Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Mamma Roma opens with a wedding – a dinner scene reminiscent of Jesus’ last supper and drawing on the iconic images of Renaissance art with a twist of the grotesque. Replacing the somber, thoughtful, and debating disciples presented by Da Vinci, we have a collection of vulgar country people, mischievous children, and the brazen Mamma Roma. The dialogue and interactions are crass but have a certain air of spiritual wellbeing that is lost once Mamma Roma abandons poverty for the middle-class life. This almost perverse religious interpretation is not meant to be disparaging or disrespectful, but to suggest the inherent contradiction Catholicism has in its own understanding of itself. While religion often hinges beauty and purity, Pasolini suggests that the spiritual beauty of humanity often emerges from vulgarity and contradiction. This is a film about sex, economics, God, and how all these things are rippling with chaos.
Inspired by Mark Twain’s Extracts from Adam’s Diary, Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive beautifully explores love and living after immortality siphoned away any semblance of life. Beautifully shot and wonderfully performed, the film eschews the more bombastic side of vampiric lore for a subtle approach exploring immortality and existence.
2014 documentaries to look out for and watch
The Master (2012)
If you figure a way to live without serving a master, any master, then let the rest of us know, will you? For you’d be the first person in the history of the world. 34/365
Oscar Wilde once wrote that life imitates art; the way in which people live their lives are often based on their expressions through the latter. Chef, through Favreau’s eyes in meta-fashion, is a lot about losing oneself through drudgery and then finding a way back. Whether as an artist, a creative, or a father, everyone loses themselves, but pursuing the energy found in creative expression can be the basis for finding themselves again.
It’s both perfectly fitting and a darkly wry punchline that the last word in Stanley Kubrick’s last film is “fuck,” utilized in its most literal definition. The word is spoken, in both direct and slightly imploring fashion, by Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman) to her husband Bill (Tom Cruise) at the end of the still slightly underappreciated Eyes Wide Shut. Bill’s nocturnal journey into an unfamiliar world of group sex and general deviancy is one of missed opportunities and denied possibilities; he is surrounded by and beckoned into various couplings, and capitalizes on none of them. This weakness of the modern man is a recurrent theme in Kubrick’s filmography, from Paths of Glory to Eyes Wide Shut, released posthumously in the summer of 1999. Kubrick, who died 15 years ago today, was often categorized as a cold and distant filmmaker, always putting his characters at an emotional remove; this qualification is typically meant as a rebuke of his stylistic leanings. The chilly way with which he treated his protagonists, though, is less an obvious example of his auteuristic failings, and more an emblem of how the lead characters in his films are defined by literal or metaphorical impotence.