Carlo Lizzani, Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jean-Luc Godard, Elda Tattoli, Marco Bellocchio, 1969
Starring: Ninetto Davoli, Julian Beck, Nino Castelnuovo, Tom Baker
I just wrote in my review of Capriccio all’italiana, an anthology film from the previous year that Pasolini also contributed to, how sick I am of European art house anthologies, but Amore e rabbia was blissfully the last of these. When these anthology films weren’t completely self-indulgent, like The Witches, they tended to focus on the fraught political situation of the late ‘60s. Marked by protests, strikes, and government-wide shut downs, this period was the closest Europe has come since 18th century France to attaining revolution.
While the US was home to the Civil Rights Movement and anti-Vietnam demonstrations, French students nearly overthrew their own government, Italy had a major anarchist conference, and Czechoslovakia underwent the Prague Spring, etc. Without understanding the political climate of the period, it’s almost impossible to absorb everything going on in Amore e rabbia, which is made up of five clips from six directors.
Carlo Lizzani, one of neorealism’s foremost screenwriters and a prolific director in his own right, kicked off the anthology with “L’indifferenza" aka “Indifference,” the most effective segment of the film. In the courtyard of an apartment, a woman is attacked while onlookers ignore the crime to listen to a sporting event (based on the true story of Kitty Genovese, who was raped and stabbed to death just outside her apartment complex), and elsewhere people refuse to help an injured man and woman trying to get from a car accident to the hospital. This latter tale would be more effective if I hadn’t already watched a more comical version in The Witches, which this much more somber retelling closely mirrors. Still, its implications are chilling and there is an almost Cronenbergian feel to the hostility and violence of the city.
Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Agonia” aka “Agony,” on the other hand, is really an acquired taste. A man is passing away and his death is accompanied by a troupe of dancers who form body sculptures (like something you might see at Cirque du Soleil), spout pseudo philosophical nonsense, and otherwise guide the man to his death in the most ‘60s European counterculture way possible. Put together by The Living Theatre and with a performance from the company’s founders Julian Beck and Judith Malina, you really have to know the background to get this one. It might be nice to watch after checking out Fassbinder’s documentary on experimental theater, Theatre in Trance (1981).
Next up is Pasolini’s segment, "La sequenza del fiore di carta” aka “The Sequence of Paper Flowers,” which is surprisingly short and simple. His regularly star from this period, the irresistibly likable Ninetto Davoli plays an innocent young man who wanders the streets in utter harmony with the world, sometimes carrying a large paper flower. These images are contrasted with clips of atrocities and historically important moments and the youth is eventually struck dead, as if the heavens are outraged by his innocence and gaiety. This one would be unlikable if it weren’t for an infectious performance from Davoli, whose sunny personality shines through. It’s easy to see why he become one of Pasolini’s most used comic actors.
The little dialogue in “La sequenza del fiore di carta” is more than made up for with the dialogue-heavy story from the film’s only non-Italian director, Jean-Luc Godard. His “L’Amore” aka “Love” is a fascinating companion piece to some of his films that revolve around relationships — such as Contempt and A Woman in a Woman — as it follows a couple who sit around and argue. Their discussions of love and politics are underlined by the fact that she is Jewish and he is Arabic and they are contrasted with another couple who discuss the actions of the central couple.
Marco Bellocchio and Elda Tattoli segment, "Discutiamo, discutiamo” aka “We Tell, You Tell,” is the last and will probably feel as relevant as the first segment to contemporary viewers. It follows a group of politically-minded students who don’t take any action, but sit around preaching ideas of Marxism and anarchism that they all already agree on. Essentially their discussion is about whether it’s possible to change things from within the system or whether the system should be destroyed and rebuilt. It’s not the best of the short films, but the discussion feels fresh and some of the themes haven’t changed at all.
Overall I can only recommend Amore e rabbia to Pasolini and Godard completists, or to anyone with an interest in or knowledge of ‘60s history. You can surprisingly find the film on DVD, in a nice-looking edition from NoShame. It’s definitely worth watching at least once and I would be fascinated to hear some feedback from viewers totally ignorant to the events of the late ‘60s.