Have I seen any new films?
Yes, I have.
Last night I watched a ‘peplum’ film – Ursus, Terror of the Kirghiz (also known as Hercules, Prisoner of Evil).
A ‘peplum’ film is also known as ‘sword and sandals’. It was a genre which was popular in the 60’s, and sort of grew out of the popularity of movies like Spartacus. The films were mostly made in Italy with an international cast, and the stories usually revolved around a mythical hero of great strength doing heroic and strong stuff.
They’re very silly and great fun to watch.
Although the stories can have a surprising philosophical depth, for instance in the film I watched last night a ‘monster’ is terrorising the locals, attacking and killing them. The hero and his heroic posse keep trying to catch the monster, but fail every time. There’s also another storyline with an evil warlord who decides to use this ‘monster’ business to seize total control and power. Later on we find out that the ‘monster’ is actually… WATCH OUT SPOILER… the hero under the influence of a magical substance, and he has no idea that he’s the ‘monster’ because he doesn’t remember his monstrous episodes.
There’s a hint of – know your own darkness, because if you don’t… you may end up chasing a monster outside in everyone else when it’s actually inside of you. Or something like that…
But our eyes only look outwards, at others… we can’t see ourselves without a reflective surface, and the reflective surface usually distorts us.
I sort of grew up on this kind of film, as well as its successor – the Spaghetti Western. I don’t recall ever watching the Ursus series, but I did devour the Maciste series, and remember them fondly.
As a child, the TV, and the films which were shown on it, was a refuge for me from the soap opera played out in technicolor by my parents.
Sometimes the stories I saw on the picture box helped me to deal with the confusion going on in real life.
Sometimes a character would become a surrogate parent for me, a role model, a stable and reassuring presence, offering me guidance, showing me that there were other options of behaviour, attitude, and of handling life and its trials and tribulations.
And oftentimes the chaos going on in a film was simple compared to the chaos at home. It was nice to know that things could be simple, and could be solved and resolved (something which never happened at home).
Anyway, while flicking through Amazon Prime… which is a tedious exercise if you’ve spent a lifetime watching films like I have and have seen an awful lot (seen it, seen it, seen it, seen it, never want to see it, seen it, seen it, wish I hadn’t seen it, seen it, even though I haven’t seen it it sounds like several other films I’ve seen so… nah, seen it, seen it, etc)… I saw the Ursus film and was going to keep going but my fingers froze (and not because we’re snowed in and it’s freezing), and then I pressed play.
I wasn’t going to watch the whole film, I just thought it would be fun to show my partner the sort of cinematic weirdness which influenced a portion of my psyche when I was a child.
But then I heard the voices of the dubbers (most Italian films were dubbed, for more on that there’s this interesting article – When in Rome, Don’t Trust Actors’ Voices By Roderick Conway Morris). I’m not a particularly nostalgic person, but those voices stirred that feeling for me. In some ways what I recall most about watching TV in Italy was those voices. There was a constant about them, and they were velvet to hear (unlike the voices of my parents, my mother’s was like a drill going on and on and on burrowing and boring its way into your skull, and my father’s was like a large hammer bashing away at you).
One of the things I’ve always liked about Italian films (which I’ve only just realised) is that they’re often morally ambiguous, and leave it up to the viewer to find a moral to the story. They don’t have that Hollywood urge to preach and teach lessons (a talk which Hollywood itself does not walk), or play maudlin sonatas with your heart strings, manipulating you so that you’ll cry, get stressed out, hate the villain and love the hero, even if the hero is an ass and the villain has a valid point, and only find release when they allow you to.
About a week ago I watched – Viaggio Sola (also known as A Five Star Life) – and it was not at all what I expected it to be based on the English title (which makes it sound tedious) and the trailer (which made it look tedious) and turned out to be a pleasure for the senses. People were just being people, but in a real genuine regular people manner and not in the usual TV/Film people way. It was so nice to see people being decent with themselves and each other (the two things usually go together – if you’re mean to yourself, it’s hard to be kind to others, and if others are mean to you… it’s a bit rich of them to expect you to be kind in return even if you realise part of why they’re being mean to you is because they’re being a-holes to themselves. But when we’re gentle with ourselves, it makes it easy, natural, to be gentle with others).
edifyingthespiritblog also asked me:
What have I been reading?
That’s a bit more complicated to answer because of the way I read (and I’m not referring to my dyslexia, but that does have a bearing… it can make reading very interesting). One of the things I love about reading is that it is mostly an activity in which you can be completely selfish without the slightest concern about it.
If I watched TV and film the way I read… I’d only ever be able to watch it alone, as for others it might end up feeling as though they’re having a feverish dream while awake.
I did read this recently – The strange times TV shows have ‘predicted’ the future via the BBC – which got me thinking about the influence of the media on our perception of reality.
While we all know we’re being manipulated by the media, we’re aware of how what we watch (and read… although what we watch communicates more directly with our subconscious because it uses images which in theory is a more natural language for humans, and one image can be more powerful than thousands of words) affects us, our opinions, our vision and experience of reality, etc, and the media often reminds us about how much it manipulates us and our perception of reality… sometimes we forget what we know because we’ve got daily stuff to deal with and it can end up being knowledge overload.
We definitely seem to be living in a time of knowledge overload...
reminds me of that moment in the film Room (which I also watched recently)… but discussing it might spoil it if you haven’t seen it (I know I spoiled the Ursus film, but you’re less likely to watch that).
So what about you…
what have you watched or read recently?