La Cina è vicina (1967)

22 07 2009

Another fine effort from Marco Bellocchio, but in all honesty, I think there’s a very good reason why this film isn’t as famous as Fists in the Pockets: it’s not nearly as good. Sure, Bellocchio’s previous effort walks a rather sketchy line between goofy horror and “art film” but there’s nothing exactly irritating about his attempts to scare the audience. Here, his intentions are to preach to the audience and boy does he ever preach! I can see how some of this stuff is suppose to be funny, but it ultimately comes up as being silly near-slapstick humor placed in a political context rather than actual political humor.

One could argue that this Bellocchio’s own Before the Revolution but doing so would, in my opinion, be selling Bertolucci’s masterpiece short. His film has plenty of political and philosophical exercises as well, but they are all done within the background of a interesting and complicated relationship. The opposite is being done here, a tumultuous relationship is providing the background for a “serious” political statement. While I guess it is good that Bellocchio doesn’t try to take himself too seriously with his convictions, I also wish I wouldn’t have to sit through his blabbering on the state of modern politics. This is more of a personal preference, in all actuality this isn’t an overwhelmingly political film, but it still is a political film.

Don’t get me wrong, though, there are plenty of good things here. The cinematography, courtesy of the prolific Tonino Delli Colli (who collaborated with everyone from Leone to Pasolini) is absolutely stunning. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Bellocchio filled his movie with plenty of beautiful women. On that note, the careers of the entire cast (save maybe Glauco Mauri who would go to star in Argento’s Deep Red) would be almost exclusively downhill from this point on. Considering the wordiness of the script (another fault in Bellocchio’s corner) all of the performances are handled rather well with a very naturalistic tone. I certainly wouldn’t advise anyone against seeing this picture, but maybe that’s because I have a soft spot for black-and-white Italian films from the 1960s. Approach with caution, I suppose.

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