The Eternal and the Noctural: La Grande Bellezza (2013)

I. The First Beauty Rome is the first (and perhaps the only) Beauty in La Grande Bellezza.  Artists, editors, mobsters, magicians, and businessmen are drawn to its splendor and immortality. Classical ruins only become more beautiful over time; immortality is beauty. Regret for the past, nostalgia, is beautiful. Rome was not always Italy’s most populated…

The Real Betrayal in Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques

Nicole’s betrayal of Madame Christine Delassalle was for me more devastating than the Mr. Delassalle’s betrayal of his wife. After all, Monsieur is set up to be thoroughly cruel, miserly, capricious, domineering and selfish. At the film’s bitter and tragic end, are we really surprised that he is one of the “diaboliques?” For it is…

Two Women by Vittorio de Sica (1960)

The threat of sexual violence pervades throughout Vittorio de Sica’s astute and complete La Ciociara, for which Sophia Loren won an Oscar. Throughout the film, de Sica captures the jittery, overhead threat of war; whether in Rome or in the countryside, Italians are avoiding bombs, listening to sirens, killed by bombs or otherwise sheltering in…

Rosemary’s Baby and the Feminine Mystique

Rosemary’s Baby,  released just after the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, is an accidental portrait of women’s changing roles in America in the 1960s–a portrait which is every bit as terrifying as the main plot of the film (which involves witches’ covens and children of the devil). Mrs. Rosemary Woodhouse (a stunning Mia…

The Humanist Impulse: Antonioni’s The Red Desert

When Antonioni’s Il Deserto Rosso was released in 1964, Italy was in the middle of a major economic boom and a political re-organization. Despite being a relatively young nation-state, it became a founding member of NATO, a member of the United Nations, and a founding member of the EEC, which would later become the European…

Annie and the American Dream

While I enjoyed the marvelous and much-beloved John Huston film adaptation of Annie (1982) and thoroughly enjoy all the songs, I am no Annie purist. I have enjoyed various “faithful” and “reworked” TV and stage versions of the stories, all with the central themes of love, family, and redemption. Let us also not forget that…