Final Paper: Social Context with Weekend and The Bicycle Thief

The Bicycle Thief and Weekend both are examples of films that fall under the social context category. Both films are examples of film movements that arose in Europe after World War II. The Bicycle Thief, directed by Vittorio de Sica, is known for being under the influence of the movement called Italian Neorealism. This genre focused on the poor class and the effects of the Second World War had on the society of Italy. Weekend, directed by Jean Luc Godard, is a French new wave film. In this particular movement, the upper class is made fun but also points out what is wrong with society. Both of these films can be compared to one another but they also have their differences. The Bicycle Thief is a film about a dad who has been unemployed for a couple years and gets the chance to work but only if he has a bike. The bike that he purchased gets stolen and that’s when his story starts. The dad looks for the bike around the city with his son. They encounter various situations that would put anyone into thought. The moving part of this film comes about at the end where the son witnesses his own father fall to the pressure of society. This film illustrates how people that were a part of the lower class had to live. On the other hand, Weekend is a film that the complete opposite. It’s about a couple who want to kill each other for money. They go around the French countryside to pick up a relative. All the while, death can be seen at every corner. The two main characters, both part of the bourgeoisie, are not content. They are always bickering and do not fully understand the world around them. They are only worried about what happens to them and their money. This film is a completely different take on society in Europe but it does have similarities to The Bicycle Thief. These films do not follow under the Hollywood category. One of the reasons why that is, is because they are not made for entertainment, as most films at that time were made for. These films express feelings from many people. They demonstrate many facets of life during that time. The films portray the discontent and irregularities with the government without blaming them.

The French New Wave was a “movement that shot through with youthful exuberance and a brisk reinvigoration of the filmmaking process”. This movement had opened up many avenues for directors to make movies. They were more artistic about the way the films were made. It was a new way to make a film. It got rid of the traditional way making films in regards to Hollywood film. Jean Luc Godard was an artist. His films were political as it can be seen in Weekend. For Godard, his films consisted of alienation and intertextuality. Goddard wanted to make the audience feel alienated. He did not want the audience to feel a connection or draw towards the characters. In the scene where Corrine was speaking to her therapist, the audience was put at a distance. There was no relating to her character. That type of scene is supposed to elicit an erotic response from the audience but instead it distances the them. Instead of wanting the audience to relate or connect to the characters, Goddard wanted the audience to connect with the topics and themes. He rather the audiences focus on the intellectual aspect of the film. He wants them to focus on the speeches being made. This brings us to Godard being political. He was a filmmaking activist. His films tend to express thoughts about political situations going on. This film presents the bourgeoisie and the lower class. A class conflict can be seen between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In this case it was Corinne and Rolland against everyone else. Rolland and Corinne didn’t care about anyone but themselves. They only cared about the materialistic things which are shown throughout the film. One scene in particular when Corinne could have potentially died in a car fire, but was screaming over her Hermes handbag. This goes to show her selfishness. “Like a venomous consumer id, obsessed with clothes and cars and cash, they treat every stranger as an obstacle or an opportunity.” This describes Rolland and Corinne because that exactly what they did. Anyone could have died in that situation yet she cries over her handbag. The class war can be seen here. On one end you have the rich while on the other you have the poor. Overall, Weekend demonstrates that it’s not a typical Hollywood movie. This film doesn’t follow the conventions of a Hollywood film. First, it alienates its audience and secondly, it isn’t fantasy. As said earlier, Hollywood films tend to rely on fantasy storylines. Weekend and most other French new wave film go against the norms.

Italian neorealism tells the story of various people. This movement, started in Italy, depicts the real lives of people after World War II. It illustrates the effect World War II had on society in Italy. A few main points of Italian neorealism are the reality of life and everyday life of everyday people. It’s meant to capture how people live but mostly how poor people live. No gimmicks, no fantasy, no lies. These neorealism films forget everything but the story. The main focus is on the story. This can be seen in The Bicycle Thief. This film tells the story of a family that is struggling to live after World War II. The only way Antonio’s family can live is through a bike. Since the bike got stolen, their lives are on the line. This is a kind of story that needs to be told. People lived like this and the Italian Neorealist movement made it seen. It depicts the struggles of living through such an awful time. This movement was not relying on Hollywood. Rather, it was distancing itself from the Hollywood norms. They focus on a fantasy being told in this film, rather than a real life story. That is what differentiates Hollywood movies from neorealist movies. In The Bicycle Thief, it can be seen that Antonio will go to any lengths to get his bike back. The bike was his only way of survival. “Likewise, the choice of a bicycle as the key object in the drama is characteristic both of Italian urban life and of a period when mechanical means of transportation were still rare and expensive…situating the event in political and social history in a given place at a given time.” This shows that this bike, though a simple object, decides the fate of the family. It describes the type of situation the family is in. Throughout the whole journey, his son is along with him. One scene in particular shows how society was in those days. Antonio and Bruno ate at a restaurant that was for wealthy people. They were treated horribly and Bruno was subjected to this. He was trying to act like the people that had money. He didn’t know why his father did not have enough money. He didn’t know why he couldn’t eat the way the wealthy families did. The rich kids were eating everything they wanted. They had good posture and clothes. Bruno, on the other hand, had on raggedy clothes and did not know how to eat with a fork and knife. These clear distinctions were seen between classes. The waiter that attended Antonio offered a half bottle of wine instead of a full bottle. This shows that even society treated people differently based on money and class. This was the reality of their lives. Nothing was going to change. The difference between the upper class and lower class were clearly seen. “For a moment, Antonio can even pretend not to worry, but the multiple servings arriving at the table next to them leave no room for illusion as to the effective implications of his trivial loss. It is a question of relative, and stable, prosperity, but also of dignity as a father and a citizen, that leads the dispossessed bill-poster to the self-destructive attempt at redressing social injustice.” Antonio saw the differences due to the separation of classes. One way these Italian neorealist films were distanced from Hollywood films was that they didn’t focus on style. De Sica focused more on the story itself than the actors or equipment. This movie was simple but that didn’t reflect on the film itself. The film relied on the story and not the fancy camera work and actors. The whole film was shot in a real city. It was not a stage. It was all real which adds onto the effect of real life situations.

The similarities between both films are plenty but they are strong. The first similarity between both films is that they are both going against traditional Hollywood films. These traditional films focus on style, acting, scenery, and on a dream plotline. They are in a fantasy. Both The Bicycle Thief and Weekend pride themselves on the storyline and the intellectual response. Both films distance themselves from the conventional Hollywood norms. They portray people in regular situations. They relayed the feelings of people after the World War. At that point, many people were affected by the war. It was good to know that filmmakers were illustrating what was going on. They were putting reality on a screen rather than a fantasy written by screenwriters. Another similarity of that they both present life after World War II. More specifically, they present the differences between classes. In The Bicycle Thief, the upper class always had the nicer things and was allowed to look down on the lower class. Antonio had to work for little money and Bruno didn’t realize this. In Weekend, the differences between classes were seen but in this case, the audience was getting the perspective of the bourgeoisie. The audience was getting to know how the upper class looked at things and how they went about certain situations. This can be seen when Rolland keeps on getting jackets off of people. These people are dead yet that is of no importance to Rolland. He doesn’t care. He just takes the jacket off of the people that are dead and puts it on. This shows how the upper class thought and especially how they acted in these types of situations.

Although there are similarities, there are also differences. In Weekend, Godard wanted to alienate the audience from the actual characters. He rather have not wanted the viewers to connect to the characters. He wanted the audience to have an intellectual response rather than focus on the style of the film. It was hard to connect to the characters because of all the barriers that were put. For example, the whole film was exaggerated. This was a way the audience couldn’t fully connect to the film. The deaths were not real and that could be clearly seen. There either was a lot of blood or a lack of it which was seen as not realistic. The movie was just not able to connect to the audience. In opposition, The Bicycle Thief connected to the audience. Unlike Weekend, the audience was able to connect to the characters and the story. This film was depicting real life in which people can connect to. Relationships can be formed when watching this. Many people may be able to relate to Antonio and his situation. This is why the audience is attracted to this film. There are no gimmicks but the telling a true story that happened to a lot of people after the Second World War.

In conclusion, The Bicycle Thief and Weekend both go against the grain. They distance themselves from the Hollywood conventional norms for various reasons. Each movement that the films are based in have their own aspects that complete the films. These films were not made for entertainment unlike Hollywood movies. They told stories and expressed the situations of many people after the world war. While all this is happening, the audience is either being pushed away for being pulled in. the French New Wave and Italian Neorealism added reality and purpose to the films. The films had a specific purpose and that was to tell a story. The point of the films was to get across a point that would affect the audience. Both movements are different. The French New Wave dismisses Hollywood and alienates the audience. These movies focus on story and getting a point across rather than the style though style does factor in the film. Italian Neorealism illustrates real life and its struggles and hardships. This is seen in The Bicycle Thief.

Work Cited:

Bazin, Andre. “Neorealism and Pure Cinema: The Bicycle Thieves.” 1967: n. page. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. <http://kit.kein.org/node/366&gt;.

Haaland, Torunn. “Bicycle Thieves.” Modernism/Modernity.: n. page. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. <http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&xri:pqil:res_ver=0.2&r es_id=xri:lion-us&rft_id=xri:lion:rec:abell:R04299456>.

Indiana, Gary. “The Last Weekend.” Criterion. Criterion. Web. 14 Dec 2013. <http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/2554-the-last-weekend&gt;.

Phillips, Craig. “French New Wave.” Greencine. N.p.. Web. 14 Dec 2013. <http://www.greencine.com/static/primers/fnwave1.jsp&gt;.

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Inception (out of class writing)

The first time I watched inception was in the movie theaters. If I remember correctly, I believe I was lost a certain parts. The film was pretty self explanatory. As with every film I watch again, I notice things that i didnt necessarily see when watching it the first time. I didnt pay much attention to the sound design. I noticed it more watching it this time around. Christopher Nolan is a brilliant cinemotographer and director. As we have seen in Inception and his other films, like the Dark Knight Trilogy, he puts so much attention to the way the film works. The cinematography was dreamy. It seemed out of this world and that was probably because of the plot of the film. You don’t know what is real and what is fake. It makes you question a lot of stuff. That can be seen at the end of the movie with the object spinning.

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Chicago 10

Non-violence vs. violent militancy was a major theme in this film. The yippies, as they were called, were non violent people. This is shown in the film when they are sitting in the park calmly. They didn’t practice any force or violence on anyone. They kept to themselves. Although all this is true, it can be deducted that they were influencing others to be violent. They themselves were not violent but what they were doing in the park made the police be violent. The yippies actions, though not violent, influenced others to be violent. This can be seen with the police and military. anyone can be non-violent but it can influence others to be violent just as well. The yippies seemed like they were egging on the police and when the police attacked, their non violent stance changed.

Chicago 10 is a documentary although it may not seem like it to others. It is telling a true story with an unusual style. This type of documentary could be considered artistic because of the animation. The animation adds an element to the film. It adds entertainment and it brings the point of the film across. The animation and the live footage combined creates a storyline that doesn’t deter from the original story. From the animation, the audience can see the characters and their personalities. From the live footage, the situation itself can be seen. For example, the yippies in the park were shown as calm people and taking a stand for what they believed in. From the animation and the live footage, two aspects of a documentary can be seen.

The use of animation in Chicago 10 was artistic and appropriate. This is because while cultural moment and the movement going on was to stand up for what you believed in. I don’t believe that it took anything away from the film. If anything, the animation added to the film. It made it more realistic because there wasn’t any actual footage of the 10 in the courtroom. It was appropriate because it didn’t mean harm to anyone.

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Avant Garde and Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story

Impossible feminine physical ideals is an important theme that is shown throughout the film. It is the main theme as it deals with Karen Carpenter and the way she feels about her physical body. The idea to be skinny and tall is thrown at girls from such a young age. People constantly telling you that you are too fat and that you eat so much really does hurt a persons psyche. Karen started out as normal girl but once she was in the spotlight, she started getting criticized. One reviewer in particular got to her. After that, she felt pressured by society to be skinny. Karen eventually become anorexic. This is where the corrupting power of celebrities comes in. Society putts pressure on girls to be thin  and if you are in the limelight, it’s worse. Karen started to take pills and eating less. Whatever she ate, she ended up throwing up. The pressure of business also got to her. This film highlights the struggles girls have because of media and society and the unrealistic ideals of a body.

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story is Avant-garde for many reasons. One of these reasons is because it’s abstract through the use of Barbie dolls. When the film starts, Barbie dolls are shown as characters. At first it was weird and thought it was only going to happen for the first scene but it turned out that the Barbie dolls were used throughout the film. It’s very abstract because the use of these dolls connect to the film’s theme. The dolls represent the “realistic body image” to girls from such a young age that lead to many problems. That can be seen through Karen Carpenter. By using the dolls it amplified the theme. Also it can be said that the use of the Barbie dolls was to alienate the audience from the characters in the film but it did the opposite. I was completely immersed in to the lives of the family and Karen. The use of Barbie dolls was very ingenious.

Being a celebrity does bring a side of criticism and problems. Carpenter was a normal person partly due to her family. Her family made her stay grounded. They didn’t allow her to move out of the house until she was in her twenties. Her own celebrity came about when she encountered criticism about her weight. Her celebrity side had influenced her all. She was focused on her weight and what everybody else was saying. The stress from her job and family eventually led her to her death. This can be seen to an extent today in Hollywood. Many people are destroyed or affected by their celebrity lives. That lifestyle takes over and eventually misaligns the regular person.

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Zero Dark Thirty

Terror is prominent in Zero Dark Thirty. The film starts out with Dan waterboarding a terrorist. This is seen several times throughout the film. Torture in the film is shown as the only effective way to get answers. Zero Dark Thirty never portrayed the torture as a negative thing. It was at times glorified due to the fact that it never failed to get answers. It was never looked down upon by anyone. Even Maya, though she thought the acts Dan was committing on the guy was bad, did not stop the torture from occurring. Torture was the only way that this investigation on Osama Bin Laden could work.

To be an auteur means that “the director is the primary creative source and his films express his distinctive vision of the world” (408). In Kathryn Bigelow’s case, she is an auteur but a different kind. She is influenced from other directors and explores that influence. She has made it somewhat clear that she has a stance on war. The Hurt Locker, though a war movie, didn’t exactly take a stance of being pro and anti war. In Zero Dark Thirty, it seems to be that Bigelow wants to express the idea that war has got us to where we are. War is a common theme among her movies. I think that is what makes her an auteur. She has used that common theme to make films that express various sides to war as seen in her films.

I think Zero Dark Thirty, as critics say, is objective and realistic about torture during that time is true. This past decade or so, the United States has puts its all into trying to find the leaders who were in charge of attacking us on 9/11. One of the tactics that the CIA and other governmental groups took was torture. The film makes it appear that torture was the only way that we could get closer to an answer. To say that there was never any torture at all, would be a lie. Linked terrorists, like in the movie, would not say anything that would require them to call out their leaders. They kept secrets and were not going to tell anyone especially their own enemy. Torture was probably the only way that the CIA could get answers. To say torture works would be quite controversial. It could work physically but morally it’s wrong.

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Weekend

There are several elements in this film and one of these is class conflict. To be more specific, this conflict is between the working class and the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie in Weekend is portrayed thought Rolland and Corinne. The working class is everyone else that is shown in opposition of those two. Rolland and Corinne are stuck up people who do not care about anyone but themselves. They only seem to care about materialistic things. They believe they have the upper hand in every situation that they are in. They tend to belittle people. It is seen towards the end of the film that they somewhat shift over to the appearance working class. They went from getting what they want to having to beg people for food and rides. Another example to show their selfishness is when the car was on fire. Instead of screaming over the fact that the car was on fire and that Corinne could have potentially died, she is screaming over her Hermes handbag. She cared only for materialistic things.  Also whenever Rolland passes a car or person, he would take their jacket. He didn’t even care if the owner of the person was dead, he just wanted the jacket. The jacket could represent a facet of the bourgeoisie in his case. The class war can be seen here. On one end you have the rich while on the other end you have the poor.

Alienation is important to Weekend. Godard wants the audience at a distance. The film is meant to seem fake in relation to its acting and elements. He wanted the audience to elicit an intellectual response based on the themes of the film rather than its formal elements. This can be seen through several scenes in Weekend. At times, it can be clearly seen that a dead body is breathing and that either there is a lot of blood or not enough blood. Acting also distances the audience from the film. A prime example of this is when Corinne is telling her analyst about her experience with her friend. Usually in a film, that type of scene is used to elicit a “positive” reaction from the viewer but in this case, the viewers feel distanced and bad about the experience Corinne had.

The film is full or longeurs in part because it alienates the audience but it also draws the attention to themes and speeches in the film rather than the formal film elements. The longeurs, are long scenes that include long passages that are meant to be meaningful. With that, they can alienate the audience because no one person can actually pay attention for that long. This is partly due to the lack of artistry of the camera. But because of this, more attention (or some) can be paid to the content of the speech. Godard may have included these passages to alienate the audience and to make them understand what he really wants the films meaning to be.

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Far from Heaven

Heterosexism is a theme that is show in Far from Heaven. This theme appears really early in the film. At first, it could be assumed that Frank was cheating on Cathy with another women. It is then seen that in actuality, Frank is cheating on his own wife with another man.  This film shows that to be gay was not normal in that time period. The “straight” couples are the superiors in the 1950’s. This made it hard for others to come out. Frank was one of these people. Just to be gay in this society was hard. Frank had to live a lie just to stay the way he was. Homosexuals have been oppressed by heterosexuals to the point where many have to hide their true feelings.

In Far from Heaven, there are many ideologies that are presented. Some of these include gender, race, and sexual orientation. Far from Heaven includes gender in the theme of male supremacy. Men are shown to be the powerful one in the relationship while the women are supposed to be submissive. This is shown in the scene where Frank hits Cathy. In this case, although Frank hit her, she didn’t get angry. She passes it off because Frank was “stressed”. This shows how much power the men have even when they are in wrong. Race is also another ideology represented. Race is shown here through white supremacy. The only character in this film that defied many of the elements of white supremacy was Raymond Deaton. He was very well educated and even owned a business. This was not normal at that time period. A lot of the white people looked at him as below them and very abnormal. He was always stared at by both white and black people when out in public.

Far from Heaven goes to show that history and the present are two different things. Yes, some of the contemporary issues have changed but some have stayed the same in relation to the present day. This film speaks to the viewers by showing them how society was back then and how it is now. In the 1950’s, as shown in the film, many of the things that are allowed now, were not allowed back then. In the 1950’s men had all the power in the relationship while women had to listen to the men. Women weren’t allowed to do much in regards to their relationship. They would always be scrutinized if they did something wrong. Nowadays, the relationship role has changed. Women don’t necessarily have to listen to men. Women are now looked as impendent and equal in relationships. Though they are still scrutinized, it has gotten better since the 1950’s. Another contemporary issue that is addressed is the issue of homosexual relationships. Back then it was not morally just that same sex relationships existed. It was looked as weird and not normal. Society thought that being gay could be removed from a person through a medical procedure as was seen in the film. Nowadays, homosexual relationships are gradually being accepted. Although it is still hard, people have become more open to the idea. This film opened many eyes to how things have changed and how they should continue to change.

 

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