A Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki (Pt. 1)

Hayao Miyazaki is one of my favourite directors: I’ve never been disappointed by any of his films and, although I understand that by creating animated films he has an advantage (since he does not share the same stylistic worries as other directors do), I find his works well-rounded. Having already seen most of his films, I don’t quite know when I’ll get the chance to re-watch and review them. So I’ve decided to write a tribute and share with you a couple of words with regard to this amazing director’s creations.

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Ladri di biciclette (1948)

Ladri di biciclette (1948)

1948, just a couple of years after the end of WWII, a father is desperately seeking a job to support his family. At his first day as a bill sticker, somebody steals his bike, imperilling his job. Alongside his son they will turn Rome upside down to find it.

As one of the most characteristic films of Italian neorealism, Bicycle Thieves is exactly what its director, Vittorio de Sica, wanted it to be: an honest representation of post-war working class. Filmed exclusively on location, since no production company wanted to finance it, and with quite a few non-professional actors (such as the kiddo that De Sica spotted watching filming while selling flowers with his father), this film is the incarnation of Italian neorealism.

One unable to offer the basics to their family, deals with a huge impasse. Poverty, mirrored in the eyes of a child, is so harsh that can make one abandon hope, feel even more desperate and, in the end, compromise his ethics. This film narrates all of the above (and a lot more) with such a shocking honesty, and is undoubtedly a rough diamond of Italian cinema.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Crimes and Misdemeanors, Woody Allen’s last film from the 80s follows two different characters:

A rich ophthalmologist (Martin Landau) has to face his responsibilities, after deciding to end his two-year-long affair with a flight attendant (Anjelica Huston), who’s threatening to expose him to his wife and imperil his reputation. A sophisticated documentary filmmaker (Woody Allen) is hired by his unbearable brother-in-law, who’s also a successful television producer, to make a documentary about his life. While filming, he falls in love with an associate producer (Mia Farrow).

Those two concurrent plots deal with two distinct themes. The first story is Allen’s first attempt (as a writer and a director) to study criminal actions. In particular, he’s interested in finding out whether one may commit a crime and not be punished for it. If this sounds familiar to you, you’re right. Fifteen years later Allen decided to work on the same idea, leading to the creation of his huge commercial success known as Match Point (2005). If, on the other hand, this sounds familiar to you literature-wise, you’re once again correct, since this film’s main source of inspiration is Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

As for the second story, we see some of Allen’s regular concerns being explored: human relations and the never-ending search for the meaning of life. However, this time Allen as a lead helped only to the inter-textual embellishment of his film by constantly making cinematic, literary and political references. Martin S. Bergmann (1913-2014), a professor of psychology of the University of New York, is the one expressing his philosophical thoughts on life, love and creation.

This is probably my second favorite film by Woody Allen (Manhattan always comes first): witty and remarkably interesting.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆