Tuesday, July 8, 2014

THE BICYCLE THIEF (1948, ITALY), PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (1985)


A Comparison of Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief
and Tim Burton's Pee Wee's Big Adventure

Basic Plot:
The Bicycle Thief: Man’s life spirals out of control after theft of his bike
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Man’s life spirals out of control after theft of his bike

Title in Italian:
The Bicycle Thief: Ladri di biciclette
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Grande esperienza uoma di piccola statura

Importance of bicycle:
The Bicycle Thief: Means of livelihood
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Life itself

Film style:
The Bicycle Thief: Neo-realistic
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Fairy tale/Fable

Protagonist biggest bike fantasy:
The Bicycle Thief: No fantasies, just wants to earn a living
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Wins the Tour de France

Antagonist:
The Bicycle Thief: Poor, epileptic peasant named Alfredo who wears a German cap
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Rich, spoiled man/boy named Francis who wears an ascot

Signature line:
The Bicycle Thief: “Give me my bicycle back!”
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: “I know you are, but what am I?”

Forgotten female lead:
The Bicycle Thief: Antonio’s wife, ignored after the first twenty minutes of the film
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Dottie, ignored by Pee Wee the entire film

Lack of help from the police:
The Bicycle Thief: “You’ve filed a complaint. There’s nothing more I can say!”
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: “Let me be honest with you. Hundreds of bikes are stolen every month. Very few are ever recovered. We just don’t have the resources.”

Musical interlude:
The Bicycle Thief: Three-man band at a restaurant featuring ukulele, guitar and violin.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Twisted Sister

Is there a scene of the protagonist mourning over lost bike in the rain to show despondency?
The Bicycle Thief: Yes
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Yes

Loyal sidekick:
The Bicycle Thief: Antonio’s little son Bruno
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Pee Wee’s little dog Speck

Favorite scene that made me laugh but I can’t explain why it’s funny:
The Bicycle Thief: Antonio’s son Bruno slips in the rain. Antonio asks, “What happened?” Bruno points at the spot and yells, “I fell down!”
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Mario the magic shop proprietor tries to sell Pee Wee various items culminating with a giant plastic head and Pee Wee screams, “NO!”

Coincidence alert:
The Bicycle Thief: Antonio spots an old man talking to the boy who stole his bike
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Truck carrying the stolen bike goes by Pee Wee while he’s driving down the road

Most surrealistic moment:
The Bicycle Thief: None
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Pee Wee’s movie within a movie is brought to the screen with James Brolin as P. W. and Morgan Fairchild as Dottie. The bicycle has become the ‘X1’ motorcycle.

Most neo-realistic moment:
The Bicycle Thief: Antonio has not only lost his bike, but his dignity, only to comforted by the touch of his son’s hand
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: None

Heroic moment:
The Bicycle Thief: Antonio’s friend Baiocco tries to help find the bike.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Pee Wee saves some snakes from a burning pet store

Tragic lines said to the protagonist:
The Bicycle Thief: “Criminal! Scoundrel! Fine example you set for your son!”
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: “There’s no basement at the Alamo!”

Director’s use of non-actors:
The Bicycle Thief: Casting of many non-actors in pivotal roles
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Casting of non-actor Morgan Fairchild

Director’s later change of pace:
The Bicycle Thief: Vittorio De Sica later made his own fairy tale/fable in Miracle in Milan
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: Tim Burton later went neo-realistic (to a degree) in Batman

Is this film in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die?
The Bicycle Thief: Often regarded as one of the top ten films of all time. Of course it’s in the book!
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: No, but it probably ought to be.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

REPORT (1967)


Experimental/Avant Garde Cinema Week Day 7

There are several experimental or avant garde films on the 1001 movie list. In trying to figure out how to deal with them, I have tried to handle these often tough nuts to crack by just watching them and trying to answer ten basic questions about them on my personally devised standardized test. So let us conclude with..

Report

1. What happens?
A news narrative of the day of the Kennedy assassination is reported with images relating to the assassination, but not in the order or in the way we have normally viewed it.

2. Was it heavy? Did it achieve total heaviosity?
It was pretty heavy. Yes, I'm giving this one the official heaviosity label.

3. What was your favorite part?
I liked that the scenes never quite seem to match what is being narrated, and challenges your perception of what you are seeing.

4. What was your least favorite part?
The part with the bullfighting was a bit off-putting at first.

5. Did you get it?
I believe I got this one.

6. Might the viewing experience have been enhanced from either prescription or non-prescription medication of some kind?
No, you need to take this one straight.

7. What about the sex?
You may see some sex appeal from the ladies in the advertisements for refrigerators and such, but these are overwhelmed by the scenes of violence.

8. What about the violence?
There are plenty of violent images during the last few minutes of Report, though the scenes of violence from the actual assassination are missing.

9. Describe this film in one sentence starting with "This is the film..."
This is the film where you may perceive an event you've looked at many times in a new way.

10. Would you watch it again?
Yes. And it would only take me 14 minutes!


                              

Saturday, June 28, 2014

VINYL (1965)


Experimental/Avant Garde Cinema Week Day 6

There are several experimental or avant garde films on the 1001 movie list. In trying to figure out how to deal with them, I have tried to handle these often tough nuts to crack by just watching them and trying to answer ten basic questions about them on my personally devised standardized test. So let us continue with..

Vinyl

1. What happens?
Blonde male in leather lifts some weights to the indifference of those behind him. This blonde guy appears to hold contempt for newspapers and ties up a guy to a pole and tortures him. He says he does bad things because he "digs it." He dances to Martha and the Vandellas. He gets into an altercation with someone he refers to as "scum baby." At this point, he is suddenly on the wrong end of an interrogation. He is strapped to a chair as a doctor examines him and someones reads the cast credits even though the movie isn't over. He is subjected to images that change his way of thinking. He is forced to wear a mask. He is released from his bondage and listens to some Kinks and some Stones and dances.

2. Was it heavy? Did it achieve total heaviosity?
I dug it enough to say it was a little heavy, but I've certainly had heavier.

3. What was your favorite part?
When I recognized the parts that were recognizable as being from Clockwork Orange, I kind of dug that.

4. What was your least favorite part?
I think this story could have been told in half the time. I didn't dig the moments of nothing happening.

5. Did you get it?
It's a bare bones adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange before Kubrick made an actual movie out of it. I can dig it.

6. Might the viewing experience have been enhanced from either prescription or non-prescription medication of some kind?
Too much of a high may cause the plot of Vinyl to slow down to an intolerable pace. I couldn't dig that. 

7. What about the sex?
I can't say I dug the bumping and grinding sex, though it was more figurative than anything.

8. What about the violence?
I don't dig violence, and tying someone up and putting a mask on them? I really can't dig that.

9. Describe this film in one sentence starting with "This is the film..."
This is the film that Andy Warhol made loosely following the plot of Clockwork Orange, and you're probably not going to dig it. 

10. Would you watch it again?

Probably wouldn't dig watching Vinyl again. Could possibly dig watching Andy Warhol's Bad or Andy Warhol's Dracula again. Or maybe I should just try to dig staring at some pictures of soup cans.                                

Friday, June 27, 2014

FLAMING CREATURES (1963)


Experimental/Avant Garde Cinema Week Day 5

There are several experimental or avant garde films on the 1001 movie list. In trying to figure out how to deal with them, I have tried to handle these often tough nuts to crack by just watching them and trying to answer ten basic questions about them on my personally devised standardized test. So let us continue with..

Flaming Creatures

1. What happens?
Operatic music plays. Several transvestites try on lipstick. We have a shot of someone shaking their penis. A young lady mocks protest as she is having her breast touched to the tune of Asian music. Halfhearted screaming accompanies an orgy scene. Violin music plays and we see the aftermath of the orgy...I guess. Some laying around...not much happening, frankly. More modern music plays as a drag queen comes out of a box. Nothing much happens before a couple of the people begin dancing Astaire/Rogers style. Sounds like Mariachi music now. The people spin to the dance. Look, a man points to a woman's nipple! Gene Vincent's Be-Bop-A-Lula begins playing before we get a shot of a final jiggling breast.

2. Was it heavy? Did it achieve total heaviosity?
It really wanted to be heavy, but I could pick this one up and toss it across the room with one hand. Sorry, not that heavy.

3. What was your favorite part?
Other than the fact that this was better than Blonde Cobra, I would think the diverse musical selections would be the best part.

4. What was your least favorite part?
I could have done without the penis shaking part...or the mock rape scene for that matter.

5. Did you get it?
I'm afraid I did not, though I can at least understand how someone else might, unlike Blonde Cobra!

6. Might the viewing experience have been enhanced from either prescription or non-prescription medication of some kind?
It could only help. Preferably something to make you very "giggly."

7. What about the sex?
When the characters aren't lying around, it's all about sex.

8. What about the violence?
You could look at the mock rape scene as violence. You could also look at it as farce. Or somewhere in-between.

9. Describe this film in one sentence starting with "This is the film..."
This is the film that I'm giving too much credit to for just not being Blonde Cobra!

10. Would you watch it again?
I seriously doubt it. But I'd certainly re-watch it before watching Blonde Cobra again!