Braeden's Film Review Thread

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Hi everyone!

It's been a while. For those of you that don't know me or don't remember me, a couple of years ago I used to frequent this forum pretty regularly as a place to go to talk about movies. I found the environment on here became a little inhospitable for me as I would find myself sucked into a lot of political arguments about culture war issues that I found more frustrating than it was worth and I ultimately left for a while. I would lurk in threads every once in a while but I wasn't posting. I realized I was coming here more to bicker about politics than to talk movies and I wasn't enjoying it (this is as much my fault as it is anyone else's).

Anyway, I'm back because I love movies and I want to have a place to go to talk movies with other cinephiles, particularly older and international films that most people in my life offline aren't interested in. I'll be doing my best to steer clear of political arguments (though some can't be avoided because films themselves, the industry they are a part of, and the act of making a film, all have political elements to them in some ways or another, so talking about a movie can sometimes require talking about the politics of that movie), and just talk about the medium I love. If anyone tries to start political arguments with me, I will probably just ignore them to the best of my ability, because I don't really care, and I am not here to argue.

I'm happy to be back and to have a place to talk about movies. Currently, I'm doing little mini-binges of historically renowned filmmakers (mostly pulling from the TSPDT top 250 directors) that I'm not super familiar with and trying to fill out my familiarity with the history of great films and filmmakers from all over the world. I'll be posting my thoughts about those movies here and also on my letterboxd page where I log all of my film-watching habits and have been for a couple of years now. Tonight I'm introducing myself to Federico Fellini with 1954's La Strada so I'll be back in a couple of hours with my thoughts on that.



Hi everyone!

It's been a while. For those of you that don't know me or don't remember me, a couple of years ago I used to frequent this forum pretty regularly as a place to go to talk about movies. I found the environment on here became a little inhospitable for me as I would find myself sucked into a lot of political arguments about culture war issues that I found more frustrating than it was worth and I ultimately left for a while. I would lurk in threads every once in a while but I wasn't posting. I realized I was coming here more to bicker about politics than to talk movies and I wasn't enjoying it (this is as much my fault as it is anyone else's).

That's why I try to stay out of the political threads. They tend to get very heated at times, and there's enough of that in real life that I don't need it here too.

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That's why I try to stay out of the political threads. They tend to get very heated at times, and there's enough of that in real life that I don't need it here too.

Yeah, it's tough because I am a very politically-minded and politically-opinionated person, and it seems to me sometimes like there used to be (I'm not sure if this is still the case) these threads that just seemed like bait, like they were inflammatory remarks designed to get people to bicker about stuff, so I'll have to do better to steer clear of it because it doesn't serve me. Thank you for the warm welcome, though!



Yeah, it's tough because I am a very politically-minded and politically-opinionated person, and it seems to me sometimes like there used to be (I'm not sure if this is still the case) these threads that just seemed like bait, like they were inflammatory remarks designed to get people to bicker about stuff, so I'll have to do better to steer clear of it because it doesn't serve me. Thank you for the warm welcome, though!

Those types of threads are still around, but I don't think there are as many of them as there used to be. You just have to learn how to avoid them.



La Strada (1954) Dir. Federico Fellini





—the following review contains spoilers—

WARNING: spoilers below
I had a hard time with this film if I'm being honest. There is so much to love about it, and many aspects of it are beautiful. It's absolutely an emotionally powerful, heart-wrenching film. I feel so deeply for Gelsomina. As much as the film 'worked' on me emotionally, and as drawn as I was to the character, I struggled with it and I would say I respect the movie more than I liked it, hence the overall positive rating despite the somewhat negative tone of this review.

In particular, I find the ending frustrating because it is an excellent ending in its own right, and I admire the compassion and power that it holds, but I can't square the effectiveness of the movie with the way I feel Gelsomina kind of gets shafted by the narrative at the end. For most of the film, from my vantage point, this is her movie. It's a movie that is about a woman who is dealt an awful hand in life and ends up stuck in an abusive relationship with a brutal man that she just can't quite bring herself to leave. She has convinced herself that her purpose in life is to stay with him, because who else will? she says to herself. Then, the end of the movie does not belong to her. She is cast aside, killed offscreen, and the end of the film centers the emotions of her abuser.

It's not a bad ending, in fact, I don't disagree with Martin Scorsese when he says it's the more challenging ending for the audience. It just feels—I don't know—off to me. It seems to endorse the idea that her purpose was, in fact, to be abused by this man who does not know how to love. Maybe that's harsh. I am not here to condemn the movie, and I actually think there is a reading of the film that is more charitable, that she should have left him but was led astray by the social mores and sense of obligation that women were conditioned to feel toward their partners at the time. Her true purpose, to me, is to perform. She seems to be at her happiest when she is performing in front of an audience. The idea that this woman's purpose is to stay with her abuser because he needs her is revolting to me, and it's hard for me to reconcile the boundless compassion the movie has with this idea that seems to throw the whole film out of balance. I don't want to belabor the point any longer, though. I think the film is challenging and open to interpretation, and I think the ethics of its portrayal of abuse are worth interrogating, even if I respect the power the film has in general and was very much moved by it.

I also found the acerbic wit of the Fool to be a delight, and I appreciate that the film sees both of the male counterparts in flawed and three-dimensional ways. He has a sadistic streak to him that doesn't merit his unfortunate demise at the hands of Zampanó but also doesn't paint him as this saintly alternative to Zampanó's brutish cruelty. The films is commendable in that it extends empathy and compassion to every character in the film, even if I struggle with when, how, and where that compassion is applied. I am interested in seeing more Fellini films for sure, and I get the hype around him now, so to speak, even if my first introduction to his work was a challenging experience. I suppose I want to be challenged as a viewer, and great films are meant to be challenging, even if I'm not sure how I feel about this particular challenge.



I got caught up with work stuff later than I intended to so no movie tonight, and I have a lot of work to do tomorrow so I'm unsure if I'll have time for a movie tomorrow but the plan for the weekend is to watch as many of I Vitelloni, Nights of Cabiria, and 8 1/2 as possible, and from there I haven't decided how many post-8 1/2 Fellini films I'm going to watch but I will for sure watch Amarcord before moving on. After Fellini, I'm going to be doing Andrei Tarkovsky (I've seen Mirror but that's it), and since his filmography is short I'm going to watch all of his feature films. That is the game plan for now. If you have any recommendations for great classic/international filmmakers (I've already done Kurosawa and Truffaut so far but whoever you recommend I will likely have things of their's I haven't seen that I would like to see), I'd be intrigued to hear them!



I Vitelloni (1953) Dir. Federico Fellini





Martin Scorsese has cited the work of Fellini and specifically this film as a key influence on his work, and you can see a lot of the parallels. He draws most heavily on this film in Mean Streets, a favorite of mine, and a lot of Scorsese's hallmarks seem to draw from the blueprint laid out here. Scorsese is one of my favorite filmmakers, and I can see clearly why he drew on this movie. It's an excellent film. It almost doesn't feel like a film but like a neighborhood, and the lives of its inhabitants, rendered into cinema, but deeply real and persistent beyond the edges of the frame.

This is the strength of the film to me, and, like Scorsese with Mean Streets, this strength is derived from the autobiographical relationship the director has with the subject matter. Every character feels like someone Fellini must have known, and he did an excellent job bringing his community to life onscreen with sensitivity while not sanding off the harsh edges of their lives. Fausto, in particular, is a man of harsh edges. He is not denied empathy by the film, but his misdeeds are not excused either. Sandra deserved a better man than him, and the film doesn't shy away from his failings. It's a delicate balance to portray something with love while not seeing it through rose-tinted lenses, and Fellini finds that balance.

Moraldo is the character I found myself most drawn to. He's a quiet person, and over the course of the film, he grows to realize that he can't stay where he is anymore, watching Fausto's antics hurt the people around him and seeing his friends unable to grow up beyond their stunted boyhood. He may love his home, but he knows he doesn't belong their anymore. This is a film about coming to terms with adulthood, with the fact that the misadventures of early adulthood have to end at some point and life has to be lived. Moraldo realizes that and decides to live his life. The rest of his friends have not.

I'm glad to have discovered this film for myself at this time in my life. I'm nearing the end of college and thinking a lot about what I want my life to be and how I want to live it. I find myself in a similar position to Moraldo, ready to move on and live my life and go beyond the circumstances and community into which I was born. This is a film about that experience, among many other things, and I always find it interesting and fulfilling when a film stumbles into your life and just the right time, especially one as good as this film by a filmmaker as remarkable as this filmmaker.