Volume 15, Issue 8 / August 2011

From Tarkovsky to Tornatore

In this issue

This mixed issue opens with an essay on the documentary paths that have sprung from the complex works of Andrei Tarkovsky, an iconoclastic director who made films carved from the firm belief that cinema was an important art with transformative powers. Relative to his small output of seven feature films, there has been a great interest to document Tarkovsky’s films, his life and his aura. Some of the incursions are discussed in the opening essay, “Tarkovsky and the World of the Documentary.” Alireza Vahdani provides the next two essays, the first argues that the analysis of a film’s mise en scène, particularly where classical or conventional narrative films is concerned, is too often readily simplified by the analyst. Using a longish extract from Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood as his case study, Vahdani demonstrates what he feels are the “sophisticated reasons for studying mise en scène.” This is followed by a more contextual-based reading (although here too there is some analysis of mise en scène) of Guiseppe Tornatore’s very successful Cinema Paradiso/Nuove Cinema Paradiso. Vahdani argues that there is more than meets the eye in this film, which is often categorized as a sentimental, bittersweet look at a Post-War Italy through a movie-obsessed character who reflects on his small-town upbringing. Without denying the film’s obvious entertainment value, Vahdani feels the film harbors a more critical assessment of the dominant political party in Italy over the film’s time period, the Christian Democrats. The fourth article is revealing study of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful by Daniel Garrett, which tackles the more abstract ideas (the unimaginable perseverance of a human spirit) nestled within a troubled man’s quotidian difficulties and tragedies. The final piece is a festival report on the 2011 Cannes Film Festival that concentrates on a handful of films that use a first-person autobiographical point of view. Several of the documentaries on Tarkovsky touch on the end of his life, when he was sick with terminal cancer (as is the character in Biutiful). Being set in Cannes, France, this report returns us back to the opening piece on Tarkovsky, whose final resting place is in Paris, France. (Donato Totaro, ed.)

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