A Beautiful, Tragic Bridge and Italy

by meghanhorvath

The Great Beauty

Re-invigorated now that my target of watching 365 films in one year is back in sight, I started off the weekend with quite a dark collection of films:

104.) The Bridge (documentary, 2007), directed by Eric Steel.
I have been wanting to see this film for several years to see how the filmmaker handled not only the delicate subject of suicide but also the controversial decision to film it. In 2004 the filmmaker Eric Steel set up several cameras along the Golden Gate Bridge to capture what became over 20 suicides in the course of that year. He then interwove this footage with interviews – with the families of the deceased as well as with people who witnessed the jumps. Although as a filmmaker I wouldn’t have been able to stand by a camera waiting for people to jump I did find the finished piece to be a moving portrait of mental illness and the lives of those it affects, especially when it touches on the heart-breaking reality that sometimes all the love in the world doesn’t help. Most compelling was the account of a young man with bipolar disorder who realised halfway through the approximate 7 second fall that he didn’t want to die and willed himself a different fate.

When the film was released the authorities who granted Steel permission to film were furious when they realised what he had really intended:


More suicides have happened from the Golden Gate Bridge than from anywhere else in the world. One woman – who flew from Houston to attempt to end her life here – said this was the case because of the Bridge’s accessibility but I wonder if it also has something to do with the sheer beauty from its platform. Recently a safety net has been approved which will be finished by 2018: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-28061544

I watched The Bridge on UK Netflix but discovered it also lives on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iqovaEP5h8

105.) Purple Noon, 1960, directed by René Clément.
Although this film launched Alain Delon’s career I found that I preferred the re-make, most likely because it stars Philip Seymour Hoffman. Purple Noon is currently on UK Mubi.

106.) Luisa is not Home (short narrative, 2012) directed by Celia Rico Clavellino
This well-received short is also currently on UK Mubi. The simple story of an elderly woman and her relationship with her husband and her washing machine. Beautifully shot. The trailer is here: https://vimeo.com/46173846

107.) The Great Beauty (2013), directed by Paolo Sorrentino
The perfect example of where I loved all parts of this film but didn’t walk away loving the whole. For me The Great Beauty is a deserving descendant of Fellini but without the innocence. Is it worth 142 minutes of your life? Absolutely. The cinematography is beautiful if not at times deliriously over-the-top. The camera slides through the city and slices through lives. And some of the images – for instance, of knife throwing, of a Botox clinic, of a giraffe in Central Rome, of a nun on the border of sainthood crawling on her hands and knees – will stay with you for a long time. Sorrentino has said that many American and British misinterpreted this film as an enviable fantasy and not a portrait of the horrors of Italy under Berlusconi: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/sorrentino-cinematographer-calls-film-school-725220

108.) The Social Network (2010) directed by David Fincher.
I know many who saw this film simply because it was David Fincher’s. And I avoided it for so long because of a disinterest in the beginnings of Facebook and of Mark Zuckerberg. But the acting is superb and the story surprisingly compelling which provoked a big post-film conversation about Intellectual Property and ambition.

109.) Pompeii: Life & Death In A Roman Town, presented by Mary Beard.
Following a recent trip to Naples and Pompeii this became necessary viewing.
Now on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnIY6AE4m6E

110.) The Other Pompeii: Life & Death in Herculaneum, presented by Andrew Wallace-Hadrill
Also on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_wfTPdp3_k