XL Popcorn – Senso / Peking Opera Blues

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: Senso
Director: Luchino Visconti
Year: 1954
Country: Italy

So I’m continuing my journey around the cinematic world as pain is progressing from the middle of my wrist into my elbow. After the somewhat lavish world of of an Indian music room I find myself looking at an Italian film with shots that belong on canvas rather than celluloid.

Senso is sumptuous. You have to hand it to the director, he knows how to make a film that is a cross between a renaissance painting and an opera. There’s a very good reason that the first sequence takes place in opera house for it sets the tone for what follows.

As we entered the film Venice is readying a movement to kick the Austrian occupation out of its city and become part of a free Italy. This matters for the film for we see a proud Italian countess lose everything for the sake of a manipulative Austrian lieutenant. She knows full well that she is being manipulated or she cannot help herself. Of she longs for passion and finds it in the arms of a very attractive soldier.

Much like any Greek tragedy we’re watching her fatal flaw undo her life. The performance of lead actress Alida Valli is outstanding. You see every emotion written on her face; the sheer desperation of her inevitable breakdown exists in microexpressions from nearly the very beginning.

In many ways this melodrama can feel a bit dated, but this is opera in film form. I now wish to see more films by this director. However, I’m aware that I’m on a roll and this is my fourth different country in a row. So I will hold off for a while.

pekingoperabluesTitle: Peking Opera Blues
Director: Tsui Hark
Year: 1986
Country: Hong Kong

From one world of opera to another eh? It has been too long since I saw a film from Hong Kong. Watching this has made me realise that I really should see more.

It is one of those weird mixes of slapstick comedy, musical performances and rather serious drama. The film is set in 1913 with three women as the central characters. Whilst the crux of the film is rebellion against the political order, a lot of this is actually about women going up against the patriarchy.

Sure one of them is a mercenary and is only out for the gold, but the other two have bigger goals. One of them is a woman who seeks to break into the male dominated world of theatre and the other dresses like a man for the sake of moving through society with greater ease. Surely this is a movie that would pass the Bechdel test with flying colours.

Like a lot of Hong Kong films but I’ve seen you need to suspend disbelief. Then again most of the action takes place in opera house, so you are halfway there already. The costumes as always are spectacular in the scenes. Same goes for the choreography. This is easily one of those films I would never have even heard of without the list. I’m thankful for have a chance to see this weird piece of film history.

Progress: 474/1007

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