La Terra Trema ★★★

Two and a half hours of unaugmented, nearly artless despair, revolving around poor fishermen in Sicily and what happens when one man tries to buck the capitalist system oppressing him and his family. I typically can deal with whatever a movie throws at me, and the socialist politics of this one certainly speak to me, but the combination of the Neo-realist aesthetic, the "misery porn" elements, and the voiceover incessantly reiterating how awful and hopeless everything we're seeing is made this a total slog for me -- perhaps because I'm snowed in and dealing with a cold this week. I have a continued issue with the Neo-realism movement in that I accept the messaging and grace notes of films like this and Bicycle Thieves but don't feel as though I get much out of them? Respect for the non-professional actors, solidarity with the plight of the working people, but there's something that strikes me as patronizing, even exploitative, in how maudlin and one-dimensional this is, like a sincere version of Buñuel's Land Without Bread. Again, even though I absolutely believe the depiction -- at the finale -- of powerful assholes mocking their underlings is accurate, and I admire Visconti for having the balls to show us this, somehow I need a movie to take a more nuanced approach to this sort of material. Perhaps my politics and my film tastes are simply incompatible. At any rate, I did say "nearly" artless; Aldo Graziati's cinematography (he also shot Umberto D) is a miracle; all of the gravity and sense of life here comes from his camera, and it's incredible to imagine what a shock to the senses this must have been compared to the Hollywood pictures of the time.

Nathan liked this review