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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:17 pm 
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ECLIPSE SERIES 14: ROSSELLINI'S HISTORY FILMS: RENAISSANCE AND ENLIGHTENMENT

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In the final phase of his career, Italian master Roberto Rossellini embarked on a dramatic, daunting project: a series of politically minded television films about knowledge and history, made in an effort to teach, where contemporary media was failing. Looking at the Western world’s major figures and moments, yet focusing on the small details of daily life, Rossellini was determined not to recount history but to bring it back to life, as it might have been, unadorned but full of the drama of the everyday. This Eclipse selection of Rossellini’s history films presents Blaise Pascal, the three-part The Age of the Medici, and Cartesius—works that don’t just enliven the past but illuminate the ideas that brought us to where we are today.

The Age of the Medici

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Rossellini’s three-part series (The Exile of Cosimo, The Power of Cosimo, and Leon Battista Alberti) is like a Renaissance painting come to life, a portrait of fifteenth-century Florence, ruled by the Medici political dynasty. With a lovely score from composer Manuel de Sica (son of Vittorio), the epic Medici films are important works on art, civilization, and politics.

Blaise Pascal

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Rossellini’s daring outline of the life of religious philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623–62), who argued for science and intellect amid an atmosphere of superstition and ignorance, is as visually spare as it is full of intimate drama.

Cartesius

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Mathematician, scientist, and writer René Descartes (1596–1650) is relentlessly determined to establish the primacy of reason in Rossellini’s portrait of the travails of the “father of modern philosophy.” Cartesius is both entertaining and edifying, and directed with its filmmaker’s unerring attention to quotidian detail.


Last edited by domino harvey on Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:39 pm 
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So another set for Classical Greece and the Byzantine?


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 8:51 pm 
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Undoubtedly.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:45 pm 
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I think this set's worth it for The Age of the Medici alone. =D>


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:06 pm 
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How many films were there about Pascal? I mean, in general, not just in the Criterion Collection.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:30 pm 
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Wasn't Forrest Gump kind of about Pascal?


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 12:07 am 
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Rohmer's Entretien sur Pascal is on the Moral Tales set. (Or were you already referring to that obliquely?)


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 10:03 pm 
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My Night at Maud's is pretty heavy on the Pascal isn't it?


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 6:25 am 
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How does Pascal's wager go?...

The existence of God cannot be determined by reason. However...

If you believe in God, and he doesn't exist, no matter, you have nothing to lose, while if he does exist you win out, and gain big time...

While, if you don't believe in God, and he doesn't exist, you're fine (but no better off than believers), whereas if he does exist, then you lose out big time....

So the best bet, according to Pascal, is believing in God... So living you have everything to gain, and nothing to lose...

Philosophy by probability rather than certainty...

(I wonder if Pascal was also a man for a flutter on the horses?)


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:08 am 
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That's about it. But nothing to lose? Pascal seems to overlook all the wasted hours spent in church and the bet-hedging self denial re booze, smokes, pre-marital sex, etc.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 10:33 am 
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It's so strange to me that Pensées -- maybe the best work of Christian apology in the Western canon, and a truly brilliant tract that forshadows the best existentialist thought that would follow it -- is remembered for its most facially ridiculous argument.

Has anyone seen any of these films who can speak to their quality?


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:45 am 
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I haven't seen them, Tag Gallagher hiked a distance to see the MEDICI as a student - it made a lasting impression, that drove his subsequent interest, he writes in the intro to his RR biog...

Apparently what is amazing is the ambition of the overall television project to tell the history and chart the evolution of western civilisation... The dramatised documentaries SURVIVAL and THE AGE OF IRON (plus the unmade project HISTORY OF FOOD) spanning the greatest periods of the development of man, while these 3 dramatic films in the HISTORY set focus on particular periods, people and political, artistic and philosophical advances... They are both experimental and educational - exploring the capacity of the filmic medium as a didactic tool and a font of learning... The ability to take on big subjects and great thoughts... Concepts and change such as 'Renaissance and Enlightenment'...


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 12:32 pm 
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I saw many of the history films as a student - I did a year long film studies module on Rossellini (mainly because my first choice, comedy, was too popular, but also because I really liked the tutor who had taken a course on horror that I did). It's 20 years ago, so my memory is a bit patchy, but Medici is extraordinary - despite being shot in English by non-native speakers and then being dubbed over (Italian film, so no sync-sound at this point IIRC). I seem to remember finding Blaise Pascal a bit of a chore by the end - although the sequence of his religious experience is genuinely extraordinary.

To be honest, I can't remember if we watched Cartesius - I have a feeling that wasn't on the course.

However, they are extraordinary films - I can only hope a second box will follow.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 4:22 am 
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MOMA billings of two of the titles from 2006 centenary retro...

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Blaise Pascal. 1971. France/Italy. Screenplay by Rossellini, Marcella Mariani, Luciano Scaffa, Dominique de La Rochefoucauld. With Pierre Arditi. Tag Gallagher writes in The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini (1998): “Blaise Pascal is so much a horror movie… Everything is drenched in suffering, torture, fear, superstitious dread; everyone is writhing in desperate faith, self-mortification and pain… Such was Jansenism from the Roman point of view… We follow Pascal from age seventeen, as he emerges out of his father’s shadow, until his death at age thirty-nine in 1662…” In Italian, English subtitles. 130 min.

The Age of the Medici. 1972. Screenplay by Rossellini, Marcella Mariani, Luciano Scaffa. With Marcello Di Falco, Virginio Gazzolo. This three-episode television film was originally conceived by Rossellini as two separate films about the early Renaissance—one about subsequent arts patron Cosimo de’ Medici’s exile from and return to Florence, and the other about Leon Battista Alberti, the philosopher, mathematician, and architect whose ideas influenced Florentine arts. In English. 254 min., with one twenty-minute intermission.

CARTESIUS appears not to have been in the retro (@ MOMA at least)...


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 4:37 am 
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Cartesius made it into the Rossellini Redux program that followed in March of 2007 and though not noted in the following program note, it was a digital video presentation:
Quote:
Cartesius (Descartes). 1973. France/Italy. Directed by Roberto Rossellini. Screenplay by Rossellini, Luciano Scaffa, Marcella Mariani, Jean Dominique de La Rochefoucauld. With Ugo Careda. The third of Rossellini's "didactic" films about seventeenth-century France—following The Rise of Louis XIV (1966) and Blaise Pascal (1971)—was made for Italian and French television but was never broadcast in France. In his search for truth, René Descartes looks not only in libraries but, like the Neorealist filmmaker, into "things themselves." In Italian, English subtitles. 154 min.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 2:10 pm 

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I've seen Cartesius and imho it's Rossellini's best history film after his mindboggling Medici (though I've yet to see Pascal or Augustine). It's about the peculiar excitements and limits of living a life of reason, and no other movie I know of has so tried to model itself on the process of thinking. On the other hand, you need to have at least a little background in the period and Descartes' ideas to follow it, and even with that you'll either be transfixed or intensely bored--there's very little middle ground on this one, unlike say with Louis XIV which has good ol' power struggles everyone can identify with.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 22, 2008 6:09 pm 
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The newest Criterion Eclipse e-mail newsletter says this is coming in December, not January. It's probably wrong, though.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 3:14 am 
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Probably pushed back, and newsletter not updated - Amazon have January 13th as the release date for this & LOUIS XIV...


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 6:22 am 
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Quote:
SPECIAL FEATURES:

Notes on the films by Tag Gallagher, author of The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini: His Life and Films

Is this the first time Eclipse liner notes have been 'authored' as it were?....


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 5:09 pm 
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Matango wrote:
That's about it. But nothing to lose? Pascal seems to overlook all the wasted hours spent in church and the bet-hedging self denial re booze, smokes, pre-marital sex, etc.

Ah, but you can just recant on your death bed and skip all that stuff.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:07 am 
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You dont need to!

after watching some of these masterpieces you no longer need to consult with the "oracles" of organized religion, or politics again. Rosso has completely taken the ground in these, simply by showing the way things ARE and how they ARE, and how they FEEL.

Whatever your - um - belief system (I don't have one) - they are THIS good. The only bad movie amongst these is, I think Agostino d'Ippona, at least from what I've seen.

Wait until you see Messia!


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 9:22 pm 
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Excellent. Before I just had a case of the giddy anticipation at a blind buy on this. Now I've got the foaming at my mouth.

Saw Louis XIV long ago & recall being pretty well transported.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 27, 2008 7:26 pm 
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Beaver.

Nice to see the inclusion of a booklet this time (albeit only 4 pages).


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 27, 2008 10:32 pm 
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foggy eyes wrote:
Nice to see the inclusion of a booklet this time (albeit only 4 pages).

It is probably in the same form as the four page booklet for Les Misérables, though it is good that the Eclipse liner notes are starting to be attributed to a particular author rather than being presented anonymously (though Mr Gallagher may just be a special case?)


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:03 pm 
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DVD Review
Packaging

Really nice set, probably my favourite Eclipse set so far.

The Blaise Pascal disc has an interesting feature with its audio tracks, though (it comes with a French track and an Italian track.) The English subtitles differ slightly depending on which audio track you select. Anybody know of a particular reason why this might be the case?


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