The 1001 Movies Podcast

From Jonathan Rosenbaum, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani), an unemployed worker in postwar Rome, finds a job putting up movie posters after his wife pawns the family's bedsheets to get his bicycle out of hock.  But right after he starts work the bike is stolen, and with his little boy Bruno (Enzo Staiola) in tow he crisscrosses the city trying to retrieve it, encountering various aspects of Roman society, including some of the more active class differences, in the process.

"This masterpiece - the Italian title translates as 'bicycle thieves' - is one of the key works of Italian Neorealism.  French critic Andre Bazin also recognized it as one of the great communist films.  The fact that it received the 1949 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film suggests that it wasn't perceived that way in the United States at the time.  Ironically, the only thing American censors cared about was a scene in which the little boy urinates on the street.  For some followers of auteur theory the film lost some of its power because it didn't derive from a single creative intelligence.  A collaboration between screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, Vittorio De Sica, nonprofessional actors, and many others, the production is so charged with a common purpose that there is little point in even trying to separate achievements.

"The Bicycle Thief contains what is possibly the greatest depiction of a relationship between a father and son in the history of cinema, full of subtle fluctuations and evolving gradations between the two characters in terms of respect and trust, and it's an awesome heartbreaker.  It also has its moments of Chaplinesque comedy - the contrasting behavior of two little boys having lunch at the same restaurant.  Set alongside a film like Life is Beautiful (1997), it provides some notion of how much mainstream world cinema and its relation to reality has been infantilized over the past half century."

Have a comment or question for the host?  Email Sean at 1001moviespodcast@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @1001MoviesPC.

Direct download: Episode_87_Bicycle_Thieves_1948.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am CDT

From Kim Newman, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"The Reckless Moment is an unusual film noir in that it reverses the sexes in a replay of the familiar story (as in Double Indemnity [1944] and Scarlet Street [1945]) of an innocent who gets involved with a seductive no-good and is embroiled in crime.  Here, class and respectability assume the status usually accorded to sex and money as housewife Lucia Harper (Joan Bennett) loses her grip on suburbia when the sleazy specimen (Shepperd Studwick) who has been seeing her daughter (Geraldine Brooks) is semiaccidentally killed under suspicious circumstances, and she moves his corpse to make things look better.

"Lucia's nemesis is played by James Mason, oddly but effectively cast as an Irish lowlife, who starts out blackmailing her but begins, disturbingly, to make sincere romantic overtures.  The focus of the film then changes as the criminal is driven to make a sacrifice that will restore the heroine's life but also suggests that Bennett - who, after all, was the tramp in Scarlet Street - may have unwittingly been manipulating him to her advantage all along.  Viennese director Max Ophuls is more interested in irony and emotion than crime and drama, which gives this a uniquely nerve-flaying feel, and he nudges the lead actors into revelatory unusual performances"

Have a comment or question for the host?  Email Sean at 1001moviespodcast@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @1001MoviesPC.

Direct download: Episode_86_The_Reckless_Moment_1949.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am CDT

From Garrett Chaffin-Quiray, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:

"Genre can be used to read history and interpret moments in time.  Accordingly, Mervyn LeRoy's Little Caesar helped to define the gangster movie while serving as an allegory of production circumstances because it was produced during the Great Depression.  Within the film is inscribed a wholesale paranoia about individual achievement in the face of economic  devastation.  Leavening this theme alongside the demands of social conformity during the early 1930s means that LeRoy's screen classic is far more than the simple sum of its parts.

"Caesar 'Rico' Bandello (Edward G. Robinson) is a small-stakes thief with a partner named Joe (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.).  Recognizing a dead-end future, they move to the heart of Chicago where Joe becomes an entertainer and falls in love with a dancer named Olga (Glenda Farrell).  In contrast, Rico gets a taste of the 'life' and enjoys it.  Possessing a psychotic ruthlessness, he gradually looms as the new power on-scene before finally succumbing to an ill-tempered ego and the police.  Gut shot and dying beneath an ad for Joe and Olga's dinner act, Rico sputters some final words of self-determination, underlining how he won't ever be caught because he lived according to the terms of his own ambition.

"For audiences, Rico's killer was undoubtedly a clear call of recent tensions about the state of the world at the time.  Limited by the feature film's structure, but not dulled by censorial practice in the days before the Production Code Administration, Little Caesar offers a scornful look at free enterprise taken to an extreme.  Seen through the long view of history and the focus on ill-gotten gains, it's a perfect corollary for Wall Street's collapse, itself the result of poor regulation, mass speculation, and hysteria manipulated to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

"Acting out to get a bigger piece of the pie, Rico expresses the wish for acceptance and the drive toward success in an otherwise indifferent world.  Simultaneously terrorizing innocents and devastating the society he desires to control, he ends up illuminating the demands of power with homicidal shadows in this, a seminal film of the early sound era."

Have a comment or question for the host?  Email Sean at 1001moviespodcast@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @1001MoviesPC.

Direct download: Episode_85_Little_Caesar_1931.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am CDT

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