Thursday, February 2, 2012

Due soldi di speranza (Italy 1952)

Due soldi di speranza is an engaging neo-realist tragi-comedy from little-kown writer/director Renato Castellani. A story of young love between a chronically unemployed ex-soldier and a willfull firebrand of a girl in an economically depressed village outside of Naples, employs high farce to telegraph the depth of social disadvantage in the immediate post-war years and the hypocrisy of state, church, and peasant mores. A maelstrom of impulsive actions reach a climactic rebellious act, which while glorious is steeped in tragedy.  A deft work with wonderful cameos and authentic vignettes, framed by a cheeky insouciant score from Alessandro Cicognini. The two leads Maria Fiore and Vincenzo Musolino are a delight.

Received a BAFTA for best film in 1954 and director Castellini was awarded the Grand Prize at Cannes in 1952.

Our Friends In The North (BBC TV - 1995)

The British TV drama series Our Friends In The North is compulsive viewing. At £8m it did not come cheap and the BBC took years to find the courage to give the project the go-ahead.

Writer Peter Flannery worked on the script for six years, and he delivers real lives where the tragedy is slow and cumulative and not on a grand scale but no less human or devastating. Quality English-speaking TV drama with a conviction and veracity only the British can deliver. Indeed, nothing since has come close in quality and historic sweep. There is a seething anger with the failure of the political process and the betrayal of progressive aspirations, which 16 years later, is still manifestly justified.

Contemporary popular music is used sparingly but very effectively in conveying not only the zeitgeist but in establishing a sense of time and place, and a shared history that crosses international borders.

There are no heroes and each character is flawed – as we all are – why blame ourselves when we can blame someone else? Still friends after 30 years, but are we? Nothing left to say, and where were we when we needed each other. We leave family behind and then at the end the truth too late. And working people are still the scapegoat and their desolation aways the solution.