Sunday, February 18, 2018

In Search of Fellini (2017)

In Search of Fellini

Have you ever fallen head-over-heels in love with a movie? That's what happened to voice actress Nancy Cartwright when she saw Frederico Fellini’s La Strada (1954). So much so that she wrote letters to Fellini and traveled to Italy to meet him in hopes that he would grant her request to adapt La Strada into a play. She never got to meet the director, who passed away in 1993, but her wild adventure to Italy inspired her one-woman play appropriately titled In Search of Fellini. For years Cartwright, who is best known as the voice of Bart on The Simpson’s, wanted to adapt her story into a film. In 2017, the film In Search of Fellini, loosely based on her own story, came to life. Cartwright produced the story with her production company Spotted Cow Entertainment, co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Kjenaas and even has an on screen role as Cosima, a character very much inspired by La Strada.

“The visionary is the only true realist.” – Frederico Fellini

Lucy (Ksenia Solo) is a naive 20 year old woman. Her over-protective mother Claire (Maria Bello) has sheltered her all her life. Claire used to be an adventurous young woman alongside her no nonsense sister Kerri (Mary Lynn Rjskub). After a series of bad relationships, Claire got pregnant with Lucy and from the moment she gave birth she decided to protect her daughter from all of life’s trials and tribulations. Fast forward to 1993 and Lucy is essentially a 13 year old in a 20 year old’s body. Faced with terminal lung cancer, Claire, with the help of Kerri, wants to help Lucy grow up and get a life. When Lucy has an ill-fated trip to Cleveland for a job opportunity, she stumbles upon a Fellini film festival and is mesmerized by La Strada. She watches all the Fellini she can get her hands on and an obsession begins. Lucy travels to Italy in search for Fellini but discovers many hardships along the way. Her fantastical trip mirrors several Fellini films in the odd occurences and encounters she faces in Verona, Milan, Venice and Rome. She meets two men, Angelo (Lorenzo Balducci), who will unlock her dormant sensuality, and Placido (Paolo Bernardini) who proves to be dangerous temptation. Will Lucy ever find Fellini? Or is this a journey of discovery for something completely different?

Ksenia Solo and Maria Bello, In Search of Fellini

In Search of Fellini

In Search of Fellini

"You guys just pretend you're on a cloud and watch movies." - Kerri

I was drawn to In Search of Fellini (2017) because I myself am a cinephile who will travel far to pursue my passion. However, what happens to Lucy in the movie is so fantastical and unbelievable that I had a difficult time relating to the character even though I found so much of myself in her. I had a difficult time believing this was based on a true story. I can't tell you how many times I've been to Europe and wished that something magical or extraordinary would happen to me there. It never did. But in the span of a few days numerous events happen to Lucy. I wasn't buying it. This film is pure fantasy.

In Search of Fellini is a love letter to cinema, to Fellini and to finding your true self. It's about breaking free from what holds you back. There is a lot here for classic film lovers. There are numerous references to It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and Romeo & Juliet (1968), two films both Claire and Lucy watch extensively. It's a Wonderful Life represents how Lucy is stuck in a sheltered life and Romeo & Juliet represents her imminent sexual awakening and her journey to Italy. Lucy attends a Fellini film festival and is so in love with La Strada that she comes home with a stack of Fellini movies on VHS. In addition to La Strada, we see references to La Dolce Vita (1960), Amarcord (1973), 8-1/2 (1963), Roma (1972) and more. I love how Lucy becomes Lucia, or light in Italian and people are drawn to her quiet energy. It was interesting to see how different notable scenes from Fellini films are recreated in Italy circa 1993. Any Fellini fan will find much to savor and enjoy with this film.

The fantastical elements of this movie drove me nuts. Maybe because I once was a sheltered cinephile, I wanted this story to be more realistic. I kept asking questions like "how did she get a passport so quickly?" "why didn't she book a hotel?" and "how did she do so much walking and not get blisters?". The film kept trying to elevate me to another dimension and I kept trying to drag it back down to reality.

In Search of Fellini DVD

In Search of Fellini (2017) is available on DVD and digital.

DVD: Amazon
Digital: Amazon — iTunesFandango
Also available to rent on DVD Netflix

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My Favorite Classic Movies, A Milestone and a New Look!

This post is a big deal. Why? It's my 1,000th! To celebrate I have four big announcements to make.

The FIRST is Out of the Past now has a brand new design courtesy of the super talented Kate Gabrielle. Take a look around and let me know what you think! The look also extends to my social media channels. I love the retro vibe, the animated header and the color palette. Kate is an incredible artist and I'm so grateful for all the hard work she did in creating this original design. Make sure you head over to her store to check out what she has to offer.

The SECOND is with the new designs I'm launching a Out of the Past Zazzle shop. I already have some cool merchandise for sale including workout tank-tops, iPhone cases, tote bags, magnets and buttons. I'll be adding more stuff to the shop soon.

The THIRD is that I'm reviving my YouTube channel and will be adding lots of great new content. Today I'm sharing my new video where I talk about my favorite classic movies. I discuss in depth about my top five, my favorite contemporary classic and a bunch of other favorites too.

The FOURTH is my new blog! I started a sister site called Bygone Voyager which is all about historical movies and TV shows. I encourage you to go visit and let me know what you'd like me to review!

A big thank you to all of you who have supported me over the years. On to the next 1,000 posts!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Cinema Shame: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Four years ago I created a watch list for 2014. These were the films that I hadn't seen yet that I wanted to make a point to watch that year. The Wild Bunch (1969) was one of those films. Unfortunately I never got to it that year or since. So when Jay of Cinema Shame prompted bloggers to submit their Cinema Shame statements for 2018 I added this one to mine!

Directed by Sam Peckinpah, The Wild Bunch (1969) follows a band of outlaws as they seek out one big heist. The year is 1913. Pike Bishop (William Holden) leads his "wild bunch", consisted Dutch Engstrom (Ernest Borgnine), Lyle Gorch (Warren Oates), Angel (Jaime Sanchez), Tector Gorch (Ben Johnson) and others to a dessert town to rob the railroad office's bank. What Pike and his men don't know is that this was a lure created by the railroad, Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan) and his own band of bounty hunters to trap the wild bunch. The robbery goes south and ends in a deadly shoot-out with the wild bunch getting away. When they discover their loot was nothing but bags of steel washers, they seek out another opportunity for a big pay day to make up for this failure. They head for the border and pick up old Freddie Sykes (Edmond O'Brien) along the way. Pike's past begins to haunt him. He's tired of this life and wants one last big heist so he can settle down. But his former partner Deke has made it his mission to capture Pike no matter what it takes. As the two bands cross the border into Mexico, a long chase filled with more heists, lots of booze, women, guns and violence.

"Being sure is my business." - William Holden as Pike Bishop

The Wild Bunch is a movie that revels in violence. Right from the very beginning when we see children feeding scorpions to fire ants, we realize that this movie is going to be tough as nails. In a post Hays Code world, this movie tested the waters and set the standards for increased violence and blood shed on film. Ernest Borgnine once said, "I made The Wild Bunch, which was the beginning of the splattering of blood and everything else. But there was a moral behind it. The moral was that, by golly, bad guys got it. That was it." The film was highly controversial at it's time. It won praise and disdain from those who were in awe of the filmmaking techniques and the performances and others who were appalled by its graphic and relentless representation of violence.

Maybe that's why The Wild Bunch is a mixed bag for me. I can appreciate the artistry of this film but am also repulsed by its violence. The cast is superb and includes some of my favorites like Borgnine, Ryan and O'Brien. I marveled at the excellent filmmaking and on location shooting. The film felt real to me. Like I was in Mexico right alongside the wild bunch on this outrageous adventure. It's not a film I feel the need to watch again but one I'm glad I saw. The Wild Bunch does make me want to watch more of Peckinpah's work. He received his one and only Academy Award nomination, in the Adapted Screenplay category, for this film.

Have you seen The Wild Bunch (1969)? What did you think of it? Tell me your thoughts below.
Stay tuned for more reviews or quick takes on my Cinema Shame movies for 2018!

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