The new edition of the Italian movie magazine “Segno Cinema” opens the debate that doesn’t seem to matter to many people outside Italy, except me, What is the state of Italian cinema? But it asks more than that. Maybe the debate has been rekindled in Italy because of Matteo Garrone’s film, Reality, about a fishmonger who is obsessed with being chosen for a reality show. If this is the case, maybe the real question is this: Is Italian cinema dead, and was it killed by reality TV?
Or maybe the absence of reality in reality TV?
The title of Segno Cinema’s article: BELLO ADDORMENTATO – Come sta il cinema italiano?
Sleeping Beauty: How is Italian Cinema doing?
“Even in Hollywood”, says Segno Cinema,”everybody knows it, cinema isn’t the driving force in entertainment anymore and television’s taking over”. While filmmakers often blame reality shows, and though I don’t really know what Italians are watching on TV (Italian TV is terrible) I’ll remind them about why I’m watching so much TV these days: There’s some great TV. Brian and I can’t get enough of shows like Boardwalk Empire, Justified, Mad Men, and Homeland. We never go to the movies on Sunday night; we’re too busy watching HBO.
So what’s happening in Italy? According to Segno Cinema, while films at their best should try to “discover the invisible layer of meaning, to sniff out the unexpected and untapped source of life, Italians have stopped writing anything real”. Worse than that, “Italians don’t write; they re-write. And Italians, educated by television, don’t read; they re-read”.
The legacy of Neo-realism could be the answer. Neo-realism, in the end, was an amazing iconoclast. The iconoclasts are not gone today, there are exceptions, and Segno Cinema points to a couple of modern examples:
The first, Bellocchio’s ‘Bella Addormentata’. Personally, I think Segno Cinema gives this one a little too much credit, calling it iconoclastic, the moment when Eluana Englaro dies and Maya Sansa’s eyes open. Segno Cinema says that in this moment Eluana continues to lives in Maya Sansa’s character and I, suppose, is supposed to be groundbreaking in some way.
The second example given by Segno Cinema: Luciano, the protagonist of Matteo Garrone’s ‘Reality’, who reaches into the depths of Hell for fame, and in the process attacks the very nature of modern civilization.
In Bella Addormentata, it’s “the bewitched visions of a country that is sleeping” and in Reality,”the heavenly visions of a country that’s hypnotized”, but in both cases they write instead of rewriting.
In TV, “everybody and everything is an icon, and in cinema, nobody is”. Cinema could (and should) be the place to find the iconoclast.
Says Segno Cinema, “Italian cinema must choose between perfection and reality, and the accuracy of reality. Between the icons and the icon destroyers.”
I know what they mean. And I don’t know what they mean. There’s a nerve that they, and everybody else who is trying to figure out why anybody cares about The Real Housewives , touches on and it’s a raw nerve.
The problem is, looking to a movie like Bellocchio’s Bella Addormentata is a mistake, for several reasons.
1) Bellocchio tries to be profound but ends up just being pedantic and sermonizing. In his search for reality he fails to evoke any real emotions, in me, anyway. I felt manipulated.
2) Garrone had a better idea with his story about Luciano, the little guy with the big story. Great films can come from the headlines, but more often they are about people that we wouldn’t have otherwise heard of. Show me Luciano’s reality. There are a million stories out there just waiting to be told, and I feel that Italian filmmakers (as do all filmmakers) sometimes take the easy way out and make films about stories that everyone already knows about. (Re-telling?)
3) Bella Addormentata is just not entertaining. I like to be challenged, informed, and even pushed into places I really don’t want to go when I watch a movie, but I still need to be entertained. In the end, cinema is the movies. Why does everyone forget that? In a way, I think that cinema snobs have killed cinema.
Maybe it’s just as simple as this. People will go to the movies again when movie makers remember how to entertain us. I love the movies, but for every one that I love there are 50 that are dreadful wastes of time. Would I rather watch The Real Housewives or That’s My Boy? What’s the difference? They both stink.