Monday, January 19, 2015

Two Snippets on Film: Rossellini's "Stromboli" and Wenders's "Alice in the Cities"; Reviews by Payman Akhalghi (2015)

Rossellini's "Stromboli" and Wenders's "Alice in the Cities"
A Note on Cinema by Payman Akhalghi (Draft 7; Revised)

(*) First published at on January 18th, 2015, under Memo on Cinema: Rossellini's "Stromboli" and Wenders's "Alice in the Cities.

1) "Stromboli: Terra di Dio" (1950, 94 mins, Italian), directed by Roberto Rossellini, with music by his brother Renzo, and featuring his wife, Ingrid Bergman, whose skill and presence combines with, and rises above, an attractive, ubiquitous, but at times overbearing orchestral score. That is not to undermine the music, which from the opening frames sets an epic tone for the drama, even for its private side, and often succeeds in delineating the psychological turmoils of an expressive face in her silence and loneliness. The music of Stromboli thus acts as a character in itself, asserting its presence operatically, sometimes as the narrator, at other times as the narrative of a soul, but mostly as the voice of an ever-present colossal background, the earth, the ocean, the mountains, a volcano about to erupt, an awesome nature at large, and the harsh destiny that ensues.

The last 35 mins of the film, composed of three major sequences, a massive fishing episode, a volcanic eruption, and an escape alone through a smoking mountain, is riveting, It reminds me of "Man of Aran", charged with a convincing drama about the traps of unhappy marriage and cultural contrasts, combined with a touch of spirituality or religion in the face of nature's massive wrath, or rather, under the burdens of life. Be warned that animals are actually harmed during the fishing sequence shot in a documentary style.

2) "Alice in the Cities" (1974, about 110 mins, German) is directed by Wim Wenders. It's a rare study and an alarming appreciation of the fragile fate of children in modern urban life of the 70's. It's also a refreshing example of an almost paternal and utterly decent love and protection afforded to a child by a non-father. The film goes to show that about 10 years before "Wings of Desire", the director had already much mastered his craft, and had surely found his favorite topic: a dramatic narrative as much served by rapidly changing locations as it's serving them, in this case, American landscape, New York, Amsterdam, and several cities in Germany. Knowing that Wings of Desire originated as a film about the city of Berlin, I wonder if the trip itself was not the main reason for this earlier film, as well. In retrospect, I'm inclined to think that "Paris, Texas" of 1984 somewhat appears as a sequel to Alice.

(*) "Stromboli" is distributed by the Criterion Collection. Both films currently available on Hulu.

© 2015, Payman Akhlaghi. This is an original memo. All rights reserved.

(*) Payman Akhlaghi is a composer, pianist and piano teacher based in Los Angeles. His repertoire covers Classical music, as well as Persian (Iranian) Music, Pop Music, and Film Music. For information on the lessons in the Greater Los Angeles area, including Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Encino, Brentwood, etc. please call: 310-208-2927. Thank you.

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