Cinema Italian Style - Shoeshine vs. iPod

The American Cinematheque's movie series, Cinema Italian Style, coincided with the release of the new video iPod.  Thursday night (Oct. 13) it was Vittorio De Sica vs. Steve Job, and I witnessed the battle at one of LA's great movie houses, the Aero in Santa Monica. 

The two De Sica movies were in their own right, reflections of technology and art.  "Shoeshine" is the 1946 classic about life in post WW2 Rome.  De Sica broke new ground when he used non-actors and took his camera outside the sound stage to show life as it was for the common Italian people.  As Brando De Sica, grandson of Vittorio, pointed out in his opening show remarks, the audience of common Italians did not cheer this realistic view of their daily struggles.  It was the world outside Italy that first embraced De Sica's drama and its social, artistic and commercial importance.  The hot war with fascism was over; the cold war with cultural Marxism was beginning.  (And wasn't neorealism more profound in its day than iPod is today?) 

Shoeshine: Life De Sica style

The second De Sica movie of the evening, "Ieri, Oggi, Domani" (Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow) is a leap forward in time of almost 20 years.  By the early 1960s the classic 1:33 to 1.0 black and white movie was usurped by 2:33 to 1:0 Cinemascope spectaculars in vibrant color.  And in place of street actors, this time De Sica had superstars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.  But De Sica is the same.  He probes and studies the new Italy in three shorter films about three different women.  The battlefield of life has shifted to the turf between men and sometimes. 

"Shoeshine" still shines; in its poetry (in place of plot) and in its honesty (in place of pap).  It makes movies such as "Rocky" and "Spiderman' look like the giant steamy Hollywood turds that they are.  "Ieri, Oggi, Domani" is equally impressive in how sophisticated it is sexually compared to America's vulgar Hip Hop music videos, the giggling coyness of TV sit-coms, and the confused antisexual guilt of movies like "In the Cut." 

So where do Steve Job and iPod fit into all of this?  They were in the audience, part of the two different audiences that sat in the same theatre that night.  A recent Wall Street Journal article about the new Disney under Bob Igor discussed the future of program delivery and how the cell phone-iPod-Blackberry will change not only how programs are delivered but also how they are made.the camera lengths.etc.  And that future is not only technological, it is also psychological.  I saw it, right there at the Aero theatre.

One audience (mostly older) sat there invested in the Here and Now of Fritz Perls.  Time and space and event were one.  Attention was focused on the plate before them.  It is usually the same way when they walk down the street.  Wires don't dangle from their ears, they talk to the person they are with instead of texting or cell talking to people they are not with.  It is your basic Here and Now generation. 

Sophia: Sex De Sica style

  The other audience in the theatre (mostly younger) kept checking their silenced but blinking cell phones, as if they could not bear to miss what was not there or could not keep their attention on what was there.  When they did focus on the Here and Now screen before them, they could not resist moaning and ahhhing and vocalizing responses to what occurred on the screen.  (The first time I saw this behavior was at a videotaping of an episode of "Welcome Back Kotter."  The teen girls mooed like horny cows every time Travolta smiled.)  And I think the epidemic of audience bleating grew to current proportions in the peer driven group think video game culture in which there is no audience etiquette. 

So what about De Sica and Job and what does 'Shoeshine' offer our future?  The films of artists such as De Sica and Godard and Hitchcock show us that we are not inventors but finders.  Everything that is here has always been here.  There is no there there.  You live in the here and now so why not be here. 

The newest iPod arrives (along with the newest version of Avian Flu) and I have visions of an anesthetized Orwellian world.  Masses of iPod cell phone zombies no longer seeing or hearing the actual world around them.  Look at the picture of the cool hamburger Joe in Arizona is eating.  Fast-forward through last night's Survivor so you can video glam the commercial for the new X-game you are on your way to buy as you listen to the new song everyone in the world just downloaded. 

The Cinema Italian Style program continues through this weekend at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.  In fact, 'Shoeshine has a final showing at the Egyptian this Saturday.  If offers a vision of life before and beyond Michael Bay and CGI and Grand Theft Auto and web cam porno.  It is a chance to bathe in the mysterious life waters that swirled around the youth of 'Shoeshine.'  It is a chance to return to your senses. 

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