A Sketch of the First Episode in Nanni Moretti’s Caro Diario

I am currently writing a collection of articles on the auteur theory, exploring Sarris and his detractors, and as I finalise the first article I thought that a short article on the first episode of Caro Diario (1993) would be interesting. I am also in the process of writing a longer review of the second episode however I have a million and one ideas for articles and when that gets finished is hard to say.

“Vespa”

 

Nanni Moretti’s Caro Diario, “Dear Diary”, is a film split into three sections covering important elements of Moretti’s life. The first section, which this short article is evidently concerned with, called Vespa, reveals Moretti’s obsession with cinema and Rome. We follow Moretti’s Vespa as it weaves down long sun-drenched streets exploring and filming the classical, modernist and postmodernist architecture set to an energetic non-diagetic soundtrack. This section is filmed primarily using the tracking shot. The form of this technique allows us to engage in the same unadulterated pleasure Moretti feels gazing at the patchwork of modern Rome. As Rome is explored through Moretti’s favourite activity, riding the Vespa, we are invited into a strange whimsical narrative. Moretti’s opinions, dreams and desires are acted out in brief scenes and it becomes hard to differentiate between dreams, desires and biographical elements.

 

In one of the most hilarious moments we see Moretti despondent after seeing Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer (1986) and as the camera slowly zooms into Moretti’s position, replicating our growing emotional connection with Moretti and our induction into his world, we hear his imagination fire. He wonders whether the critic who wrote the positive review of Henry ever reflects on, and is ashamed of, his reviews. We then cut to a scene where the silhouette of Moretti haunts the critic by repeating and rereading the critic’s own words to him just before bed. Moretti is giving the critic nightmares like Henry did to him. In another interesting moment Moretti starts to dance, while still on his Vespa, to the formerly non-diagetic soundtrack. This moment breaches even the apparently safe wall between the film world and the non-film world. Seconds later Moretti rebuilds the barrier between the diagetic and non-diagetic world by apparently appearing never to have started dancing at all. We have again slipped in and then out of Moretti’s imagination.

 

The choice of music in this episode, as with the whole film, is excellent. In one part of “vespa” the slow piano score beautifully matches the sadness and heartfelt emotion that Moretti feels when he finally decides to visit the site of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s murder. Even though the site, and drive to, is hardly a romantic or inspiring place Moretti’s slow tracking camera allows the innate beauty and emotion of his personal journey bleed into the final revelation of a small artwork celebrating and commemorating the deceased cultural icon Pasolini.

 

In the first section of Caro Diario Moretti has chosen to reject the traditional narrative structure of cause and affect. This allows Moretti to draw us into his subjective perception of Rome. This section, as the title suggest, is centralised by the regular motif of the Vespa, establishing a tentative interconnectivity between the continuously bizarre or angry or enamoured thoughts that stream into Moretti’s consciousness. In the first section of Caro Diario we travel between the gig-lamps of Moretti’s mind delighting in the feast of his highly perceptive and often self-deprecating humour.  A patchwork of desires, imagined conversations, monologues and situations Moretti has welded together, in the vespa episode, a postmodern mini-narrative of one man’s world.

 

Subjective Realism in Sandrine Veysset’s Will it Snow for Christmas?

Will it Snow for Christmas? (1996)

The opening scene of Will it Snow for Christmas? is shot like a home movie. It begins with a handheld shot, filmed at the children’s’ eye level. The scene contains jerking movements, which replicates the rushing anarchy of children playing. Though the colours are saturated, the lighting of the scene is naturalistic. After an establishing shot, filmed from the perspective of the Father’s Truck – a fact we are not yet made aware of – we see a point of view shot from the children looking back towards the red truck. It then cuts back again to the fathers P.O.V, who again situates the viewer in the surroundings of the isolated farm – this isolation, introduced by the technique of loose framing, becomes a repeated motif. The continuity of the trucks continued voyage, between cuts to the children, is called Match on Action and is a traditional rule of continuity editing, which relates to spatial and temporal issues. These combined naturalistic techniques help to create an aesthetical sense of the real. This issue of the aesthetically real is combined with a concern to present normal diction and dialogue. The work of the farm is also represented as hard and the issue of immigration is treated as matter of fact. The use of exposition is characteristic of many films, and Will it Snow for Christmas? Is no different. It is this phase of the film that motifs are established; the irregularity of this film is that its aesthetics are more akin to documentary than other forms of French Cinema, such as the Heritage films, the Cinema du Look and French New Wave. 1.

The motif of the real is also encapsulated in the representation of time. The changing seasons bring corresponding activates and problems for the Mother and her Children. And in this way the story is represented as real through an episodic narrative, which moves along with simple cause and effect logic – a convention of most documentary films. The simplicity of seasonal change affecting the narrative ensures a sense of repetition is imbued in the films structure, along with a sense of the inevitable among the characters. We believe the films representation of life due to the seemingly logical procession of the seasons, but within this we also expect narrative closure with reference to the films title. As winter closes in we expect the narrative to change from an episodic collective into a neatly tied up ending, a closure of narrative found regularly in the nostalgia films of the 1980-90′s. 2. The last scene, where the mothers P.O.V shot shows the children enthusiastically playing in the snow, could be seen at a basic level as a tying up of narrative, the question in the title of the film is answered by its snowing on Christmas. In essence this ending is a continuation of the episodic nature of the film, all we were allowed to see before were episodes of experience, and the viewer can presume that as the seasons change again, the children, though older, will go through the same cycle every year.

1. Pramaggiore, M. & Wallis, T (Ed). Film a Critical Introduction, (London: Laurence King Publishing, 2007). PP 286-289

2. Lanzoni, R.F. French Cinema – From its Beginnings to the Present, (London: Continuum International Publishing 2004) PP 299-347