Asymptote Petri Review

“… what accounts for Petri’s absence from the critical recognition accorded to Zavattini, De Sica, Fellini, Visconti, Rossellini, Bertolucci, and Pasolini? Even at the time of their release, his films unnerved critics at home and abroad. Though a detailed analysis would reveal his kinship to De Sica and the baroque inheritance of Visconti, and despite the continuity of his artistic collaborations, every film Petri released seems to be the product of a different director; this proved disconcerting to cinema experts and the public alike, particularly as it called into question the auteur concept coined by the young Turks of Cahiers du cinema. In a masterstroke of self-promotion, Cahiers’ contributors, with Truffaut, Godard, and Rohmer at their head, had imported the idea of auctorial style from literary criticism in order to legitimize the value of the Seventh Art, lionizing a restrictive group of directors congenial to their tastes while paving the way for their own later offerings.

Yet, at this key moment in the history of film criticism, Elio Petri proved erratic and difficult to grasp, requiring a theoretical and analytical background largely unavailable to those outside of Italy. His films were openly political and too complex for superficial formal analyses. Moreover, Petri refused to act as a snake oil salesman, narcissistically hawking his own wares. In his films, literary writings, and criticism, Petri delves into the wounds of the benessere of postwar Italian society, demanding a degree of acquaintance with art and history that few in his potential audience were willing to acquire. Strange as it may seem, the depth of Petri’s commitment to understanding the problems of his time wound up banishing him from the official history of cinema.”

— Beatriz Leal Riesco, Asymptote (October 15, 2013)



Asymptote Petri Review

Transforming Revolution

My attitude towards 1968 — and especially the imbecility and pathetic commemoration which surrounds it — is all but nostalgic and benevolent. I certainly took part in the events of 1968, but was more of a supporting actor than a protagonist. Despite Carmelo Bene’s views on 1968 and the film he made, it is clear that 1968 in some way transformed a whole series of contents into forms of film and communication.
I myself had to find a way of making Lou Castel into a positive hero, a working class man who in some way opposed the middle class bourgeoisie. Carmelo Bene captured those rebel years in a quintessence of cinematographic originality. In this sense, his approach was more artistic while mine was always riddled by conflicting commitments, responsibilities and remorse and the fact that I belonged to a class which would eventually be quashed by the proletariat. Carmelo Bene rose to the challenge of 1968 with the freedom of a great artist. …
When a revolution is in progress, the artist’s job is not to illustrate or advertise it, but rather to express it in the most original manner and to transform the contents of the movement into art. In this sense, Our Lady of the Turks is a manifesto of the events of 1968. Perhaps not of 1968 as it was. But certainly of a 1968 full of contents, proclamations, and logics which only an artist could propagandize. Carmelo Bene was obviously a giant. … He struck me as a person with so little technique that he was free. And he was so capricious and original in the editing of his films. … In all the films by Carmelo Bene I have seen, there is a great sense of freedom. A freedom which becomes an expression, an image. Yet he never uses dissociated images. Carmelo Bene has a great talent for synthesis…
— Marco Bellocchio
Transforming Revolution

Rebelion Petri Review

Reseña del libro “Elio Petri: escritos sobre el cine y la vida”
“Implicado en comprender los problemas de su tiempo, se acabó situando fuera de la historia oficial del cine”
Beatriz Leal Riesco
En la historia del cine, apenas un puñado de directores internacionales se pueden vanagloriar de haber triunfado en Berlín, Cannes, Venecia y en los Oscars y de haberlo hecho en las décadas de los 60 y 70, cuando los grandes “directores” del siglo pasado inundaban las pantallas mundiales. Elio Petri (1929–1982) se eleva entre este reducido club con poco más de diez largometrajes y, en el caso de desconfiar del valor de estos galardones: ¿qué motivos llevan a que el director de la película que arrebató al Jules et Jim de Truffaut el premio a la mejor película en el Festival Mar del Plata de 1962, que tuvo en los hermanos Mastroianni, Morricone, Ugo Pirro y Tonino Guerra a incondicionales colaboradores, que se codeaba con Pasolini, Bertolucci, Pasolini o Pontecorvo, y que nos ha dejado una de las producciones más incisivas y críticas de la sociedad italiana de su época, a ser un desconocido para el público fuera de Italia?

El olvido con el que la crítica internacional lo ha premiado, siendo valorado por los especialistas nacionales, es todavía más incomprensible si se pone en la balanza del reconocimiento que otros de su generación han alcanzado. Con Elio Petri fuera de cámara, la tumultuosa historia del cine italiano y universal desde los años 60 permanecería incompleta. Hechos tan relevantes como la creación de la Mostra Internazionale del Nuovo Cinema de Pesaro en 1965, Le Giornate del cinema italiano como alternativa al festival de Venecia de 1972 o los encendidos debates en el Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografía di Roma, transformarían el concepto del cine como industria del espectáculo y cuestionarían para siempre el lugar que éste ocupa en la vida de los hombres y mujeres en la contemporaneidad y Petri tuvo un lugar destacado en todos ellos.

Read the full review here: Rebelion (September 8, 2013).

Rebelion Petri Review

Against a culture of stupefaction

Against a narcotic culture whose primary desire is stupefaction

Andrea Scrima talks to Rainer J. Hanshe, founder of Contra Mundum Press

The Brooklyn Rail, Dec/Jan 2012-13

“Often, typically before disasters or in the midst of excruciating crises, many artists believe or feel that their work is meaningless and without value. Who is an artist before a surgeon or scientist? But the fact that tyrants and political regimes of every age have been threatened by art again and again, condemned it as degenerate or poisonous, and have silenced, brutalized, or murdered artists because of their work (and it is happening in our own time) only serves to illustrate how significant art is, that it is our one greatest power — the unique power of the individual, the singular force of the marginalized, and therefore, a political force. I would even go so far as to say that the ‘enemy’ of art experiences it more acutely than its devotee or acolyte, for the latter is generally too ‘pious’ and adoring, whereas art’s ‘enemy’ suffers its transformative threat more, is even endangered by it, hence their terror. It is the Platonic fear of art’s power over the ‘soul.’ And the fear of the destruction of the polis, but destruction only leads to new creations, to mutations that take us into new territory. What we have here is something inordinately potent — art is a life force, the vital breath that sustains us in the midst of our most excruciating trials. It is the powerless individual’s animating energy.”

Read the full interview here: against a culture of stupefaction.

Against a culture of stupefaction