Friday, December 11, 2015

Rocco and His Brothers: When Facebook Posts Become Blogging Again

Warning: Here followeth a depressed rant about our generation.
Last night I went to the Charles Theater for a revival of Spirited Away. The capacity must be nearly a thousand seats, and every seat was filled, at least a hundred people must have been turned away at the box office, and there were even some extra seats installed in the back.
Spirited Away is a good movie. I enjoyed it when I saw it in the theater when it was first released, and I enjoyed it even more last night. But if it's now a classic, it's a classic the way Snow White or Cinderella is - a movie about a frustrated young girl whom everybody comes to love and experiences wonders of a magical world that has nothing better to do than to somehow be at her beckon call. Visually, it's a stunning movie, maybe even a perfect one. Emotionally, it's a movie we all should have outgrown when we were nine.
Twenty-four hours later, I came back to see the 1960 Italian movie: Rocco and his Brothers, in a stunning print. It's a movie about family, poverty, immigration, love, desperation, lust, wrath, forgiveness, and betrayal. In its way it reenacts the most primal mythical stories from Cain and Abel, to Eteocles and Polynices, to Claudius and the Ghost. But it's entirely modern and a remake could just as easily take place with a fictional Latino family in Upper Fells. It's as contemporary as it is eternal.
Rocco and His Brothers is no way a perfect movie, but its imperfections function at such a high level that you see that even when it goes over the top, it shoots for the moon, and perhaps even overshoots. It's historically a missing link - it's a novel on celluloid that goes so far into the raging id of the human psyche that there is never any getting out on the other side the same person you were when you went in. On one side of Rocco stands The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, Il Trovatore, The Grapes of Wrath. On the other side stands The Godfather, Mean Streets, The Last Picture Show, The Deer Hunter and especially Raging Bull.
For this movie that can stand with the best of Coppola and Dostoevsky, there were twenty people in the theater - I made sure to count. I think I spotted an acquaintance a few rows ahead of me, and this person, certainly an intelligent one if it's whom I think it was, cackled hysterically at a few of the more over-the-top scenes. If a hundred other mutual acquaintances were there, three-quarters of them would probably have the same reaction. We've become so ironic that most of us don't feel anything at all - our music is too noisy to have highs or lows, our movies have far more set pieces than characters, and most of the books we read are conceptual fiction about characters who by definition have very little relation to our own lives. This is our society.
We're all still children, and fifty years from now, we'll probably die children.
Have a nice Friday.

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