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purpose. It ~ a question of survival af!.f!!_~~th, but ot,!_largeL~Qnthe creation of an ideal world in the likenesSof the real, ~it~its·owl!._tel1!Q2!:9:1 '""How-vain a thing is ·pamting"-iTunderneath-ourfond adri1iration for its· We do not discern man's primitive need to have the last word in the argument death by means of the form that endures. If the history of the plastic arts is less of their aesthetic than of their psychology then it will be seen to be essenthe story of resemblance, or, if you will, of realism.
in this sociological perspective photography and cinema would provide a natexplanation for the great spiritual and technical crisis that overtook modern around the middle of the last century. Andre Malraux has described the cin.the furtherm~olution to date of plasfiCrealtsrrr;-theiJegiiiiilrigSof which first manifest at theRenaissance and which found a limited expression in painting.
is true that painting, the world over, has struck a varied balance between the symand realism. However, in the fifteenth century Western painting began to turn its age-old concern with spiritual realities expressed in the form proper to it, an effort to combine this spiritual expression with as complete an imitation )1"'1>MUlv of the outside world.
decisive moment undoubtedly came with the discovery of the first scientific
, in a sense, mechanical system of reproduction, namely, perspective: the obscura of Da Vinci foreshadowed the camera of Niepce. The artist was now
the illusion of -
FROM WHAT IS CINEMA?
THE ONTOLOGY Of THE PHOTOGRAPHIC IMAGE
If the plastic arts were put under psychoanalysis, the practice of embalming dead might turn out to be a fundamental factor in their creation. The process reveal that at the origin of painting and sculpture there lies a mummy complex. religion of ancient Egypt, aimed against death, saw survival as depending on the tinued existence of the corporeal body.~iding~_def~.ggainst the sage of time it satisfied a basic psychological need in man, . t . of ti;:~Topreserve, artmctaHy,-hisJ1Qdily_flPpearance is to snatch it from the flow time:to stow it away neatly, so to speak, in the hold of life. It was natural, to keep up appearances in the face of the reality of death by preserving flesh and The first Egyptian statue, then, was a mummy, tanned and petrified in sodium. pyramids and labyrinthine corridors offered no certain guarantee against UHUHm~ pillage.
Other forms of insurance were therefore sought. So, near the sarcophagus, side the corn that was to feed the dead, the Egyptians placed terra cotta statuettes, substitute mummies which might replace the bodies if these were destroyed. It is religious use, then, that lays bare the primordial function of statuary, namely, preservation of life by a r~atiollof1ife. Another manifestation of the same o(ihmg is the arrow-Pierced clay bear to be found in prehistoric caves, a identity-substitute for the living animal, that will ensure a successful hunt. The lution, side by side, of art and civilization has relieved the plastic arts of their role. Louis XIV did not have himself embalmed. He was content to survive in his trait by Le Brun. Civilization cannot, however, entirely cast out the bogy of time. can only sublimate our concern with it to the level of rational thinking. ~
bel~_lQ!l~_i.!l.t~eontological identity of model and' but all are
that the image helps us to remember the su to nrc·~plr\IP
great artists, of course, have always the two tendencies.
..-hp"hm,,," allotted to each its proper place in the hierarchy of things, holding reality command and molding it at will into the fabric of their art. Nevertheless, the remains that we are faced with two essentially different phenomena and these any critic must view separately if he is to understand the evolution of the pic toThe~ffi8ion.~not~~the heart of painting since the six-
. of itself nonaesthetic, the origins of which
IS a need the of which has been strong enough to have senously upset the equilibrium of the arts.
be interesting from this point of view to study, in the illustrated magazines of 1890-1910, the between photographic reporting and the use of drawings. The latter, in particular, satisfied the need for the dramatic. A feeling for the photographic document developed only gradually.
FILM AND REALITY
The quarrel over realism in art stems from a misunderstanding, from a confusion between the aesthetic and the psychological; between true realism, the need that is to give significant expression to the world both concretely and its essence, and the pseudorealism of a deception aimed at fooling the eye (or for that matter the mind); a pseudorealism content in other words with illusory appearances. * That is why medieval art never passed through this crisis; simultaneously vividly realistic and highly spiritual, it knew nothing of the drama that came to light as a consequence of technical developments. ~~ecj:!_y_~o_riginal sin ~nting.
It was redeemed froillsin by Niepce and Lumiere, In achieving the aims of baroque art, photography has freed the plastic arts from their obsession with likeness. Painting was forced, as it turned out, to offer us illusion and this illusion was reckoned sufficient unto art. Photography and the cinema on the other hand are discoveries that satisfy291lc.e.-and-fo:;lbunt'~IlGe~()b8(;ssi~-n~ithrealism:
No matter how skillful the painter, his work was always in fee to an inescapable subjectivity. The fact that a human hand intervened cast a shadow of doubt over the image. Again, the essential factor in the transition from the baroque to photography is not the perfecting of a physical process (photography will long remain the inferior of painting in the reproduction of color); rather does it lie in a psychological fact, to wit, in completely satisfying our appetite for illusion by a mechanical reproduction in the making of which man plays no part. The solution is not to be found in the result achieved but in the way of achieving it. t
This is why the conflict between style and likeness is a relatively modern phenomenon of which there is no trace before the invention of the sensitized plate. Clearly the fascinating objectivity of Chardin is in no sense that of the photographer. The nineteenth century saw the real beginnings of the crisis of realism of which Picasso is now the mythical central figure and which put to the test at one and the same time the conditions determining the formal existence of the plastic arts and their sociological roots. Freed from the "resemblance complex," the modern painter abandons it to the masses who, henceforth, identify resemblance on the one hand with photography and on the other with the kind of painting which is related to photography.
O~ality i~raphy as distinct from or~!na~~.essenti<)l!y_objec~~har~~hot6graphy. [Bazin here makes a point of the fact that the lens, the basis of photography, is in French called the "objectif," a nuance that is lost in English.-TR.] For the first time, between the originating object and its reproduction there intervenes only the instrumentality of a nonliving agent. For the first time an image of the world is formed automatically, without the creative intervention of man. The personality of the photographer enters into the proceedings only in his selection of the object to be photographed and by way of the purpose he has in mind. Although the final result may reflect something of his personality, this does not play
*Perhaps the Communists, before they attach too much importance to expressionist realism, should stop talking about it in a way more suitable to the eighteenth century, before there were such things as photography or cinema. Maybe it does not really matter if Russian painting is second-rate provided Russia gives us first-rate cinema. Eisenstein is her Tintoretto.
tThere is room, nevertheless, for a study of the psychology of the lesser plastic arts, the molding of death masks for example, which likewise involves a certain automatic process. One might consider photography in this sense as a molding, the taking of an impression, by the manipulation of light.
THE ONTOLOGY OF THE PHOTOGRAPHIC IMAGE
the same rol~ as is played by that of the painter.-~he arts are b~n the presence of m~pbQ!_~gEaphy derives a~ advantage fr_Ql!L.b.is__gbsence.--Phlm:rgmphy affects us like a phenomenon innatufe, like a flower or a snowflake whose vegetable or earthly origins are an inseparable part of their beauty.
This production by automatic means has radically affected our psychology of the image. The objective nature of photography confers on it a quality of credibility absent from all 0!her picture-making. In spite of any objections our critical spirit may offer, we are forced to accept as real the existence of the object reproduced, actually represented, set before us, that is to say, in time and space. PhQtQgraphy enjoys~rtain adv;:J,ntage in virtue of this transference of reality from thething to-iTs reproduction. *#
A verffaltl11:lifdfaWi:i1gmayactuaIIytel1--US-mOfeabouTlrremodelbliTdespite the promptings of our critical intelligence it will never have the irrational power ofthe photograph to bear away our faith.
Besides, painting is, after all, an inferior way of making likenesses, an ersatz of the processes of reproduction. Only a photographic lens can give us the kind of image of the object that is capable of satisfying the deep need man has to substitute for it something more than a mere approximation, a kind of decal or transfer.Jhe photoEfilP_h,ic i~age i~ the obj~~ object freed fro!!!J.be-~~~<:!£~ that govern It. No matter how fuzzy,~r discolored, no matter how lacking in do'Ciiffieiitiiry value the image may be, it shares, by virtue of the very process of its UC;l;UUllUI!. the being of the model of which it is the reproduction; it is the model.
Hence the charm of family albums. Those grey or sepia shadows, phantomlike and undecipherable, are no longer traditional family portraits but rather the disturbing presence of lifes halted at a set moment in their duration, freed from their destiny; not, however, by the prestige of art but by the power of an impassive mechanical process: for photograph~ do~__n9t cr~9:~e._~~lli!Y~E_§21_t does, i~balms time,
res~~inpJ'tIr~__pr.oper corruption. ----
Viewed in this perspective, the cinema is objectivity in time. The film is no longer content to preserve the object, enshrouded as it were in an instant, as the bodies of insects are preserved intact, out of the distant past, in amber. The film delivers baroque art from its convulsive catalepsy. Now, for the first time, the image of things is likewise the image of their duration, change mummified as it were. Those categories of resemblance which determine the species photographic image likewise, then, determine the character of its aesthetic as distinct from that of painting.']
The aesthetic qualities of photography are to be sought in its power to lay bare the realities. It is not for me to separate off, in the complex fabric of the objective world, here a reflection on a damp sidewalk, there the gesture of a child. Only the impassive lens, stripping its object of all those ways of seeing it, those piled-up preconceptions, that spiritual dust and grime with which my eyes have covered it, is able to present it
*Here one should really examine the psychology of relics and souvenirs which likewise enjoy the advantages of a transfer of reality stemming from the "mummy-complex." Let us merely note in passing that the Holy Shroud of Turin combines the features alike of relic and photograph.
tt use the term category here in the sense attached to it by M. Gouhier in his book on the theater in which he distinguishes between the dramatic and the aesthetic categories. Just as dramatic tension has no artistic value, the perfection of a reproduction is not to be identified with beauty. It constitutes rather the prime matter, so to speak, on which the artistic fact is recorded.
FILM AND REALITY
THE MYTH OF TOTAL CINEMA
in all its virginal purity to my attention and consequently to my love. By the power of of a world that we neither know n6rcailknow
to the ideological superstructure, and for us to consider the basic technical mscovenes as fortunate accidents but essentially second in importance to the preconideas of the inventors. The£inema--i-s-anidealis1k_p_ht;no_rnenon. The' COi1CePt
had of speak fully armed in their minds, as if in some platonic
and what strikes us most of all is the obstinate resistance of matter to ideas than Q[any help offert?d by techniques to tl1elrmrgtlliitlOnofthe researchers. the cinema o;;;Svirtually notmng nrthe scienntic sp1rif.Tts begetters
in no sense sav;n~eprIorMarey,l:)utTt1SSIgmticannna:fhewas only interin analyzing movement and not in reconstructing it. Even Edison is basically a do-it-yourself man of genius, a giant of the concours Lepine. Niepce, MuyLeroy, Joly, Demeny, yven Louis Lumiere himself, are all monomaniacs, men by an impulse, do-it-yourself men or at best ingenious industrialists. As for the
,"".VULU., the sublime E. Reynaud, who can deny that his animated drawings are the
of an unremitting pursuit of an idee the cinema that was
merely from the technicahrlventi,ons
autonomy, Impressiofiist realism, offering science as an alibi, is at the extreme-from eye-deceiving trickery. Only when form ceases to have any value can it be swallowed up in color. So, when form, in the person of ~v.~u,,'uv, more regains possession of the canvas there is no longer any question of the of the geometry of perspective. The painting, being confronted in the U"~V"IUU'V,!produced image with a competitor able to reach out beyond baroque resemruanc; the very identity of the model, was compelled into the category of object. HV.U","," Pascal's condemnation of painting is itself rendered vain since the photograph us on the one hand to admire in reproduction something that our eyes alone have taught us to love, and on the other, to admire the painting as a thing in whose relation to something in nature has ceased to be the justification existence.
0])0 the other hand, of course, cinema is also a language.
THE MYTH Of TOTAL CINEMA
Paradoxically enough, the impression left on the reader by Georges admirable book on the origins of the cinema is of a reversal, in spite of the Marxist views, of the relations between an economic and technical evolution imagination of those carrying on the search. The way things happened seems for a reversal of the historical order of causality, which goes from the economic
that the invention took so long to emerge, smce prerequisites had
assembled and the persistence of the image on the retina had been known for a It might be of some use to point out that although the two were not necesconnected scientifically, the efforts of Plateau are pretty well contemporary those of Nicephore Niepce, as if the attention of researchers had waited to
concern itself with synthesizing movement until chemistry quite independently of optics had become concerned, on its part, with the automatic fixing of the image.
I emphasize the fact that this historical coincidence can apparently in no way be explained on grounds of scientific, economic, or industrial evolution. The photographic cinema could just as well have grafted itself onto a phenakistoscope foreseen as long ago as the sixteenth century. The delay in the invention of the latter is as disturbing a phenomenon as the existence of the precursors of the former.
BU~~~C:l!l_l!!t_~_!heir work more closely, the directio~h-j,s ifest in the instruments themseh7~:s:;::a*ev~~ITdeniably, int~~i~\Yritings COn:lII1~i1f~tre~ •• \V.~·s~elha!~~i~ore-lik~prophets. past the various .. _;-- the very first of which mafenallY .
an image unburdened by the freedom of interpretation of the artist or the irreversibilty of time. If cinema in its cradle lacked all the attributes of the cinema to come, it was with reluctance and because its fairy guardians were unable to provide them however much they would have liked to.
If the origins of an art reveal something of its nature, then one may legitimately consider the silent and the sound film as stages of a technical development that little by little made a reality out of the original "myth." It is understandable from this point of view that it would be absurd to take the silent film as a state of primal perfection which has gradually been forsaken by the realism of sound and color. The primacy of the image is both historically and technically accidental. The nostalgia that some still feel for the silent screen does not go far enough back into the childhood of the seventh art. ThereCilp!imitive§_Q[.1besinema,existing_on4'_ilLthe.lmflg}!l..'lHoI1s of a few of theI1il1etee!!th.~nturY,_<!~.ilJS.9_!l12Iete imitation of nature. Every new develadded to the ~i!1_elD.Clmu§.t,"paradoxlcallY~taKeirheatetaITd-ITearett6itsori_
gins. In sh6ft;~ciii~IDi.has..no1.ye.L~~inventedr- .
It would be a reversal then of the c.~causality, at least psychologito place the scientific discoveries or the industrial techniques that have loomed large in its development at the source of the cinema's invention. Those who had least confidence in the future of the cinema were precisely the two industrialists and Lumiere. Edison was satisfied with just his kinetoscope and if Lumiere >1U1cllClOUlSlV refused to sell his patent to Melies it was undoubtedly because he hoped make a large profit out of it for himself, but only as a plaything of which the pubwould soon tire. As for the real savants such as Marey, they were only of indirect
SSUiLaIICe to the cinema. They had a specific purpose in mind and were satisfied when had accomplished it. T~atics, the madmen, the disinterested pioneers, capaas w~s Berard Palis~ burning their furniture for a few seconds of shaky
areJJ:eiTIierIiiduStrialists nor savants, men-~edt~i~·ownTmag=-
FILM AND REALITY
THE MYTH OF TOTAL CINEMA
As latter, the film historian P. Potoniee has even felt justified in Hw",a,''''F
ing that it was not the discovery of photography but of stereoscopy, which came
the market just slightly before the first attempts at animated photography in 1851, opened the eyes of the researchers. Seeing people immobile in space, the phers realized that what they needed was movement if their photographs become a picture of life and a faithful copy of nature. In any case, there was not
gle inventor who did not try to combine sound and relief with animation of image-whether it be Edison with his kinetoscope made to be attached to a graph, or Demenay and his talking portraits, or even Nadar who shortly before ducing the first photographic interview, on Chevreul, had written, "My dream see the photograph register the bodily movements and the facial expressions speaker while the phonograph is recording his speech" (February, 1887). If not yet appeared it was because the first experiments with the three-color
were slower in coming. But E. Reynaud had been painting his little figurines for
time and the first films of Melies are colored by stencilling. There are writings, all of them more or less wildly enthusiastic, in which inventors nothing less than a total cinema that is to provide that complete illusion ,of life
is still a long way away. Many are familiar with that passage from L' Eve F
which Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, two years before Edison had begun his animated photography, puts into the inventor's mouth the following fantastic achievement: " ... the vision, its transparent flesh miraculously tographed in color and wearing a spangled costume, danced a kind of popular
can dance. Her movements had the flow of life itself, thanks to the process cessive photography which can retain six minutes of movement on which is subsequently reflected by means of a powerfullampascope. ~uuu.~.u, heard a flat and unnatural voice, dullounding and harsh. The dancer was alza and the ale that went with herfandanga."
The guiding myth, then, inspiring the invention of cinema, is the accomplishi
of that which dominated in a more or less vague fashion all the techniques mechanical reproduction of reality in the nineteenth century, from photography phonograph, namely an integral realism, a recreation of the world in its own
L' .. ::;;~;:':" ... ~ ... ~:::!-~._".~:'_~~'L':"~~.':.~'~':"'."_"~'~'.<"c. This likewise adequately explains the of Plateau in applying the optical principle of the persistence of the image on retina, as also the continuous progress of the syntheses of movement as compared the state of photographic techniques. The fact is that each alike was dominated imagination of the century. Undoubtedly there are other examples in the his-
of techniques and inventions of the convergence of research, but one must disbetween those which come as a result precisely of scientific evolution and or military requirements and those which quite clearly precede them. Thus, of Icarus had to wait on the internal combustion engine before descending
the platonic heavens. But it had dwelt in the soul of everyman since he first about birds. To some extent one could say the same thing about the myth of but its forerunners prior to the nineteenth century have only a remote conwith the myth which we share today and which has prompted the appearance mechanical arts that characterize today's world.
FILM AND REALITY
DE SICA: METTEUR-EN SCENE
DE SICA: METIEUR-EN-SCENE
But it is perhaps especially the structure of the narrative which is most radically turned upside down. It must now respect the actual duration of the event. The cuts that logic demands can only be, at best, descriptive. The assemblage of the film must never add anything to the existing reality. If it is part of the meaning of the film as with Rossellini, it is because the empty gaps, the white spaces, the parts of the event we are not given, are themselves of a concrete nature: stones which are missing from the building. It is the same in life: we do not know everything that happens to Ellipsis in classic montage is an effect of style. In Rossellini's films it is a in reality, or rather in the knowledge we have of it, which is by its nature
... It is by way of its poetry that the realism of De Sica takes on its meaning, for in art, at the source of all realism, there is an aesthetic paradox that must be resolved. The faithful reproduction of reality is not art. We are repeatedly told that it consists in selection and interpretation. That is why up to now the "realist" trends in cinema, as in other arts, consisted simply in introducing a greater measure of reality into the work: but this additional measure of reality was still only an effective way of serving an abstract purpose, whether dramatic, moral, or ideological. In France, "naturalism" goes hand in hand with the multiplication of novels and plays a these. The originality of Italian neorealism as compared with the chief schools of realism that preceded it and with the Soviet cinema, lies in never making reality the servant of some a ori point of view. Even the Dziga- Vertov theory of the "Kino-eye" only employed the crude reality of everyday events so as to give it a place on the dialectic spectrum of montage. From another point of view, theater (even realist theater) used reality in service of dramatic and spectacular structure. Whether in the service of the i of an ideological thesis, of a moral idea, or of a dramatic action, realism SUUUJ.Ul1"U<O~ what it borrows from reality to its transcendent needs. Neorealism knows only nence. It is from appearance only, the simple appearance of beings and of the that it knows how to deduce the ideas that it unearths. It is a phenomenology.
In the realm of means of expression, neorealism runs counter to the traditional egories of spectacle-above all, as regards acting. According to the classic standing of this function, inherited from the theater, the actor expresses "VJ.HvIIUU", feeling, a passion, a desire, an idea. From his attitude and his miming the can read his face like an open book. In this perspective, it is agreed implicitly spectator and actor that the same psychological causes produce the same effect and that one can without any ambiguity pass backward and forward from to the other. This is, strictly speaking, what is called acting.
The structures of the mise-en-scene flow from it: decor, lighting, the angle framing of the shots, will be more or less expressionistic in their relation to the ior of the actor. They contribute their part to confirm the meaning of the Finally, the breaking up of the scenes into shots and their assemblage is the lent of an expressionism in time, a reconstruction of the event according to an cial and abstract duration: dramatic duration. There is not a single one of these monly accepted assumptions of the film spectacle that is not challenged neorealism.
First, the performance: it calls upon the actor to be before expressing himself.
requirement does not necessarily imply doing away with the professional actor normally tends to substitute the man in the street, chosen uniquely for his comportment, his ignorance of theatrical technique being less a positively condition than a guarantee against the expressionism of traditional acting. For Sica, Bruno was a silhouette, a face, a way of walking.
Second, the setting and the photography: the natural setting is to the what the amateur actor is to the professional. It has, however, the effect of at partly limiting the opportunity for plastic compositions available with artificial dio lighting.
Thus, neorealism is more an ontological position than an aesthetic one. That is why employment of its technical attributes, like a recipe, do not necessarily produce
as the rapid decline of American neorealism proves. In Italy itself not all films actors, based on a news item, and filmed in real exteriors, are better than the tr~rl;t;A~ melodramas and spectacles. On the contrary, a film like Cronaca di un by Michelangelo Antonioni can be described as neorealist (in spite of the prolCI;~1U'11(:U actors, of the detective-story like arbitrariness of the plot, of expensive set, and the baroque dress of the heroine) because the director has not relied on an .expn~ssiorlisln outside the characters; he builds all his effects on their way of life, way of crying, of walking, of laughing. They are caught in the maze of the plot
laboratory rats being sent through a labyrinth.
diversity of styles among the best Italian directors might be advanced as a argument and I know how much they dislike the word neorealist. Zavattini is
only one who shamelessly admits to the title. The majority protest against the existence of a new Italian school of realism that would include them all. But that is a reaction of the creator to the critic. The director as artist is more aware of his than his resemblances. The word neorealist was thrown like a fishing net the postwar Italian cinema and each director on his own is doing his best to break
toils in which, it is claimed, he has been caught. However, in spite of this normal 'CdlOW· U11. which has the added advantage of forcing us to review a perhaps too easy classification, I think there are good reasons for staying with it, even against views of those most concerned.
Certainly the succinct definition I have just given of neorealism might appear on surface to be given the lie by the work of Lattuada with its calculated, subtly vision, or by the baroque exuberance, the romantic eloquence of De , or by the refined theatrical sense of Visconti, who makes compositions of the down-to-earth reality as if they were scenes from an opera or a classical tragedy. terms are summary and debatable, but can serve for other possible epithets consequently would confirm the existence of formal differences, of opposiin style. These three directors are as different from one another as each is from Sica, yet their common origin is evident if one takes a more general view and if one stops comparing them with one another and instead looks at the French, and Soviet cinema.
'VV',,,",U"UJ does not necessarily exist in a pure state and one can conceive of it combined with other aesthetic tendencies. Biologists distinguish, in genetics, derived from different parents, so-called dominant factors. It is the
FILM AND REALITY
DE SICA: METTEUR-EN SCENE
same with neorealism. The exacerbated theatricality of Malaparte's Cristo Proibito may owe a lot to German expressionism, but the film is nonetheless neorealist, radically different from the realist expressionism of a Fritz Lang.
bring out more forcefully the terrible powerlessness of the poor fellow. If he found his bike, then the enormous extent of his good luck would be an even greater condemnation of society, since it would make a priceless miracle, an exorbitant favor, out the return to a human order, to a natural state of happiness, since it would signify good fortune at not still being poor.
It is clear to what an extent this neorealism differs from the formal concept which •.• v\JU~l~l~ of decking out a formal story with touches of reality. As for the technique,
· .. ·.·m·on'erlv so called, Ladri di Biciclette, like a lot of other films, was shot in the street nonprofessional actors but its true merit lies elsewhere: in not betraying the
."CCAn'·A of things, in allowing them first of all to exist for their own sakes, freely; it is loving them in their singular individuality. "My little sister reality," says De Sica, she circles about him like the birds around Saint Francis. Others put her in a cage teach her to talk, but De Sica talks with her and it is the true language of reality we hear, the word that cannot be denied, that only love can utter.
To explain De Sica, we must go back to the source of his art, namely to his ten\.ICJJlC~", his love. The quality shared in common by Miracolo a Milano and Ladri di """'/,',0"0, in spite of differences more apparent than real, is De Sica's inexhaustible aUl~ClIUU for his characters. It is significant then in Miracolo a Milano, that none of
people, even the proud or treacherous ones, are antipathetic. The junkyard who sells his companion's hovels to the vulgar Mobbi does not stir the least in the onlookers. Rather he amuses us in the tawdry costume of the "villain" of
llOl\JUl,CUUU, which he wears awkwardly and clumsily: he is a good traitor. In the same the new poor, who in their decline still retain the proud ways of their former fine eishbornoods, are simply a special variety of that human fauna and are not therefore from the vagabond community-even if they charge people a lira a sunset. a man must love the sunset with all his heart to come up with the idea of makpay for the sight of it, and to suffer this market of dupes.
Dt~:SlLlC:S, none of the principal characters in Ladri di Biciclette is unsympathetic. the thief. When Bruno finally manages to get his hands on him, the public be morally disposed to lynch him, as the crowd could have done earlier to But the spark of genius in this film is to force us to swallow his hatred the it is born and to renounce judgment, just as Bruno will refuse to bring
But I seem to have strayed a long way from De Sica. This was simply that I might be better able to situate him in contemporary Italian production. The difficulty of taking a critical stand about the director of Miracolo a Milano might indeed be precisely the real indication of his style. Does not our inability to analyze its formal characteristics derive from the fact that it represents the purest form of neorealism, from the fact that Ladri di Biciclette is the ideal center around which gravitate, each in his own orbit, the works of the other great directors? It could be this very purity which makes it impossible to define, for it has as its paradoxical intention not to produce a spectacle which appears real, but rather to turn reality into a spectacle: a man is walking along the street and the onlooker is amazed at the beauty of the man walking.
Until further information is available, until the realization of Zavattini's dream of filming eighty minutes in the life of a man without a cut, Ladri di Biciclette is without a doubt-the ultimate expression of neorealism.
Though this mise-en-scene aims at negating itself, at being transparent to the ity it reveals, it would be naive to conclude that it does not exist. Few films have more carefully put together, more pondered over, more meticulously elaborated,
all this labor by De Sica tends to give the illusion of chance, to result in giving matic necessity the character of something contingent. Better still, he has succeeded in making dramatic contingency the very stuff of drama. Nothing happens in Ladri Biciclette that might just as well not have happened. The worker could have vU"Ul~'vU upon his bicycle in the middle of the film, the lights in the auditorium would gone up and De Sica would have apologized for having disturbed us, but after all, would be happy for the worker's sake. The marvelous aesthetic paradox of this is that it has the relentless quality of tragedy while nothing happens in it except chance. But it is precisely from the dialectical synthesis of contrary values, artistic order and the amorphous disorder of reality, that it derives its VULO"'lUIIlY. There is not one image that is not charged with meaning, that does not drive into the mind the sharp end of an unforgettable moral truth, and not one that to
end is false to the ontological ambiguity of reality. Not one gesture, not one ir IVl'.!IOU" not a single object in the film is given a prior significance derived from the of the director.
If they are set in order with an undeniable clarity on the spectrum of social it is after the manner of the particles of iron filings on the spectrum of a maznet=-tm is to say, individually; but the result of this art in which nothing is necessary, nothing has lost the fortuitous character of chance, is in effect to be doubly ing and conclusive. For, after all, it is not surprising that the novelist, the or the filmmaker should make it possible for us to hit on this or that idea, since
put them there beforehand, and have seeded their work with them. Put salt into let the water evaporate in the fire of reflection, and you will get back the salt. you find salt in water drawn directly from a stream, it is because the water is salty nature. The workman, Bruno, might have found his bike just as he might have
the lottery-even poor people win lotteries. But this potential capacity only
only unsympathetic characters in Miracolo a Milano are Mobbi and his , but basically they do not exist. They are only conventional symbols. The De Sica shows them to us at slightly closer quarters, we almost feel a tender stirring inside us. "Poor rich people," we are tempted to say, "how deceived
are." There are many ways of loving, even including the way of the inquisitor. ethics and politics of love are threatened by the worst heresies. From this point hate is often more tender, but the affection De Sica feels for his creatures is to them, there is nothing threatening or abusive about it. It is courtly and disgentleness, a liberal generosity, and it demands nothing in return. There is no
iUUllAlUlv of pity in it even for the poorest or the most wretched, because pity does to the dignity of the man who is its object. It is a burden on his conscience. tenderness of De Sica is of a special kind and for this reason does not easily itself to any moral, religious, or political generalization. The ambiguities of
FILM AND REALITY
DE SICA: METTEUR-EN SCENE
Miracolo a Milano and Ladri di Biciclette have been used by the Christian Democrats and by the Communists. So much the better: a true parable should have something for everyone. I do not think De Sica and Zavattini were trying to argue anybody out of anything. I would not dream of saying that the kindness of De Sica is of greater value than the third theological virtue* or than class consciousness, but I see in the modesty of his position a definite artistic advantage. It is a guarantee of its authenticity while, at the same time, assuring it a universal quality. This penchant love is less a moral question than one of personal and ethnic temperament. As authenticity, this can be explained in terms of a naturally happy disposition in a Neapolitan atmosphere. But these psychological roots reach down to deeper
ers than the consciousness cultivated by partisan ideologies. Paradoxically virtue of their unique quality, of their inimitable flavor, since they have not been sified in the categories of either morals or politics, they escape the latter's and the Neapolitan charm of De Sica becomes, thanks to the cinema, the most ing message of love that our times have heard since Chaplin.
To anyone who doubted the importance of this, it is enough to point out how partisan critics were to lay claim to it. What party indeed could afford to leave
to the other? In our day there is no longer a place for unattached love but since party can with equal plausibility lay claim to being the proprietor of it, it much authentic and naive love scales the walls and penetrates the stronghold ologies and social theory.
Let us be thankful to Zavattini and De Sica for the ambiguity of their and let us take care not to see it as just intellectual astuteness in the land
Camillo, a completely negative concern to give pledges on all sides in ._ ,,'
all-around censorship clearance. On the contrary it is a positive striving after
the stratagem of a person in love, expressing himself in the metaphors of his while at the same time making sure to choose such of them as will open the everyone. The reason why there have been so many attempts to give a fJVJ"'l~'''l' gesis to Miracolo a Milano is that Zavattini's social allegories are not the final
ples of this symbolism, these symbols themselves being simply the allegory Psychoanalysts explain to us that our dreams are the very opposite of a images. When these express some fundamental desire, it is in order perforce the threshold of the superego, hiding behind the mark of a twofold svmbohsm; general, the other individual. But this censorship is not something negative. it, without the resistance it offers to the imagination, dreams would not exist.
There is only one way to think of Miracolo a Milano, namely as a level of a film dream, and through the medium of the social symbolism of
porary Italy, of the warm heart of Vittorio De Sica. This would explain bizarre and inorganic in this strange film: otherwise it is hard to understand
in its dramatic continuity and its indifference to all narrative logic.
In passing, we might note how much the cinema owes to a love for living There is no way of completely understanding the art of Flaherty, Renoir,
de Sica's Th~ Bic~cle Thi~f .(1948) F~ther (Lamberto Maggiorani) and son (Enzo . for the father s stolen bicycle, :-Vlthout which he will lose his job. " ... Ladri , ' like a lot of <_"Jther films, ~as shot m the street with nonprofessional actors but its h~s elsewhere: m not bet~a~mg th,e essence, of things, in allowing them first of all to their own sakes, freely; It IS in lovmg them m their singular individuality" (BAZIN
*The first two theological virtues, according to I st Corinthians, are faith and hope. The third (agape), translated in the King James Bible as "charity" and in the Revised Version as "love," French "amour."-Eds.
FILM AND REALITY
DE SICA: METTEUR-EN SCENE
especially Chaplin unless we try to discover beforehand what particular kind of tenderness, of sensual or sentimental affection, they reflect. In my opinion, the more than any other art is particularly bound up with love. The novelist in his relations to his characters needs intelligence more than love; understanding is his form loving. If the art of a Chaplin were transposed into literature, it would tend to into sentimentality; that is why a man like Andre Snares, a man of letters par lence, and evidently impervious to the poetry of the cinema, can talk about the' ble heart" of Chaplin when this heart brings to the cinema the nobility of myth. art and every stage in the evolution of each art has its specific scale of values. The
der, amused sensuality of Renoir, the more heartrending tenderness of Vigo, on the screen a tone and an accent which no other medium of expression could them. Between such feelings and the cinema there exists a mysterious affinity is sometimes denied even to the greatest of men. No one better than De Sica can claim to being the successor to Chaplin. We have already remarked how as an he has a quality of presence, a light which subtly transforms both the scenario and other actors to such an extent that no one can pretend to play opposite De Sica would opposite someone else. We in France have not hitherto known the actor who appeared in Camerini's films. He had to become famous as a before he was noticed by the public. By then he no longer had the physique of a leading man, but his charm survived, the more remarkable for being the less explain. Even when appearing as just a simple actor in the films of other directors, Sica was already himself a director since his presence modified the film and enced its style. Chaplin concentrates on himself and within himself the HUU'''''V''? his tenderness, which means that cruelty is not always excluded from his the contrary, it has a necessary and dialectic relationship to love, as is evident Monsieur Verdoux. Charlie is goodness itself, projected onto the world. He is
to love everything, but the world does not always respond. On the other hand, the director infuses into his actors the power to love that he himself possesses
actor. Chaplin also chooses his cast carefully but always with an eye to to putting his character in a better light. We find in De Sica the humanity of but shared with the world at large. De Sica possesses the gift of being able to
an intense sense of the human presence, a disarming grace of expression and
ture which, in their unique way, are an irresistible testimony to man. Ricci Biciclettei, Toto (Miracolo a Milano), and Umberto D, although greatly physique from Chaplin and De Sica, make us think of them.
of Kafka on the grounds that his hero's alienation is social and not metaphysical. True enough, but Kafka's myths are no less valid if one accepts them as allegories of social alienation, and one does not have to believe in a cruel God to feel the guilt of which Joseph K. is culpable. On the contrary, the drama lies in this: God does not exist, the last office in the castle is empty. Perhaps we have here the particular tragedy of today's world, the raising of a self-deifying social reality to a transcendental state.
The troubles of Bruno and Umberto D have their immediate and evident causes but we also observe that there is an insoluable residue comprised of the psychological and material complexities of our social relationships, which neither the high quality of an institution nor the good will of our neighbors can dispose of. The nature of the is positive and social, but its action proceeds always from a necessity that is at absurd and imperative. This is, in my opinion, what makes this film so great and
rich. It renders a twofold justice: one by way of an irrefutable description of the condition of the proletariat, another by way of the implicit and constant of a human need that any society whatsoever must respect. It condemns a in which the poor are obliged to steal from one another to survive (the police the rich only too well) but this imposed condemnation is not enough, because
is not only a given historical institution that is in question or a particular economic but the congenital indifference of our social organization, as such, to the fortuitousness of individual happiness. Otherwise Sweden could be the earthly paradise, bikes are left along the sidewalk both day and night. De Sica loves mankind,
brothers, too much not to want to remove every conceivable cause of their unhaps, but he also reminds us that every man's happiness is a miracle of love whether Milan or anywhere else. A society which does not take every opportunity to happiness is already better than one which sows hate, but the most perfect would not create love, for love remains a private matter between man and man. what country in the world would they keep rabbit hutches in an oil field? In what would the loss of an administrative document not be as agonizing as the theft a bicycle? It is part of the realm of politics to think up and promote the objective '~U'~U'OVH~ necessary for human happiness, but it is not part of its essential function respect its subjective conditions. In the universe of De Sica, there lies a latent pes-
o an unavoidable pessimism we can never be grateful enough to him for, in it resides the appeal of the potential of man, the witness to his final and humanity.
have used the word love. I should rather have said poetry. These two words are or at least complementary. Poetry is but the active and creative form of projection into the world. Although spoiled and laid waste by social the childhood of the shoe shine boy has retained the power to transform his
'''''_H''UH''''i>i> in a dream. In France, in the primary schools, the children are taught to steals an egg, steals a bull." De Sica's formula is "Who steal an egg is of a horse." Toto's miraculous gift which was handed on to him by his grandmother is to have retained from childhood an inexhaustible capacity for by way of poetry; the piece of business I find most significant in Miracolo a is that of Emma Grammatica rushing toward the spilled milk. It does not matelse scolds Toto for his lack of initiative and wipes up the milk with a cloth, as the quick gesture of the old woman has as its purpose to turn the little catas-
It would be a mistake to believe that the love De Sica bears for man, and to bear witness to, is a form of optimism. If no one is really bad, if face to
each individual human being we are forced to drop our accusation, as was he caught up with the thief, we are obliged to say that the evil which undeniably
exist in the world is elsewhere than in the heart of man, that it is order of things. One could say it is in society and be partly right. In one way Biciclette, Miracolo a Milano, and Umberto D are indictments of a nature. If there were no unemployment it would not be a tragedy to lose cleo However, this political explanation does not cover the whole drama.
protests the comparison that has been made between Ladri di Biciclette and
FILM AND REALITY
trophe into a marvelous game, a stream in the middle of a landscape of the same proportion. And so on to the multiplication tables, another profound terror of one's childhood, which, thanks to the little old woman, turns into a dream. City dweller Toto names the streets and the squares "four times four is sixteen" or "nine times nine is eighty-one," for these cold mathematical symbols are more beautiful in his eyes than the names of the characters of mythology. Here again we think of Charlie; he also owes to his childhood spirit his remarkable power of transforming the world to abetter purpose. When reality resists him and he cannot materially change it-he switches its meaning. Take for example, the dance of the rolls, in The Gold Rush, or the shoes in the soup pot, with this proviso that, always on the defensive, Charlie reserves power of metamorphosis for his own advantage, or, at most, for the benefit of woman he loves. Toto on the other hand goes out to others. He does not moment's thought to any benefit the dove can bring him, his joy lies in his being
to spread joy. When he can no longer do anything for his neighbor he takes it on
self to assume various shapes, now limping for the lame man, making himself for the dwarf, blind for the one-eyed man. The dove is just an arbitrarily added sibility, to give poetry a material form, because most people need something to their imaginations. But Toto does not know what to do with himself unless it is someone else's benefit.
Zavattini told me once: "I am like a painter standing before a field, who asks self which blade of grass he should begin with." De Sica is the ideal director for laration of faith such as this. There is also the art of the playwright who divides moments of life into episodes which, in respect of the moments lived, are what blades of grass are to the field. To paint every blade of grass one must be the '__'vual.'" Rousseau. In the world of cinema one must have the love of a De Sica for itself.
FROM fILM AS ART
THE COMPLETE FILM
The technical development of the motion picture will soon carry the mechanical HHUUL>VH of nature to an extreme. The addition of sound was the first obvious step in direction. The introduction of sound film must be considered as the imposition of
technical novelty that did not lie on the path the best film artists were pursuing. They engaged in working out an explicit and pure style of silent film, using its restricto transform the peep show into an art. The introduction of sound film smashed of the forms that the film artists were using in favor of the inartistic demand for
greatest possible "naturalness" (in the most superficial sense of the word). By good luck, sound film is not only destructive but also offers artistic potentialiof its own. Owing to this accident alone the majority of art-lovers still do not realthe pitfalls in the road pursued by the movie producers. They do not see that the is on its way to the victory of wax museum ideals over creative art. development of the silent film was arrested possibly forever when it had hardly to produce good results; but it has left us with a few splendidly mature films.
the future, no doubt, "progress" will be faster. We shall have color films and stereofilms, and the artistic potentialities of the sound film will be crushed at an even stage of their development.
will the color film have to offer when it reaches technical perfection? We what we shall lose artistically by abandoning the black-and-white film. Will
ever allow us to achieve a similar compositional precision, a similar indepenof "reality"?
masterpieces of painting prove that color provides wider possibilities than white and at the same time permits of a very exact and genuine style. But
painting and color photography be compared? Whereas the painter has a perfectly hand with color and form in presenting nature, photography is obliged to record the light values of physical reality. In achromatic photography the
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