Europe ’51 (1952)

I discovered this movie thanks to the amazing “1001 Must See Movies” book. While some movies meet or do not meet my expectations, this movie definitely exceeded them. Directed by Roberto Rossellini and starring Ingrid Bergman (one of the best!!), the movie tells the story of Irene Girard, a woman whose life takes a 180 degree following a family tragedy. She was initially enveloped and actively participating in a world of luxury, neglecting her son’s needs as an adolescent. Following his death, she contributed greatly to the health and well-being of a nearby neighbourhood in which the individuals were of a different socioeconomic status. She was treasured by the community members for her caring and value for the improvement of quality of human life. Could this have been her way of coping with her son’s death? Did she feel as if helping others would mitigate her own self-blame for her son’s death? Most likely. However, her family and those in her social circle did not believe that this was the “appropriate” way to grieve. She was now an outsider of the circle to which she was once most prominent.

This film was one of many which served as a role in the Italian neorealist movement. Set in Italy post-WWII, the movie examined real life itself. It definitely conveyed the challenges that many people faced following the war in Italy – poverty, unemployment, poor health, and many others. The title is quite simple, yet the film also examines what the title describes – Europe in 1951.

I feel that the themes and questions which arose a commentary on societal norms in terms of grief, charity, and mental illness (I will not discuss the latter too much for fear of too many spoilers).  Albeit less than in 1951/1952, there is still a massive amount of conformity that we adjust to daily in our lives to fit societal norms. When we deviate from that, how are we labelled? Are we frowned upon or celebrated, and by whom? These are some of the challenges that Irene Girard faces throughout the film, which I believe is quite relatable to us all on some level in our lives.

I do have to point out that Giulietta Masina, star of Fellini classics “Nights of Cabiria” and “La Strada”, also has a role in this film. She brings so much joy to the screen, and conveys so much emotion through her facial expressions almost to the degree of actors in silent film.

I do not own the above image.

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Johnny Guitar (1954)

The first film I am going to write about is “Johnny Guitar”, a Western released in 1954 by Republic Pictures. It is the complex and yet offbeat story about two women in conflict with each other for what they desire – one wants to keep her home and business alive while the other wants the aforementioned woman to abandon her business for the sake of power and greed. Not to mention, the first lady mentioned has the heart of the man who the second lady wants. The other characters portrayed in this film play vital to displaying who possesses the most power (a numbers game) and ultimately who is driven by good vs greed.

This film has vivid colours and beautiful settings. Some of the acting that can sometimes be viewed as “over the top” by today’s standards. However, Joan Crawford (Vienna) and Mercedes McCambridge (Emma Small) portray their characters splendidly, I thought. They both had to appear “strong and tough” in a man’s world. Ms. Crawford, one of my favourites, was very controlled while in confrontation with her opponent and wanted to appear unshakeable. Ms. McCambridge was more forceful and cutthroat in portraying her character – she embodied greed, revenge, and jealousy. They both wanted to appear unfaltered, but both needed support from their supporting parties (one of whom is the excellent Ernest Borgnine) to achieve their means which leads to the ultimate face-off – survival.

I usually like to analyze the significance of the title to a movie, and this is no exception. Johnny “Guitar” played by Sterling Hayden is the man from Vienna’s past who is hired by her to perform at her saloon. However, it is evident that they both love each other and have never stopped for the past five years. It was interesting to me that Johnny also creates a facade but in the opposite means to Vienna – he appears peaceful in not carrying weapons but is the best shooter you ever did see. He tries to conceal that from Vienna, as she did not approve of his former activities. However, he is the only character who does not use violence and manipulation as a means to an end. It is only at the very end when protection of his and Vienna’s life is necessary that he uses ammunition. Maybe Johnny is an idealized version of the type of person who Vienna embodies and would like to become herself.

Overall, this film stirred up a variety of themes for me as I was watching. These include ambition, love, greed, power, and the unfortunate role that violence still plays in society as a means to an end. As all good movies do, I had many lingering thoughts following the film, but I won’t spoil anything anymore than I have!

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I do not own the above image.

First blog post

Hello all! My name is Char, and I love dogs, playing the violin, and … movies of course! I must say that starting this blog something which I have wanted to do for a long time, and I feel like I have definitely watched enough movies to be able to create a good sized blog. It will mainly be classic films. Hopefully there will be something for everyone!