Tuesday, October 14, 2008

“It’s a man’s right to ask and a women’s duty to refuse”: Pietro Germi and a Brand of Comedy We Don’t see Anymore.

So as I began to watch Pietro Germi’s Seduced and Abandoned I quickly became deterred to write anything about the film because I figured it’s significance was too specific to time and place. But as I continued the film I began to realize that it wasn’t and that Germi’s film still has some resonance today. Firstly I’ll give a bit of a background about what the film gives its commentary to, because I do believe any discussion of the film needs it. And eventually get to how it’s unfortunate that this type of film seems so scarce in the filmmaking of today.

So let’s begin. Simply the film speaks of forced marriages. Basically there was law in Sicily, that was later repealed, that stated that a rapist could go free if the victim married him. It’s said that Germi never did comedy for comedy sake and that behind the irony and the laughter there had to be something of substance, a balance between that which is wildly entertaining and powerfully grotesque.

The film deals with as I stated above, a law that allowed a rapist to go free if his victim married him. The plot: A 16-year old girl is seduced by her sister’s fiancé. She becomes pregnant and when her family finds out they confront the man with marriage. He refuses to marry her because he says he wants a virgin for a wife. One of the best lines in the film is when the culprit’s father responds to this by saying: “It’s a man’s right to ask [for sex before marriage] and a women’s duty to refuse.”

What this film ultimately shows is how society is based on an unstated principle that everyone shares: that there’s a huge difference between private and public and that the latter should never fully know about the former. But in those instances when the private is publicized those involved and subsequently their families feel that it’s necessary to make sure that their "names" are never shamed or dishonored. Now I am sure we all know that one can talk all day about why, at the root of the problem, this is to be considered shameful or dishonorable. And despite how much I am tempted to discuss this I want to speak more importantly about why films like Germi’s are ever so sparingly made today.

Now I don’t mean films that just criticize social mores, because we’ve got lots of those and they’re garish. What I mean is what happened to a film that critically observes society, with bitterness, and skepticism, and desperation? Films that take a “scalpel to society and samples its utterly senseless, absurd and grotesque aspects.”* Furthermore, I would like to add that I think that comedy and it’s counterparts in irony, satire, and parody are part of the highest forms of art because of the commentary they can achieve and subsequently deliver towards the general public. I would hope that somehow people begin to appreciate what these types of films are doing and hopefully be inspired. I really just would like to begin to see, at least, people taking chances in today’s cinematic endeavors to achieve such possibilities. This type of smart cinema is a bit lost today and I hope that it somehow finds it's way back, cause I really miss it.

*Sesti, Mario. "Commedia Al'Italiana: Germi Style." Interview with Criterion Collection. Commedia Al'Italiana: Germi Style.

No comments: