri

33. You Can Count on Me

34. Une chambre en ville

35. The Small Back Room

36. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

37. The Big Boss

38. Fist of Fury

39. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

40. The Confession

41. Island of Lost Souls

42. The King of Comedy

43. Rope

44. Jigoku

45. After Hours

46. The Burmese Harp

47. Chimes at Midnight

48. The Battle of Chile film series (Pt. 1) – (Pt. 2) – (Pt. 3) & Chile, the Obstinate Memory

49. Tokyo Twilight

50. Master of the House

There wasn’t much in 2017 that really stood out other than New Japan Pro Wrestling and any kind of association with the Bullet Club who are the hottest thing in professional wrestling for anyone that is paying attention to the world outside of WWE. The only other thing in 2017 that was good is Atlanta United as it was a joy to watch them on TV as I’m just glad that Atlanta has a soccer team and a team that is fun to watch. So in closing, let’s just hope we can survive the New Year and let’s make sure we embrace a new philosophy that we will need more than ever. The philosophy of…. DELETION!

© thevoid99 2017

Films That I Saw: December 2017

With the year about to come to a close and many of us I’m sure are either relieved that we survived a very tumultuous year but I’m also sure that we’re not content knowing that we’re about to go through what could be another bad year. It’s been a whirlwind though I hope everyone had a happy holiday and hope we don’t get any dumber as it’s a shame that we Americans have to live with an idiotic asshole who wants more global warming for the upcoming cold. He doesn’t understand the concept of climate change and never will as my parents watch CNN as they hear about this as it’s just another facepalm moment.

In the month of December, I saw a total of 34 films in18 first-timers and 16 re-watches as it’s a good way to end the year. Among the highlights this month is my final Blind Spot assignment in the Trilogy of Life series by Pier Paolo Pasolini. So here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for December 2017:

1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

2. Logan

3. Get Out

4. The Last Jedi

5. Lady Bird

6. Silence

7. The Lego Batman Movie

8. John Wick Chapter 2

9. Knock Knock

10. The Night Before

Monthly Mini-Reviews

Fifty Shades Darker

I FUCKING HATE THIS MOVIE. If you really want to know why? Just read this rant and if anyone is offended by some of the things I’ve said. Frankly, I don’t give a fuck. If you can’t handle it, fuck you.

R.E.M.-Automatic Unearthed

In celebration of the release of the landmark album Automatic for the People by R.E.M. comes this 25-minute documentary short about the making of the album as members of the band, minus drummer Bill Berry, plus producer Scott Litt and the legendary John Paul Jones discuss the album. It shows not just the different locations that the band went to in making the album but also what inspired the songs on the album as it is a must for all fans of R.E.M.

Mike and the Mad Dog

From 30 for 30 is a documentary short about two of New York City’s most outspoken sports critics who were the voice of city for nearly 20 years as they talked about everything that was good and bad in the city. Mike Francesca and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo were men that did revolutionize sports radio as they were passionate into their love of sports but also were vicious whenever things went wrong. It’s a fun piece of the series that showcased two men that gave New York City something to relate to as fans are still waiting for a full reunion with the two though the one-off they did in 2016 was a joy for fans.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. Blow-Up

2. Paths of Glory

3. Toy Story

4. Licence to Kill

5. Wreck-It Ralph

6. GoldenEye

7. The Deer Hunter


9. Citizen Ruth

10. We Own the Night

Well, that is all for December. Next month in starting the New Year, I hope to catch up on 2017 releases like The Shape of Water, Phantom Thread, Call Me By Your Name, I, Tonya, and several others as well as other films. I’m not sure what I will watch for my Blind Spot as I’m also hoping to start work on the Adam McKay piece for the Auteurs series. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2017

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Blog News: Blog Plans for 2018

2017 is about to come to an end as it has been a whirlwind of a year due to so much happening around the world. Surprisingly, I've managed to do a lot more than I expected to in the previous year as I also managed to slow things down despite a few setbacks. Having managed to take my time and not overwhelm myself, I want to keep going at this pace as well as slow things down more. It's very likely that I won't go for that elusive goal of watching 500 films in a year as that is just something I'm sure will never happen. Though I did do a tribute to David Bowie in celebration of his 70th birthday, I have made the decision to keep my music blog on board but it's going to remain dormant until I have the urge to write something in relation to Nine Inch Nails whenever a new full-length album and tour will emerge.

Film is pretty much my bread and butter as it's been the one thing I've focused on as there is so much I want to do. Yet, with the repeal of Net Neutrality that will block access to certain websites and probably torrents. It's going to be difficult to get access to certain films as I'm definitely relying on my DVR list on what will be on TV as well as my local library which has been a great resource to get recent films. With the 2017 Blind Spot Series fulfilled and the 2018 Blind Spot Series set to go as I have access to more than half of my choices. This is what I'm hoping to do for 2018:

Watch more films directed by women as they've made a great contribution in 2017.

Explore films outside of America from places such as South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Catch up on recent films including films by previous Auteurs subjects.

Provide a balance of films of the past with films of recent years.

Do more short films by great filmmakers.

That is pretty much it as far as goals are concerned as I'm going for something more realistic instead of trying to attempt other things as I never got around to finish the second season Twin Peaks due to circumstances beyond my control which is why I didn't watch the new series. I also didn't get a chance to finish The Story of Film series as I had a review of some of the episodes partially done but that is gone now. I might do the latter but I'm still not sure if I'll get around to it. I will do another Cannes marathon in May as well as continue to contribute to the Thursday Movie Picks series as it's definitely given me a break from reviews.

After a year-long break that I felt was needed, the Auteurs series is finally going to return. In the past, I would often devote myself to one filmmaker a month or in an entire season. This time, I decided to scale back to something more reasonable to 8 filmmakers instead of 12. It's a number that I can do as it can give me a break to do other things as I'm seriously thinking about reviving the Favorite Film essay series as there's a list of films that I want to write about. Here are the 8 filmmakers I will be discussing for 2018 including two giants of cinema:

January/February-Adam McKay

March-Taika Waititi

April/May-Lucrecia Martel

June-John Cameron Mitchell

July-James Gray

August/September-Denis Villeneuve

September/October-Orson Welles

November/December-David Lean

That is all for what is ahead as I'm not sure what will happen in the new year as I just hope we survive it.

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017

2017 Blind Spot Series: Arabian Nights

Based on the famed Arabian anthology One Thousand and One Nights, Il fiore delle mille e una notte (Arabian Nights) is a collection of erotic stories set during the time of ancient Arabia where its main story involves a young man who falls for a new slave girl he has purchased. Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini and screenplay by Pasolini and Dacia Maraini, the film is the third and final film of a trilogy of films relating to ancient life as it explore the many erotic adventures and misadventures of various characters told through the different stories of its anthology. Starring Franco Merli, Ninetto Davoli, Ines Pellegrini, Franco Citti, and Tessa Bouche. Il fiore delle mille e una notte is a lavish and intoxicating film from Pier Paolo Pasolini.

The film follows the life of a young man who buys a slave girl whom he falls for only to lose her by a series of circumstances that would lead to various stories set in an ancient Arabia. It’s a film that play into many ideas of love told through the idea of eroticism as it include the story of a man who falls for a mysterious woman on his wedding day as well a man meeting a woman trapped by a demon and a few others. The film’s screenplay by Pier Paolo Pasolini and Dacia Maraini is more structured in comparison to the previous films of Pasolini’s trilogy relating to ancient life as its main narrative revolves around this young man named Nur Ed Din (Franco Merli) who buys this young slave in Zumurrud (Ines Pellegrini) where it is love at first sight as the two hope to be together without any problems.

Unfortunately, richer men are upset that someone as poor as Nur was able to get her as they would take advantage of him and claim Zumurrud for their own reasons leading a series of misadventures when Nur tries to find her. Zumurrud meanwhile, would be handed from master to master until she would encounter something that would give her the freedom to be someone else through something completely accidental. Both would be told stories as their story is the basis for the first act including one about Zumurrud’s own story of how she became a slave. The rest of the film focuses on the stories that both Nur and Zumurrud would be told to as it relates to the ups and downs of love and eroticism around their surroundings.

Pasolini’s direction is definitely stylish for the way he portrays life in ancient Arabia as well as the world of sex in those times. Shot on various locations at the Eritrea deserts near Sudan and Ethiopia as well as locations in Yemen and Nepal, the film does play into this world that is quite unique from the opening scene where Zumurrud is being auctioned off but she refuses to be with older masters because of their shortcomings as she chooses to be with Nur because he’s young. Pasolini’s usage of the wide shots doesn’t just capture the beauty of the many different locations which is definitely rich in the landscape but also would create some carefully precise compositions as it relates to the world that some of the characters encounter whether it’s Zumurrud at some mysterious city where she’s mistaken for someone or characters at some mystical places that play into some kind of premonition. While there are some intimate compositions in the usage of close-ups and medium shots in the film, including some extreme close-ups of penises, for some of the film’s sexual content. The direction also has Pasolini provide some comical elements into the stories such as the man who falls in love with another woman on his wedding day where he is unaware of what will happen to him.

The direction also play into elements of fantasy and surrealism as it relates to much of the film’s second and third act into the stories that Nur and Zumurrud are learning about. One revolves around the idea of temptation and the fallacies of love in this man who was to marry his cousin who would later give him advice in how to win this mysterious woman as he would tell this story to another man. This man would take him to meet two other men who would endure some form adventures that are sexual but also play into elements of mystery and lore as Pasolini wants to create something that is extravagant with elements of symbolism. Notably the story of a man who would fulfill a prophecy unaware of his true role as it would return to the main narrative to showcase the challenges that Nur has to face including temptation and circumstances beyond his control. Still, it play into Pasolini's idea of eroticism as something that is more about emotions and what the heart wants rather than just an excuse to show skin. Overall, Pasolini creates an outrageous yet rapturous film about the world of eroticism in ancient Arabia.

Cinematographer Giuseppe Ruzzolini does amazing work with the film’s colorful and lush cinematography in capturing the beauty of the various locations including some of the oasis in the deserts and some of the places the characters go to. Editors Enzo Ocone, Nino Baragli, and Tatiana Casini Morigi do excellent work with the editing as it play into some of the film’s offbeat rhythms as well as its transitions and approach to humor. Art director Dante Ferretti does incredible work with many of the film’s interiors from an underground bunker to tents and other places the characters go to that show the richness of the times.

Costume designer Danil Donati does fantastic work with the costumes as it is very colorful in its look and feel as it show how lavish they were in those times as well as how the poor would look. The sound work of Luciano Welisch is superb for capturing the atmosphere of some of the different locations in the film as well as some of the chaos that loomed involving large crowds. The film’s music by Ennio Morricone is incredible for its diverse music score as it pay tribute to the world of Arabian music with its flutes and percussions while using some organs to play into the moments of suspense and drama as it’s one of the film’s major highlights.

The film’s terrific cast include some notable small roles from Alberto Argentino and Salvatore Sapienza as a couple of princes who would embark into a series of adventures, Abadit Ghidei as a mysterious princess, Margaret Clementi as Aziz’s mother, and Franco Citti in a superb performance as a mysterious demon one of the princes meets. Luigiana Rocchi is wonderful as this mysterious young woman that Aziz falls for due to her ravishing beauty while Tessa Bouche is fantastic as Aziz’s cousin Aziza whom he was supposed to marry as she would give him things to say to win over this mysterious woman. Ninetto Davoli is excellent as Aziz as this man who falls for a mysterious beauty on his wedding day who copes with his loyalty towards Aziza as well as what he wants. Ines Pelligrini is brilliant as Zumurrud as this slave girl who lets Nur become her master as she would eventually go into an adventure and later be part of a mysterious circumstance due to some weird misunderstanding. Finally, there’s Franco Merli in an amazing performance as Nur Ed Din as a young man who purchases a slave girl whom he falls for as he would endure a strange journey into trying to find her that would lead him into being told these odd yet compelling stories about love and eroticism.

Il fiore delle mille e una notte is a spectacular film from Pier Paolo Pasolini. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous locations, hypnotic camera work, dazzling art direction, and Ennio Morricone’s enchanting score. It’s a film that captures a period in time with a sense of extravagance and exaggeration to explore the ideas of eroticism. In the end, Il fiore delle mille e una notte is a phenomenal film from Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Pier Paolo Pasolini Films: (Accattone) – (La Rabbia) – (Mamma Roma) – (Location Hunting in Palestine) – (The Gospel According to Matthew) – (Love Meetings) – (The Hawks and the Sparrows) – (Oedipus Rex) – (Teorema) – (Porcile) – (Medea (1969 film)) – (Appunti per un film sull’India) – (Notes Towards an African Orestes) – The Decameron - The Canterbury Tales - Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

2017 Blind Spot Series: The Canterbury Tales

Based on the medieval poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, I racconti di Canterbury (The Canterbury Tales) is a film that collects eight different tales that play into the lives of different characters during the time of medieval England. Written for the screen and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, the film is the second film in a trilogy of films relating to the idea of life where Pasolini plays the role of Chaucer who would tell different stories that took place in those times. Starring Hugh Griffith, Laura Betti, Ninetto Davoli, Franco Citti, Josephine Chaplin, Jenny Runacre, and John Francis Lane. I racconti di Canterbury is a wild and outrageously-bawdy film from Pier Paolo Pasolini.

The film follows Geoffrey Chaucer who arrives to a land medieval England to write a story as he observes his surroundings leading to him writing eight different stories in a sensationalized manner. Among them involves a nobleman marrying a young woman unaware of her sexual history, a vendor who meets a mysterious summoner over things he saw, a young man making trouble as he finds work, a middle-aged woman trying to find a new husband, a carpenter’s apprentice trying to seduce his master’s wife, two students trying to swindle a grain miller, thieves finding some mysterious treasure while trying to find Death, and a greedy friar gets what he deserves. All of these tales play into some kind of immorality that is looming as well as an exploration of sex in those times where it was free and all about joy rather than people profiting from it.

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s screenplay does take an episodic approach to the narrative where it is straightforward as it begins and ends with Chaucer writing these stories as he would pop up every now and then to come up with what he wants to tell. Notably as Pasolini would provide his own take into Chaucer’s story and provide a context that is quite graphic as it play into some of the things that happened. Even as it showcases some complexities in one of the stories where a vendor would report two things he saw and how one of these crimes is handled as it shows that not much has changed back in medieval times to what is happening in the modern world.

Pasolini’s direction is definitely stylish in the way he portrays medieval England as it is shot on various locations in England including much of its countryside areas. While there are a lot of usage of wide shots for the various locations as well as some gorgeous compositions that play into the scope of the interiors that the characters go into. Much of Pasolini’s compositions rely on intimate moments such as the scenes of Chaucer in his study trying to write something or scenes involving characters in sexual situations. There are close-ups and medium shots for much of the film yet Pasolini is trying to understand what is happening in those times and how he interprets it as it play into those wanting some kind of satisfaction that had been constrained in those times but also moments that are confrontational in a comic manner. Most notably the story about this young man named Perkin (Ninetto Davoli) who is this Charles Chaplin-like figure with a bowler hat and a cane that just causes mischief in his search to find a job and be with women. It’s among these moments that are offbeat as well as the story about the carpenter’s apprentice who would find a way to fool his boss claiming that a Biblical flood is coming. There are also moments that are intense as it relates to a final story with this lavish sequence involving this idea of Hell and it is told with a sense of farcical humor and stark imagery.

The sexual content is definitely racy as it features nudity from both men and women as well as scenes of homosexuality early in the film that play into this idea of sodomy which were quite extreme at the time. Notably in the story about the vendor and summoner who would witness these events that do play into events that are happening in the modern world. The stories do have this exploration of immorality that still had an innocence before the emergence of a more extreme immorality in the form of capitalism where Pasolini doesn’t really say anything about capitalism. Yet, he would show how this emergence would occur and how it would impact certain behaviors that would complicate the world while there are those who would reject this new idea to maintain an idea that was already working. Overall, Pasolini creates a whimsical yet rapturous film about the lives of several people told through the mind of Geoffrey Chaucer.

Cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli does amazing work with the film’s cinematography as it play into the grey-like exteriors of some of the locations with its fog and rain as well as the usage of natural lights for some of its interiors. Editors Enzo Cone and Nino Baragli do excellent work with the editing as it play into some offbeat rhythms for much of the film’s humor as well as in some of the dramatic and darker moments in the film. Art director Dante Ferretti and set decorator Ken Muggleston do brilliant work with the art direction from the look of some of the castle interiors as well as some of the homes and a few of the exterior designs of the castles.

Costume designer Danilo Donati does fantastic work with the costumes from the look of the dresses as well as the clothes of the men including the tights which pay a lot of attention to detail into how their bulges are presented. Sound mixer Gianni D’Amico does nice work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of some of the gatherings as well as the markets and other places involving a large group of people. The film’s music is directed by Ennio Morricone as it play into various music pieces of the time that include woodwinds, folk songs, and other kind of pieces that was prevalent during that period of medieval times.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles such as John Francis Lane as a greedy friar, Jenny Runacre as the carpenter’s wife, Robin Askwith as a young thief who enjoys having sex with prostitutes and urinate on other patrons at a pub, Tom Baker as a man being pursued by an aging yet horny married woman, Dan Thomas as the carpenter’s apprentice, J.P. Van Dyne as a cook who hires Perkin much to his own regret, Judy Stewart-Murray as a lady-in-waiting for the Wife of Bath, Albert King as a grain miller, Eileen King as the miller’s wife, Heather Johnson as the miller’s daughter, Patrick Duffet and Eamann Howell as two students needing grain for an assignment, and Pier Paolo Pasolini as Geoffrey Chaucer. Michael Balfor is terrific as the cuckold carpenter who is unaware of the trick he’s being played by his apprentice while Hugh Griffith is fantastic as the nobleman who marries a young woman unaware of her own desires for another man.

Josephine Chaplin is wonderful as the young woman who marries the nobleman as she is in love with another man while Laura Betti is brilliant as the Wife of Bath as a woman who is trying to find another husband as her current husband is dying in the hope for some sexual satisfaction. Ninetto Davoli is excellent as Perkin as this Chaplin-esque figure who is a man of total mischief as well as go after anything as he’s a joy to watch. Finally, there’s Franco Citti as the Devil as a man who pretends to be a vendor who observes a case of sodomy where he goes after a summoner and gives him a choice as it’s a very low-key yet effective performance.

I racconti di Canterbury is a spectacular film from Pier Paolo Pasolini. Featuring a great cast, outlandish sets and costumes, gorgeous photography, and offbeat moments that are playful to grotesque. It’s a film that explore a period in time where it was free but also intense as it also show some elements that are still happening in the modern world. In the end, I racconti di Canterbury is a riveting and extravagant film from Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Pier Paolo Pasolini Films: (Accattone) – (La Rabbia) – (Mamma Roma) – (Location Hunting in Palestine) – (The Gospel According to Matthew) – (Love Meetings) – (The Hawks and the Sparrows) – (Oedipus Rex) – (Teorema) – (Porcile) – (Medea (1969 film)) – (Appunti per un film sull’India) – (Notes Towards an African Orestes) – The Decameron - Arabian NightsSalo, or the 120 Days of Sodom

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: 2018 Films that I'm Looking Forward to

For the third week of December 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We go into films that are about to come out in 2018 as a new year is approach as there’s so many to choose from as I’ve made a private list in my Letterboxd account as I’m unsure about making a full list of the Most Anticipated Films of 2018. Here are my 3 picks:

1. Radegund

While opinion about his recent films following the release of 2011’s The Tree of Life have been polarizing, there is no question that Terrence Malick remains one of American cinema’s most enduring figures. Having made films that were largely improvisational and without a script, his tenth feature will be a return to a more traditional narrative as it is about the life of Franz Jagerstatter who was a conscientious objector in late 1930s Austria who refused to fight for the Nazis. August Diehl will play Jagerstatter as the film will also feature Michael Nyqvist in one of his final performances as it is likely to be something unconventional which is expected from a master like Malick.

2. The House That Jack Built

It’s been nearly five years since Lars von Trier has made a new film having completed a trilogy of films centering on the subject of depression. His next film is definitely going to be controversial as it was originally meant for television as it’s a psychological horror thriller told in the span of twelve years during the 1970s and 1980s about a serial killer. Starring Matt Dillon, Uma Thurman, and Bruno Ganz, the film will likely feature a lot of the elements von Trier is known for in shock value and discussions about anything as cinema’s enfant terrible might have more tricks up his sleeve.

3. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

From Terry Gilliam comes the long-awaited film that began in the late 1990s in a troubled production that starred the late Jean Rochefort as Don Quixote with Johnny Depp as an accountant mistaken for Sancho Panza as it would become the 2003 documentary Lost in La Mancha. After several more attempts, the film is nearly in completion with Jonathan Pryce in the role of Quixote and Adam Driver as the accountant Toby which revolves around the latter who is transported back in time where he meets Don Quixote where they go into an adventure. With Olga Kurylenko in the female lead and a supporting cast that includes Rossy de Palma and Stellan Skarsgard, it’s a film that is likely to be an offbeat take on Miguel de Cervantes’ famed hero as well as the possibility that it might give that character the film he truly deserved after so many failed attempts by other filmmakers including Orson Welles and a horrible musical version by Arthur Hiller starring Peter O’Toole as Quixote.

© thevoid99 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017 Blind Spot Series: The Decameron

Based on the novel by Giovanni Boccaccio, Il Decameron (The Decameron) is a collective of stories set in the fourteenth century that explore different moral tales in Naples. Written, directed, and co-starring Pier Paolo Pasolini, the film revolves around different stories involving grave-robbers, horny nuns, and other stories to explore the world of decadence and morality in those times. Starring Franco Citti, Ninetto Davoli, and Vincenzo Amato. Il Decameron is a riveting and provocative film from Pier Paolo Pasolini.

The film follows numerous people living in 14th Century Naples as it play into a period of time where everyone is dealing with themselves and the world around them as well as morals, ideas, tradition, decadence, and faith. It’s a film with different stories that tie characters in a few of them or in a standalone segment as they all deal with their situations while a master painter in Allivio di Giotto (Pier Paolo Pasolini) arrives in Naples during the film’s second half to create a mural. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s screenplay does kind of take an episodic approach to the narrative as it moves towards different stories which begins with someone murdering another man and then burying him only to move to an entirely different story. One of which involves a man who would encounter grave-robbers as well as be a victim of bad circumstances while another story involves a man who poses as a gardener at a convent where he pretends to be mute only to realize the job is extremely demanding.

It has a lot of humor as it relate to some of the stories told by Pasolini that include two young lovers going after each other, a trio of brothers trying to get rid of their sister’s lover, a woman who is cheating on her husband as she has her lover pretending to be someone buying her large jar, and two men making a pact about what happens in life after death. Some of it is approached with a sense of absurdity while there are moments that play into a world that is quite corrupt but in a very simple way to show how people can be tricked or seeking some form of redemption in a world that is troubled.

Pasolini’s direction is very stylish as it play into a period in time that was decadent and filled with this sense of immorality that was emerging but also a struggle over that immorality. Shot on various locations in Italy with a couple of segments shot and set in France, the film does play into this idea of an old world that was simpler and at least had characters who would try to trick someone but nothing that is too big. There are some gorgeous wide shots of the locations in around Italy including Naples in its countryside fields and mountains while Pasolini also create some precise framing in the medium and wide shots to play into certain ceremonies. The film also have close-ups as it relates to the character such as the young man from Sicily who arrives to Naples only to get into some trouble and then be part of another story involving grave-robbers. There’s an element of humor that is rampant throughout the film including the scenes involving the nuns at the convent in how they try to cope with their vow of chastity. The scene about the two young lovers is also filled with humor but Pasolini’s approach relating to the story of the sinful criminal wanting redemption and the brothers who want to kill their sister’s lover are the more serious.

There are also these moments that are symbolic in its approach to religious imagery such as the mural that di Giotto is trying to create including a dream he has as well as ceremonies relating to death. The sense of morality and immorality occurs very often in what Pasolini is trying to say in these stories as it showcases people struggling with what is right as the film’s final episode relating to this pact about the afterlife is filled with bits of humor. Yet, it also a film that also showcases people still trying to hang on to something while being conflicted with their actions in a land where faith still casts a shadow on the world. Overall, Pasolini crafts an evocative and compelling film about different stories of morality and immorality in 14th Century Naples.

Cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on natural lighting for many of the scenes in the daytime including some of its interiors while using low-key and natural shadows for some of the scenes set at night. Editors Enzo Ocone, Nino Baragli, and Tatiana Morigi do amazing work with the editing as it play into some offbeat rhythmic cutting as well as create some unique transitions from one segment to the next without any kind of anticipation where it also play into the humor and drama. Art director Dante Ferretti and set decorator Andrea Fantacci do excellent work with the look of some of the interiors in the castle as well as the big jar in one of the stories and the mural that di Giotto is trying to create.

Costume designer Danilo Donati does fantastic work with the costumes as it is very colorful and stylish to play into the period with the lavish look of some of the characters who are rich to the more ragged look of the poor. The sound work of Pierto Spadoi is terrific for its natural approach to the sound as it play into the different locations and set as well as how things are heard from afar. The film’s music is supervised by composer Ennio Morricone that mainly play into the music of the times with arrangements by Morricone as it include traditional folk and religious music as it’s one of the film’s highlights.

The film’s superb cast feature some notable performances from Vittorio Vittori as Don Gianni who tricks a poor couple, Angela Luce as a cheating wife in Peronella who created a big jar, and director Pier Paolo Pasolini as a pupil of Giotto who is trying to create a mural. The performances of Franco Citti as the murderer/thief Ciappelletto is fantastic to display the complexity of a man who has done bad things yet is trying to find redemption while Elisabetta Genovese is wonderful as Caterina as a young woman who wants to be with a young man that her parents might not approve of. Ninetto Davoli is excellent as Andreuccio of Perugia as a man who is put into strange situations involving a beautiful woman and later some grave-robbers as it showcases the troubles that an outsider endures. Vincenzo Amato is brilliant as Masetto of Lamporecchio as a man who gets work at a convent where he gets more than he bargains for.

Il Decameron is a phenomenal film from Pier Paolo Pasolini. Featuring gorgeous visuals, lively music, bawdy depictions of 14th Century life in Naples, and compelling stories about morality and conflicts of faith in those times. It’s a film that is quite complex and daring yet it is also told with a sense of humor to capture a period of time that was simpler. In the end, Il Decameron is a sensational film from Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Pier Paolo Pasolini Films: (Accattone) – (La Rabbia) – (Mamma Roma) – (Location Hunting in Palestine) – (The Gospel According to Matthew) – (Love Meetings) – (The Hawks and the Sparrows) – (Oedipus Rex) – (Teorema) – (Porcile) – (Medea (1969 film)) – (Appunti per un film sull’India) – (Notes Towards an African Orestes) – The Canterbury TalesArabian NightsSalo, or the 120 Days of Sodom

© thevoid99 2017