Sunday, August 19, 2007


Poet Ray DiPalma suggested I do an alphabet list of Italian films after he saw my French film one (he made the same suggestion to Doug Lang, check out Doug’s film blog for his), as usual I did mine lying in bed (this time up in the Berkshires, having trouble falling asleep after a SoCo “dirty choclate” ice cream cone), so here ‘tis, as far as I got (with their English titles in many cases, under which I first saw them) and of course these are just my own favorites, most of which I first saw in my early twenties in the early 1960s, or whenever they came out after that:

ARMACORD (the bicycle seat scene alone was worth the price of admission)
BICYCLE THIEF, THE (poignant the first time and I suspect still)
CINEMA PARADISO (still heartwarming for me) and THE CONFORMIST (Bertolucci is one of my alltime favorite directors, and this was one of the first films of his to overwhelm me with its texture and langorous sensuality)
DEATH IN VENICE (morbid and a downer but beautifully filmed)
8 ½ (the first “foreign” film I saw for strictly artistic and intellectual motives, and dug totally)
GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SAINT MATTHEW, THE (stunning black and white literal represenation of this most realistic of the Gospels, starring non-actors—I heard “Jesus” was played by an engineering student who had never acted before—it was directed by Pasolini, the supposedly most “decadent” of directors) and THE GARDEN OF FINZI-CANTINIS (still works for me)
IL POSTINO (heartbreaking performance by the actor who played the mailman and died shortly after filming)
JULIET OF THE SPIRITS (Fellini’s homage to his wife, Giulietta Masina)
KEEP WALKING (pretty original)
LA STRADA (I know it should probably be under “S” but in Italian it seems so much more than “the”—my first encounter with Fellinni and his wife, Giulietta Masina, one of the few references in Frank O’Hara’s poetry I got the first time around) and LOVE AND ANARCHY (my introduction to Lina Wertmuller and her greatest asset, in my opinion, Giancarlo Gianinni)
MIRACLE IN MILAN (another heartwarming one)
NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING STARS (a great flick with wonderful performances, not to be missed) and 1900 (another Bertolucci masterpiece, the uncut version, long but totally worth it, interestingly the weakest link, for me, is DiNiro, but Burt Lancaster vs. Sterling Hayden as aged adversaries! It doesn’t get any better than that, but it does because there’s also Gerard Depardieu and Dominique Sanda! But you almost have to see it on the big screen as it is like watching a great Impressionist painting come to life)
OPEN CITY (shot on the streets of Rome as WWII was ending, with German soldiers still there! Talk about neo-REALISM! One of my alltime favorite U. S. flicks, ON THE WATERFRONT, I felt owed a lot to OPEN CITY. And Anna Magnani impressed me as the greatest actress I’d seen at the time)
RIVER GIRL, THE (Sophia Loren at her most stunning) and RED DESERT (I’m not crazy about Antonioni, too slow for me, but if I had to choose one of his flicks, this is the one)
STEALING BEAUTY (another Bertolucci masterpiece to me, and Liv Tyler has never been more lovely)
THREE BROTHERS (one of my alltime favorite flicks period, if you haven’t seen it, you must, the faces alone are worth it, and ones you will never see in a Hollywood flick)
UMBERTO D. (another De Sica neorealist masterpiece that could never have been made in Hollywood)
WIFE FOR A NIGHT (Gina Lollobrigida was to my young eye and heart the most beautiful and seductive of all the Italian screen beauties, I went to all her movies—before I could appreciate them as “art”—only for the glimpses of her gorgeous features and voluptuous body and searingly deep dark eyes, and this was the first—I was later lucky enough to meet her, one of the few “celebrities” I was still impressed by)

After the above was posted, Ray sent me (and Doug Lang) this erudite explanation for my alphabet troubles with this list:

Dear Michael & Doug,

You wouldn't have found--or been able to think of--any Italian films with Italian titles that began with the letters J, K, W, X, or Y because [like Hebrew] the Italian alphabet has only 21 letters & those 5 letters listed are the ones that are missing. I wanted to be certain of this so I double-checked with Paul Vangelisti when he phoned today & he confirmed that is indeed the case. Of course, English translations of Italian titles are another matter. He added that the letter X is occasionally used in southern Italy as a consonant, but only in the middle of some words.

Under 'V' I would recommend VULCANO--a very heavy film--[with Rossano Brazzi & Anna Magnani] which I was taken to see by my grandmother Rosa when I was 10 [and who also took me to see BITTER RICE shortly thereafter]. Also under 'V' comes I VITELLONI--Fellini's 2nd solo directorial effort-- a truly wonderful film that in its own way points to the later AMARCORD--which can be viewed in part as a kind of prequel to I VITELLONI

All the best,


Anonymous said...

Lal--A couple of Italian films to add to your list: "Shoeshine," "Rocco and His Brothers," "Mediterraneo," and of course "L'Aventurra" and "La Dolce Vita."
And to add to your French list: "Le Bonheur," the very sad "Au Revoir, Mes Enfants," and two Jacques Tati gems, "Mr. Hulot's Holiday" and "Mon Oncle." Bob Berner

douglang said...

A really great list. Ray didn't mention the alphabet aspect to me, or, he did, and I missed it, regarding my own list. Fun to compare the 2 lists. Yours is all Bertloucci, mine is no Bertolucci. You have River Girl (American title), I have Woman of the River (British title). Neither of us have anything by Dario Argento bigtime cult director. You have some films I love, but did not list, as well as those I haven't seen, but will now.

Nothing comes to my mind in the "H," "P," "Q," "V," "X," "Y" or "Z" categorie, either. Hmmm.

I really hated 1900, but your description made me want to see it again.

Now I'm going to check out your list of French films, mon ami.

ciao, caro

Lally said...

Bob, I agree on all your suggestions, except I don't know "Meditteraneo"? And Doug, yeah Bertolucci is my man, which means I may justify his misses because I just fall for his style every time. But I love your list(s) as well and will check out those I'm not familiar with.

Anonymous said...

Two Women

RJ Eskow said...

For Z, Zabriskie Point.

Italian director, anyway.

Anonymous said...

As I felt you slighted perhaps my favorite French director, Philippe De Broca, I think you've given Vittorio De Sica's later work short shrift. There is first of all the shattering Two Women, but also the comedies---Divorce Italian Style, Marriage Italian Style, and a "Y" for you: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow---some of which I can't recall the names of.