Daily Archives: September 14, 2021

The Bicycle Thief

From the Chicago Reader, March 1, 1999. (This is erroneously dated in October 1985 on the Reader‘s web site, about two years before I joined the staff.) — J.R.

An unemployed worker (Lamberto Maggiorani) in postwar Rome finds a job putting up posters for a Rita Hayworth movie after his wife pawns the family sheets to get his bicycle out of hock. But right after he starts work the bike is stolen, and with his little boy in tow he travels across the city trying to recover it. This masterpiece -– whose Italian title translates as “bicycle thieves” -– is generally and correctly known as one of the key works of Italian neorealism, but 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 film suggests that it wasn’t perceived widely as such over here at the time; ironically, the only thing American censors cared about was a scene in which the little boy takes a pee on the street.) The dominance of auteurist criticism over the past three decades has made this extraordinary movie unfashionable because its power doesn’t derive from a single creative intelligence, but the work of screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, director Vittorio De Sica, the nonprofessional actors, and many others is so charged with a common purpose that there’s no point in even trying to separate their achievements.… Read more »

On Books and Literary Matters (an index of sorts)

Here is a chronological list of many of the book reviews and longer pieces on literary and related subjects found on this web site, with links added in a few cases; capsule reviews of films are omitted, and this list is otherwise far from complete:\, especially regarding many more recent posts

Review of A MOVEABLE FEAST (Bard Observer, September 1964)

Review of THE CRYING OF LOT 49 (Bard Observer, May 1966)

“I Missed It at the Movies: Objections to ‘Raising KANE’” (Film Comment, Spring 1972)

Review of JEAN RENOIR: THE WORLD OF HIS FILMS (Film Comment, January-February 1973)

Review of GRAVITY’S RAINBOW (Village Voice, March 1973)

“Raymond Durgnat” (Film Comment, May-June 1973)

Review of Dwight Macdonald’s DISCRIMINATIONS (Village Voice, Oct. 1974)

Review of Gore Vidal’s MYRON (Village Voice, Nov. 1974)

Review of Noel Burch’s THEORY OF FILM PRACTICE (Sight and Sound, Winter 1974/75)

On Jean Renoir [book review] (Film Comment, May-June 1976)

“Film Writing Degree Zero: The Marketplace and the University” (Sight and Sound, Autumn 1977)

Review of Noel Burch’s TO THE DISTANT OBSERVER (American Film, July-August 1979)

Review of Graham Greene’s DR.Read more »

SCARFACE

A capsule review requested by and written for MUBI’s Notebook in conjunction with an ongoing series at New York”s Film Forum. — J.R.

scarface

Scarface (Howard Hawks, 1932): A surprising amount of Howard Hawks’ unstable, weirdly graceful universe is informed by the imminence of death and the proximity of offscreen space, tied to the risks of tangling with sudden impulses. Few of his films are more aware of this encroaching void than Scarface, where X is made to mark the offscreen spot around every narrative corner. This frighteningly brutal black comedy, the least romantic of his crowd-pleasers — a much better gangster film than any of the Godfathers, especially when it comes to confronting reality — was made when people were far less deluded than they are today about the fact that their lives and destinies were being controlled by crooks. What makes it bleaker than Only Angels Have Wings and Rio Bravo is the small and indecisive role friendship is allowed to play in holding back the darkness; perhaps only Land of the Pharaohs betrays a comparable nihilistic bleakness. — Jonathan Rosenbaum

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