Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I’d like to write about the milieu of current American independent cinema. Right now, a growing trend has appeared that many critics have dubbed neo-neo-realism; that is, a new film realism movement that employs many of the same techniques of the Italian neo-realism movement of the 1940’s headed by filmmakers like Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rosselini and screenwriter/theorist Cesare Zavattini, among others. The films of this time and place, like Bicycle Thieves, Umberto D. and Open City were hugely influential.

These films were a reflection of post-World War II Italy. The poverty rate was high. Filmmakers created movies not as escapism, but as a way to reflect the times and the changes that had destroyed the Italian economy.

The first neo-realist movement has never been as influential as it is right now. Filmmakers like Ramin Bahrani and Kelly Reichardt are making films today that are basically just the next step for neorealism. Bahrani’s movies like Man Push Cart and Chop Shop (and now Goodbye Solo, which I haven’t seen but look forward to) take advantage of certain aspects of the previous movement. They use nonprofessional actors, a documentary-like visual style and conversational dialogue. Kelly Reichardt’s films, on the other hand, like Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy, are very naturalistic and political. Every single one of these films has been critically acclaimed, and much discussed on the arthouse circuit. Although Bahrani has only directed three films, Roger Ebert has already declared him one of the most important filmmakers working today.

I wanted to write about this current movement because I feel like we’re in the middle of something big happening right now. The American cinema needs a break from all the high-priced action extravaganzas. The neo-neo-realism movement (and I don’t care for that title, so I’ll dub it American neo-realism) is an answer to the politics and condition of our country. It’s been a while since American cinema has faced a new wave of change this swift. I think it’s just what we need.

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