Friday, March 23, 2007

Movie Chat: La Strada

La Strada

I spent a weekend watching all of these Fellini movies from the 1950s during my first set of wilderness years between college and grad school, and, not surprisingly perhaps (especially for people who knew me then), they all blended together and none of them made much of an impression. Part of the problem was that I was watching them to "get them out of the way" - to check them off my list of "must-see films" to complete my education as a cinephile.

In retrospect, I can see that that was kind of a lousy way for me to watch movies. I'm not quite sure where it comes from, but I can get compulsive about these kinds of things - buying comic books I don't actually read because I want to collect a "complete set", sticking with a TV show long after I've stopped enjoying it just because I have to know how it will end (hello, Battlestar Galactica), reading an author's novels in chronological order even when skipping around would be ultimately more satisfying - and I now try to take things a bit more slowly, approaching films/books/comics not as is they were a task or an assignment to get through but as (possible) sources of pleasure and enlightenment.

So, I was glad to revisit La Strada, because I found it both pleasurable and enlightening. I'm now pretty sure that I've been underrating Fellini for years, not just because I watched so many of his movies under less than ideal conditions, but, like Ikiru, these are movies that I probably wouldn't have been able to appreciate as much when I was younger.

I really liked La Strada, although what I want to talk about here is the way me feel nostalgic for a time I never actually lived through: when a literate, artistic, sensitive foreign film like this could have been an important cultural touchstone, (at least, snob and elitist that I am, among college-educated, middle and upper-middle class adults).

I don't know: maybe I'm just depressed from reading posts like Michael Blowhard's take on 300 or the Derelict's dialogue with an "old movie" skeptic or from the fact that the only "cultural" thing anyone in my office ever talks about is American Idol. I don't even think American Idol is, itself, all that bad. What I do think is bad is the way that it has colonized the brain space of people who should know better, and, yes, snobbery and elitism again, I mean supposedly educated people. Note: not that you need to be "educated" to appreciate art/culture/etc. I'm more dispirited by the fact that "education" today does nothing to instill an appreciation for art/culture/etc.

Oh, well... Fellini's movie deserves more than my kvetching, but, for now, it's all I've got.

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