Monday, July 27, 2009

Film Recommendations of the Week...

This is a new segment of my blog, where as the title suggests I will nominate every week two films from various genres that I believe are thought-provoking and worthy of consideration. Tune in every Sunday night for continuing installments in the series.

UMBERTO D. (1952)

This film belongs in the vanguard of post war Italian neo-realism, which dealt with the cruelties of life in an unflinching and unsympathetic light. Here is a synopsis from the Criterion Collection website-

"Shot on location with a cast of nonprofessional actors, Vittorio De Sica’s neo-realist masterpiece follows Umberto D., an elderly pensioner, as he struggles to make ends meet during Italy’s postwar economic boom. Alone except for his dog, Flike, Umberto strives to maintain his dignity while trying to survive in a city where traditional human kindness seems to have lost out to the forces of modernization. Umberto’s simple quest to fulfill the most fundamental human needs—food, shelter, companionship—is one of the most heartbreaking stories ever filmed and an essential classic of world cinema."

Along with the heart-wrenching relationship of Umberto and his dog Flike, there is the story of the young lady mentioned in my very first blog posting, the incredibly beautiful Maria Pia Casilio-

She plays the harried servant of the landlady, who is looking to kick the old pensioner out of his room to transform the space into a parlor. The young lady tries her hardest to be a comfort to the old man, while her own situation remains precarious-unable to return home, facing employment termination and shunned by her lover, who seems unwilling or incapable of facing his own responsibilities.

Death of a Cyclist (1955)

This film takes the viewer into the claustrophobic and inbred world of Spains' ruling class during the era of Fransisco Franco and remains to this day a shocking indictment on the vacuous morals of the elites. We are privy to their petty, selfish personal ambitions, intrigues and dishonesty. A great film. Here again is the synopsis from the Criterion Collection website-

"Upper-class geometry professor Juan and his wealthy, married mistress, Maria José, driving back from a late-night rendezvous, accidentally hit a cyclist, and run. The resulting, exquisitely shot tale of guilt, infidelity, and blackmail reveals the wide gap between the rich and the poor in Spain, and surveys the corrupt ethics of a society seduced by decadence. Juan Antonio Bardem’s charged melodrama Death of a Cyclist (Muerte de un ciclista) was a direct attack on 1950s Spanish society under Franco’s rule. Though it was affected by the dictates of censorship, its sting could never be dulled."

Director Juan Antonio Bardem is the uncle of award-winning actor Javier Bardem whose films include Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona", The Coen Brother's "No Country for Old Men" and the amazing spanish film "The Sea Inside".

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