Blu-Ray Review: Accattone & Comizi D’Amore

Accattone

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Screenplay: Pier Paolo Pasolini (& Sergio Citti – additional dialogue)
Starring: Franco Citti, Franca Pasut, Silvana Corsini
Producers: Alfredo Bini & Cino Del Duca
Country: Italy
Running Time: 117 min
Year: 1961
BBFC Certificate: 15

Eureka’s Masters of Cinema turn their gaze towards Pier Paolo Pasolini for their latest couple of Blu-Ray releases with Accattone getting packaged alongside the documentary Comizi D’Amore and The Gospel According to Matthew getting a release on the same day (a review of this will follow in the next week or so).

Accattone was Pasolini’s debut feature and he didn’t wait to establish himself as a rebel and a portrayer of the darker, dirtier sides of life (he was known in Italy as a poet, author and screenwriter anyway). Growing tired of the popular Italian neorealism from the 50’s, he cut his directorial teeth on a curiously cinematic adaptation of his own story of a pimp, Vittorio “Accattone” Cataldi (Franco Citti), living in the slum-like suburbs of Rome. Accattone gets his only ’employee’ Maddalena (Silvana Corsini) into trouble, resulting in her getting abused and arrested after she refuses to turn in the true antagonist. He struggles to make ends meet, refusing to work for a living or stoop to the levels of a group of thieves he knows. Meanwhile he meets a seemingly innocent girl, Stella (Franca Pasut) who he tries to forge a normal relationship with, but fails, falling into his usual traps which sends him into a spiral of self-pity and his ultimate destruction.

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Review: Barbarossa

Director: Renzo Martinelli
Screenplay: Renzo Martinelli, Giorgio Schottler & Anna Samueli
Producer: Renzo Martinelli
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Raz Degan, F. Murray Abraham, Christo Jivkov, Antonio Cupo
Year: 2009
Country: Italy
Duration: 133 min
BBFC Certification: 15

Still going strong even though he’s approaching 70, Rutger Hauer has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in the last few years with small roles in Batman Begins and Sin City leading up to what sounds to be his peak performance in the forthcoming Hobo With a Shotgun. Unfortunately, amongst these plum cult-movie roles Hauer continues to take on trashy straight-to-DVD nonsense like Barbarossa. I guess in this case you can’t blame him, as judging by the reasonable budget (for an Italian production) it looks as though the film was supposed to be Italy’s big blockbuster of 2009. Of course the film didn’t even light up the local theatres as much as expected and the rest of the world simply weren’t interested.

Barbarossa is about the titular German King who wreaked havoc across Italy in his quest to become the Holy Roman Emperor (excuse my poor grasp of history if I get anything wrong). He gets more than he bargained for though when he tries to bring down Milan, as Alberto da Guissano (Raz Degan) will do all he can to challenge the Emperor and reclaim freedom for the Milanese.

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A Martin Scorsese Marathon

Basically, you make another movie, and another, and hopefully you feel good about every picture you make. And you say, ‘My name is on that. I did that. It’s OK’. But don’t get me wrong, I still get excited by it all. That, I hope, will never disappear.” – Martin Scorsese

For the better part of the last three decades, I have been a fan of Martin Scorsese. My admiration first took bloom in the summer of 1985, and happened to coincide with what I consider to be the discovery of my young adult life; set off the main drag of the town I grew up in, I found a small video store. Now, this in itself was no great revelation; in the years before Blockbuster came barreling into my area, forcing all the smaller video chains out of business, there were at least half a dozen such stores within a 3-mile radius. But the moment I walked into this particular video palace, I knew it was special. Where most were lining their shelves with numerous copies of the ‘hot new releases’, this one had titles like Midnight Cowboy, 2001: A Space Odyssey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, films that the others simply didn’t offer. For me, this store was a treasure trove, and I returned there often, sometimes 3-4 times a week, uncovering classic after classic, films that, to this day, I consider some of the finest ever made.

And it was here that I first found Mean Streets.

Tough and unflinching, Mean Streets was like a punch to the head for a 15-year-old from the suburbs; a marriage of images and rock music, violence and pain the likes of which I had never seen before, offering a glimpse into a lifestyle that I found all too real, and a little bit frightening. I must have rented it at least six times that summer, and as a result, Mean Streets fast became my favorite movie. More than this, it was my jumping-off point into the career of Martin Scorsese. After Mean Streets, I moved on to Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, two more shots to the head. Through these three films, I realized just how deep, just how down-and-dirty, and just how moving the cinema could be. They marked a turning point in my development as a film fan. Movies were no longer limited to the land of make believe; they would also be a window overlooking the real world.

Now, almost 24 years after I first walked into that video store, I’ve decided to take my admiration to the next, perhaps the ultimate, level. Over the course of the last several weeks, I sat down with everything that home video has to offer of Martin Scorsese’s work behind the camera, 26 films in all, and what I uncovered on this love-fest of mine proved to be just as enlightening as that first viewing of Mean Streets all those years ago.

As I sat watching one Scorsese movie after the other, I found myself asking, “What exactly is it that constitutes a Martin Scorsese film”? It was a question I had to pose, because I quickly realized that most of my initial beliefs, the pre-conceptions I had built up about the man and his career, only told part of the story.

For one, there was my presumption that the recurring trait in every Scorsese film was a down-to-earth quality, where the genuine, the realistic, would be favored above all else. Well, this is certainly true in some of Scorsese’s finest films, especially those where actual events served as a foundation (Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, The Aviator). However, it was wrong of me to discount the role that fantasy played in Scorsese’s work. The opening scene of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore looks as if it was lifted right out of Gone With the Wind, and the musical numbers of New York, New York were obvious nods to the Hollywood big-budget spectaculars of the 40’s and 50’s. There is the dreamy romance of The Age of Innocence, and the hilarious bad luck of Paul Hackett in After Hours; in short, films that have little or no basis in reality whatsoever, proving that the fantastic plays just as important a role in the great director’s work as reality does.
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