La notte brava / The Big Night (1959)

14 08 2013

At the risk of lionizing him, I find it hard to say directly negative things about Pier Paolo Pasolini. Even when I don’t like one of his films, I find something so fascinating and engaging about what he’s working through within his art. To be blunt, he’s sloppy and earnest, but that has translated to some of the deepest experiences I’ve ever had while watching a film. Basically, some of the traditional “problems” a filmmaker might run into are things I find vital in Pasolini’s work. I explain all this with the intention that while watching this film (which he wrote, not directed) I had a bizarre feeling: it was good, but it was boring.


Young, impulsive, and in need of cash, Scintollone and Ruggeretto steal rifles with the intention of selling them. To keep themselves from looking too suspicious, they pick up two prostitutes, Anna and Supplizia. Along the way, they run into Bella Bella, who knows a contact who might be interested in the guns. They run into another prostitute, Nicoletta. The gang decides a trip to the country side, but the three men know quite well that they’re going to ditch the women once they get there. Their plan seems to work perfectly until they later realize that there money is gone.


The setup here is actually sort of nice, but I don’t know how much mileage you can get out of the grossest type of young person, especially when there’s nothing exciting formally going on. Director Mauro Bolognini has a few impressive photographic moments, but the film’s visual style feels too functional. It might be easier to overlook if the characters themselves weren’t so predictably unpleasant. No one is nearly as terrible as Franco Citti’s character in another Pasolini-penned project, Una vita violenta. Pasolini’s characters are never particularly wonderful individuals, but the negative qualities of many of the young men here seem to be matched in their dullness.


There are hints at something more interesting than just watching a bunch of assholes go on a bender. In fact, that’s sort of perversely fascinating because it suggests Pasolini’s attitude towards people was so abhorrent. He’s actually sort of graceful when dealing with the women here. All of the main women are prostitutes and the ones we meet later on are framed around their sexual potential for the men in the film. It sounds simplistic, but Pasolini provides isolated moments of true heartbreak where they realize the difficult nature of their sexual agency. The contemplation is so fleeting, which makes it even sadder, as the introspection is usually interrupted by one of the men gleefully mocking them.


Part of what makes Pasolini so consistently compelling is that there’s so much to chew on in all of his work, but there’s hard to mine much from this film’s subtext. Combined with the similarly disappointing Una violenta vita, I’m resigned to the idea that his earliest scripts just weren’t as interesting. There’s youthful angst and that can go a long way, but it feels so static and unremarkable here. I can’t see anyone but hardcore Pasolini heads, such as myself, finding much of interest here. It’s not a terrible movie, just one that feels too safe and calculated, especially when it came from a pen with so much exciting potential.




One response

28 08 2013

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