A film critic is not something I’ve ever aspired to be.
However, I have played the part before, and when you stumble upon such gems as the two movies which my eyeballs have recently digested, it’s practically criminal to not share your experience and to not urge others to view them for their own interpretation.
Last night, I was visually spoiled by The Great Beauty, and today, I was witness to the workings of Citizenfour.
Rather than in the order of social significance, I’ll address them in chronological order, by which I viewed them.
The Great Beauty, in essence, is a sumptuous film.
The story follows an aging Italian gentleman, who wrote one novel in his youth which was so well received that he was allowed to spend the rest of his life as a socialite, hosting grand parties and developing relationships with wide varieties of artists and aristocrats in Rome.
Beginning at his 65th birthday party, the subsequent 2 hours and 20 minutes are an assault on the senses of the most pleasing kind.
The film is an exemplary portrait of the Italian nature: “la dolce vita”, the sensibility for fine clothing, furniture, and art, the inherent lust for naked flesh, melding modern life around Roman ruins, the ever present veins of Catholicism… and that’s the film in a nutshell.
The point is, you have to watch the film to be so fantastically immersed in it all, in all its majesty and occasional absurdity.
With all of this filling every visible minute, the plot is hardly important. Yet, it is still a poetic and fantastically comical beauty.
I am not sure I have ever seen such an astounding film.
It takes patience and such an acute awareness to enjoy it, because it is so finely detailed and nuanced, and just plain enticing compared to the high action and shallow, simplified dramas of today.
Even compared to the great feats of the past.
The director, Paolo Sorrentino, plays with light the same way Bergman so masterfully did, and uses intense facial expressions like Kurosawa managed to extract from his actors… but does it all at once and more (that’s not a claim that it is better than The Seventh Seal or Seven Samurai).
The Great Beauty is spectacular, it’s like candy for the modern human’s appetite for aesthetic. I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood to delight a few of your senses.
Now, back to the real world.
Citizenfour is the exciting spy genre drama we all love so much, except it’s played out in real time, in our legitimate world.
There is perpetual paranoia, encrypted messaging, the involvement of foreign embassies, surveillance bases in the UK and Germany, footage of lying organization representatives (with ticks so clear it’s pathetic)… Which allows Citizenfour to far surpasses any Hollywood concoction, especially when considering that it chronicles the enlightenment of the American (and international) public rather than serving as a far-fetched distraction from reality.
We all remember the revelations regarding the NSA’s actions against the American public (and other targets) as they were released last summer, so the content of the film is nothing new.
Instead, it shows the delicate process required to reveal secrets that question the intentions and legitimacy of governing bodies.
It also serves to remind us of our modern technology’s influence.
The internet, mobile telephones, the evolution of banking, are all magnificent advancements, but they are fast becoming dark and quietly treacherous tools.
Keeping all that in mind, there are two great takeaway’s from this film (and the actual events that played out last summer): journalism serves as a cure for “evil and ignorance”, and if you think, as an American, you are free, you are very wrong.
What we used to label as liberty and freedom, we now call privacy.
We haven’t had to worry about forces invading our soil and affecting our way of life for a very long time now.
So our “freedoms” have manifested as, being able to discuss freely, being the sole agent of our own actions, and being aware of what our governing officials permit as normal behavior.
Instead, we act as the world’s policeman, invading other peoples’ soils, sticking our fingers in EVERYONES’ pies, and “for the sake of freedom and democracy”, we thank our soldiers for their service in our most recent military involvements, all the while our own governing bodies freely allow such comprehensive privacy infringements into our own lives.
It’s hypocritical, and even worse, damaging to our quality of life.
That is Citizenfour, it serves as a reminder, and it shows the personal struggle involved in challenging the system even with the intentions to benefit the greater good.
p.s. congratulations, by clicking this link and scrolling through the whole post, you can assume you are now on the NSA’s watch list ;)