Judge Daryl Loomis feels his cats should be more grateful for the food they receive.
Why are our lives dominated by discontent, by anguish, by the fear of war, by war?
Two directors, two opposing views, one question. La Rabbia, or Anger, is a film like few others. A philosophical debate on the subject of modernity by two of the most outspoken men of their time, the film is no relic of another age. Despite half a century, the arguments from the left and the right sound too similar to those today to not take notice. Through montages of archival footage, each side gets his say and makes his case for their side of the spectrum. Likely, not too many minds will be changed by the film, but it's really interesting to watch, nonetheless.
In 1963, the idea that leftist director Pier Paolo Pasolini (Teorema) and right wing humorist Giovannino Guareschi had worked together on a project would be ludicrous. Producer Gastone Ferranti had the bright idea, though, to bring two political enemies, who had constantly attacked each other in the media, together for a cinematic debate, of sorts. They come from the same culture at the same time, and some of their viewpoints run parallel, but their opposition on fundamental issues and their approach to their material make for a unique film and a fascinating look at the different viewpoints about post-war Italy, the demise of the imperial states, and globalization.
The two parts of Anger focus on similar issues, but come to decidedly different conclusions. One's response to the two sides will likely reflect the individual's political slant, but the amazing thing is how little the arguments have changed in half a century. Pasolini has the first half and builds an argument around the fall of European imperialism and its effect on the world. He looks at it as a good thing overall, but doesn't shy away from the bittersweet results of revolution. He uses a ton of shocking, graphic footage of the toll of war, with burned children and dead soldiers slamming home his point. While I disagree with the tactic, his point about the cost of war is made very clear. He focuses on the Algerian revolution, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, and the death of Marilyn Monroe to give his sense of what the modern world means. He presents a melancholy scenario filled with blood and heartbreak, but one he sees as inevitable and, even at the expense of European power, necessary for the better of the world.
Guareschi, on the other hand, laments the loss of European imperialism and, in his own words, the loss of white power in the developing world. He points his argument toward Algeria, as well, but decides instead of crying for the white French population who, by the savagery of the native population, were forced to leave their homes and return to France. He even goes so far as to warn the formerly colonized world to have been thankful to Europe because, in their newfound liberty, they now have the hungry eyes of the Chinese to worry about, who surely will put them in worse chains than the Europeans ever did. The loss of imperialism is tragic for those old powers and Guareschi mocks their autonomy as something more quaint and morally less than Italian paternalism. He puts together a very solid case for his side of the story, and as the second argument, it's the one we're left with at the end of the film, but it's a sad and whiny grasp at the old white man's burden scenario, which justifies imperialism by claiming that brown people's savagery keeps them from properly ruling over themselves. No thanks.
Pasolini, as an actual film director, presents the more poetic and fluid half of the film, but his argument isn't as strong as Guareschi's. No matter how disgusting I find his pro-monarch, pro-white arguments, the right winger makes the better case. It's too bad, because he's quite wrong, but his sheer debate skill far surpasses that of his liberal counterpart. Both use their own manipulative tactics to make their points and neither bit of rhetoric actually works that well but, together, they make for good political counterpoint and a very interesting film.
Raro Video, a label that has done great work recently on rare Italian films, delivers a terrific DVD for Anger. Given that the film is a hodge-podge of footage, I expected very little from the image. The quality does vary greatly depending on the source, but some of it looks remarkably crisp and clear. At its best, the picture is pristine and, at its worst, it's never all that bad. Considering this is newsreel footage from five and six decades ago, I couldn't have hoped for better. The sound is merely average, with a bit of noise in the mono mix, but it's all narration and is certainly listenable; it doesn't need to be dynamic.
The extras are excellent. The disc opens with Tatti Sanguineti's documentary, La Rabbia I, La Rabbia II, La Rabbia III…L'Arabia, a seventy-minute piece on the making of the film that is almost as interesting as the film itself. It goes through every aspect, from the film itself to the icy relationship of the two directors to the film's even icier reception upon release. It's quality stuff. Raro also includes a 1964 short film by Pasolini, Le Mura di Sana'a, which uses the subject of Yemen, the interference of other nations in their revolution, and the positives and negatives of the imperialist influences to further expound his leftist politics. It's full color, gorgeous, and a great addition to the disc. The five trailers are actually interesting for a change, with each selling the film in distinctive ways, arguing for or against Pasolini or Guareschi and playing up their antagonistic relationship. Closing out the disc is the booklet included in the disc, which is worthy of a Criterion case.
This is a fine disc from Raro and a fine, unconventional political movie. It's more polemic vs. polemic than documentary, but this cinematic version of the debate team is extremely interesting and well worth watching.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Raro Video
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