lunedì 30 giugno 2014

Nel deserto non ci sono cinema

Questa mattina stavo leggendo un’intervista con lo scrittore americano Don DeLillo pubblicata dalla rivista Obsession del Nouvel Obs
DeLillo è uno che di interviste ne rilascia pochissime. Questa l’aveva concessa perché stava facendo il giurato al Festival del Cinema di Estoril invitato dal produttore portoghese Paulo Branco. Era lì e ha chiesto a questi giornalisti francesi di raggiungerlo al ristorante dell’albergo. E’ rimasto con loro solo 40 minuti ma è riuscito a dire un sacco di cose interessanti.
DeLillo, ad un certo punto, si è messo a parlare di Salinger e del suo essersi ritirato dal mondo (argomento che gli interessa parecchio visto che è persona super schiva e si fa vedere in giro raramente), e ha pronunciato queste parole: “Ammiro questa sua capacità di scomparire. Accade spesso anche ai personaggi dei miei libri, ma io non potrei mai riuscirci. Scegliere un punto sperduto su una mappa, un deserto, ad esempio, e sparirci dentro. Non ce la farei. Perché? Perché nel deserto non ci sono cinema”.

Insomma viene fuori che DeLillo va al cinema tutti i pomeriggi. Da solo.
Viene fuori che questa malattia che ho io ce l’ha anche lui. Che cosa bellissima!
La sua frase mi ha ricordato un episodio abbastanza emblematico della mia vita: tanti anni fa ho trascorso le vacanze estive sull’isola di Stromboli, sottovalutando il fatto che su un’isola così piccola i cinema non esistono. Dopo qualche giorno, pensavo di morire. L’idea di stare in un posto in cui, fisicamente, non esistesse un luogo in cui le persone si sedevano davanti ad uno schermo, mi faceva uscire di testa. Hai voglia ad andare a fare la foto davanti alla casa in cui aveva vissuto Ingrid Bergman al tempo in cui girava Stromboli... era una particella di cinema infinitesimale che si esauriva in tempi rapidissimi. 

Un giorno, allo stremo, scopro una piccola libreria con un bel giardino dove di sera proiettano su uno schermo un po’ artigianale i film fatti alle Eolie. Gaudio e gioia immensi! E ovviamente trascino tutta la banda di amici che era con me a vedersi Stromboli di Roberto Rossellini (ma vuoi mettere, vedere Stromboli con dietro lo Stromboli?) e L’Avventura di Michelangelo Antonioni. Insomma mi sono salvata! E capite bene che quando DeLillo dice che non vivrebbe mai nel deserto, con me sfonda una porta più che aperta.
Una sera a New York, devo raccontarvelo, mi sono ritrovata ad una cena dove c’era anche DeLillo. 
In un momento in cui la conversazione aveva avuto un attimo di pausa, lui si era guardato intorno e aveva chiesto: “Qualcuno di voi per caso ha visto Hunger?”. Sono stata l’unica ad alzare la mano. 
Non ci siamo detti niente. Ci siamo guardati, sorridendo.
Due che, mettili in un deserto, anziché l’acqua ti chiederanno un film.

p.s. Se anche voi siete fans di DeLillo, sappiate che ha messo da parte la sua proverbiale riservatezza per partecipare al Festival Letterario Le Conversazioni, di Antonio Monda e Davide Azzolini, che si tiene ogni anno a Capri l’ultimo week-end di Giugno e il primo week-end di Luglio. DeLillo sarà presente in Piazzetta Tragara sabato 5 Luglio. E ci sarà pure la vostra Zazie! 

giovedì 26 giugno 2014

Gett (The Trial of Viviane Amsalem)

I still remember as a shock the first scene of the movie Kadosh, by Amos Gitaï, where a Jerusalem orthodox man is praying with these words: "Thank you God for sparing me the pain of being born a woman".
This scene popped up in my mind the other day, when I had the chance to see the avant-première of the film Gett (The Trial of Viviane Amsalem) by Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz, even if the story is not set in Jerusalem among orthodox people but in Tel Aviv nowadays among Sephardic people of Moroccan origins.
Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz are siblings. They have written and directed together a trilogy: To take a wife (2004), Shiva/The Seven Days (2008) and now this Gett, where they follow the life of a woman, Viviane, played by Ronit herself. I stupidly missed the first two movies, but now I am determined to see them all, because this last part is one of the most interesting and intense things I’ve recently seen on screen.

Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz
Viviane has been married to Elisha since she was very young: never a happy couple, they have been living separated for many years, and now Viviane would like to legally divorce. But in Israel civil marriage and civil divorce don’t exist. Only rabbis can legitimate a marriage and its dissolution, and this dissolution is only possible with full consent from the husband. Which, in this case (as in many others, I guess), is the difficult part. Viviane will have to wait for more than 5 years (!) from the moment of her first request and to endure an infinite, absurd and exhausting trial to finally see her wish satisfied. And not even completely…
Elisha (Simon Abkarian)
Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz)
It is quite amazing to seat for two hours watching the same room full of the same people talking about the same things, but this is exactly what you get from Gett. The entire world is reduced to this tribunal room where Viviane has to seat, months after months, listening to what the three rabbis, her husband, her husband’s brother, her lawyer, her sister, their neighbours, have to say about her and her life. As if, instead of a divorce, this would be a trial against Viviane herself. The woman, very often silent, looks in disbelief around her, almost crushed under the words she has to listen. Everybody’s right is taken into consideration here, besides her right to finally get what she is looking for: the divorce from a man she doesn't love any more. All the questions are for her, never for her husband: she is the one who has to explain why, even if her husband doesn’t beat her or doesn’t cheat on her (thanks very much!), she incredibly wants to divorce him.
Starting on a funnier note (the parade of witnesses, the altercations between the defenders), the film gets more and more asphyxiating and exasperating. To the point that you want to scream reading for the 15th time on the screen: 2 months later, 3 months later, 5 months later and all you see is the same, old scene (knowing nothing will change). The absurdity of the situation, the sense of frustration and impotence towards the rabbis’ judgemental attitude, the unbearable obstinacy of the husband, bring the audience, together with the female character, on the verge of a nervous breakdown. How is it possible that in a so-called modern society a woman is obliged to go through such an ordeal just to get a divorce? I’m sure this movie is more powerful on the subject than hundreds of essays.
Confined in four walls, filmed in austere close-ups, all the actors are absolutely astonishing. Ronit Elkabetz, with her enigmatic beauty, stands out for her magnificent performance: when her rage finally explodes, you just want to embrace her and tell her you understand: she’s so unlucky to be born a woman in a place like that...

martedì 17 giugno 2014

The Crying Game

On Sunday night, while the rest of the nation where I live was looking at the first football match involving Les Bleus, I realized that Arté was showing Secret and Lies by Mike Leigh
I know this movie by heart: Leigh (my readers are well aware of this) is one of my favourite directors of all time and I consider Secrets and lies an absolute masterpiece.
I immediately wrote something on my Facebook page suggesting my French friends who were not interested in the World Cup to watch the movie, but I didn’t expect I would have watched it myself all over again for the 10th time. And I was even more surprised when, looking at my favourite scene, I started to cry… well, it would be more accurate to write I started sobbing.
Is this happening to you too? I mean: am I the only one who is capable of crying over and over again at a certain scene of a certain movie, no matter how many times I watched it?
Some movies touch a particular part of our soul, I guess, and there is nothing we could do about it. Usually people are ashamed to admit they cry in cinemas, but I am not. I proudly confess to weep very often watching a movie, and I decided to publicly confess Zazie's TOP 5 MOST EMOTIONAL MOVIES:

5 - My life without me by Isabel Coixet (2003)
I really love Isabel Coixet’s cinema and I think My life without me is an underestimated great movie of cinema history. Ann, a 23 years old wife and mother living in Vancouver, finds out to have an inoperable cancer. She decides not to tell her husband, her two young daughters and her mother, and she prefers to prepare them to the life “without her”. Of course, the subject would break anybody’s heart, but Coixet never takes advantage of its tearful potential. The film is simple, candid and full of life, and Sarah Polley is amazing in the role of Ann.
It it almost impossible, though, not to weep every now and then. 
I personally did it - non stop - for the last 45 minutes of the movie.

4 – Au revoir les Enfants by Louis Malle (1987)
Based on a real story that happened to Louis Malle when he was a young boy under the German occupation, this movie builds up, scene after scene, a degree of emotion difficult to handle. On the last scene, when the Gestapo embarks some students and the priest and you hear him saying: “Au revoir, les enfants!”, I defy any single human being not to burst into tears like a little baby. The most heart-breaking quote of cinema history.

3 - Secrets and Lies by Mike Leigh (1996)
I have cried at every Leigh’s film, but this wins hands down.
I guess I cry so much watching this movie partly because Leigh has a special way of showing people in their most fragile and human conditions, and partly because the actors play so amazingly well that I am shaken by their immense talent. In this scene, one of the most beautiful, compelling and moving of Leigh’s cinema (and of cinema tout court), Brenda Blethyn is able to pass from incredulity to bewilderment, from hilarity to desperation in a way that it’s simply impossible to forget. If you don’t cry watching her, your heart is made of stone, believe me:

2 - Breaking the Waves by Lars Von Trier (1996) 
This film is present in almost all my TOP 5 movies of no matter what category, and I guess you have to get used to it, because it was one of those films having an incredible impact on my life. As I already had the chance to write in this blog: the death of Bess McNeil is one of the saddest moments I have to endure at cinema. Until today, it is just impossible for me not to drop a tear if I hear the first notes of Life on Mars by David Bowie.

1 - Everyone’s Waiting - Final Episode of Six Feet Under by Alan Ball (2005)
I know, this is not a movie I saw in a cinema. This is not even a movie, but I can’t deny that my most epic desperate moment in front of a screen was the final scene of the final episode of Six Feet Under. Friends who watched it before me had warned me about it but nothing could have prepared me for this emotional turmoil. We are talking about a series of almost 10 years ago, so I don’t think it will be a spoiler for anybody if I write that Alan Ball showed us the death of every single character in the story. Not a real surprise, since the main theme of this series actually is death, but after 5 seasons I was so attached to the Fisher family, that I started to cry at the first death and I stopped many hours after the last one. I cried so much that next day, arriving at the office, all my colleagues asked what tragedy had occurred to me.
On the side cover of Six feet Under's box set (having the shape of a grave, ça va sans dire!) you can read these words: Everything. Everyone. Everywhere. Ends.
They were clearly underestimating my tears.

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