Your assignment: Watch this selection of films from the maestro, Marco Bellocchio.
A young Bellocchio first caught the world’s attention in 1965 with one of his first films, I Pugni in Tasca (Fists in the Pocket). With this shockingly innovative drama, Bellocchio dismantled Italian society in a way that was a step beyond what anyone else was doing in the ’60.
The term “dark comedy” is an understatement for this story of, perhaps the most dysfunctional cinematic family ever. Alessandro starts murdering family members one by one as the film skewers sacred Italian societal institutions like the church and the family.
The most important thing to note about Bellocchio is his evolution from brash young ’60s director to contemporary master, and his ability to stay relative in the midst of today’s explosion of talented filmmakers, so:
Moving on and skipping ahead to the 2000s, take a look at the 2003 Buongiorno Notte (Good Morning Night), Bellocchio’s story about the 1978 kidnapping and assassination of Aldo Moro, Italian president of the political party, Democrazia Cristiana.
The 70’s weren’t an easy decade for Italy – a terrorist group – BR, Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades) was wreaking havoc, responsible for 14,000 acts of violence, the kidnapping of public figures, and having murdered 75, Aldo Moro was the most famous. Bellocchio tells the story shown through the eyes of one of the terrorists, a 23-year-old girl named Chiara (Maya Sansa), who in effect, epitomizes the young, idealistic anarchists who believed, as Chiara’s leader told her, “Per la vittoria del proletariato è lecito uccidere anche la propria madre. – For the victory of the proletariat it is lawful to kill your own mother.”
Next take a look at his 2009 Vincere, in a way, this is just your ordinary “boy’s an abusive pig, girl gets off on abuse” kind of love story, but the significance and consequences of their screwed up relationship are what matters here. Here, the abusive pig is Benito Mussolini, played by Filippo Timi in a performance that the New York Times called “one of the best that would not win an Oscar”.
The girl getting off on the abuse is Ida, Mussolini’s “secret wife”, and her inability to let go when her husband wants to move on is a truly formidable sight to behold. Ida’s son, meanwhile has been sent to an orphanage. He asks a nun when his mother will come to get him and she tells him, “after she gets better”. He asks where his father is and she tell him, “He has to save Italy – don’t be selfish.”
In 2012 Bellocchio brought Bella Addormentata (Dormant Beauty) to the Venice Film Festival and this one, you can stream.
Bella Addormentata takes the true life story of the last six days of the life of Eluana Englaro, comatose for 17 years when her family fought for the right to pull the plug and let her die and it shows us, not what was happening to this family, but to various people around her. A senator, played by Toni Servillo, who is leaning towards voting against a law that would prohibit families from making the choice that Eluana’s family made conflicts with a daughter (Alba Rohrwacher) who is firmly planted with the Catholic Church and thinks that Eluana’s family is committing murder.
There’s a doctor (Pier Giorgio Bellocchio) who finds himself compelled to try to save a drug addict played by Maya Sansa, there’s a famous French actress (Isabelle Huppert) who has left acting and practically the entire land of the living to care for her comatose daughter, and there’s an apparently bi-polar young man who angrily protests the church and its stand on the right to die issue, In the background of the Eluana death watch everybody’s tense and unhappy, watching what Berlosconi and the senate do and considering the implications for their own lives. Whether or not we are in the middle of a life and death situation, we all have our feelings about right and wrong that we’d like to impose on the rest of the world.