Saturday, February 26, 2011

Treni popolare

The Italian comic gem from 1933 Treno popolare, the first feature of director Raffaello Matarazzo, and the first movie scored by Nino Rota, is utterly charming and speaks to an innocence and love of common humanity lost forever. The story of a Sunday pic-nic visit to a regional village on a special train by denizens of Rome is told with elegance and panache, with Rota’s music and title song integral to the experience. Alas, the joy for a modern viewer is bitter-sweet watching simple lives oblivious to the sinister undertow of fascism and the cataclysm to come. Essential.

Domenica d’Agosto from 1950 is a charming delight. The benign chaos of Italians out for a good time and the sweet melancholy of everyday life. A celebration of the feminine. A set of stories of five girls and women is metaphorically the story of the same woman: a cute little innocent re-united with her father, an achingly-charming teenager playing at life and love, a young woman sadly in love with the wrong man, a working-class girl on the cusp of motherhood and a life of travail, and a luminous older mother who reaches out to a lonely father. The mise-en-scene is quite brilliant at times: the shower of propaganda leaflets disturbing the family picnic, a sardonic scene where we cut to a ‘businessman’ and his heap of a truck, and the subtle wit of a scene on the train near the end when the father completes a phone number for his daughter.