Unlike those howling horrors however, Roma is eminently watchable. The reason conceivably has to do with direct experience. Fellini wasn't there in 1700, nor was he there in 100 ; but he very much was right there in 1920, and it shows. The scene in the "cabaret" where little children readily pee their "angel dew" and unemployed, useless men pompously inquire each other as to what'd they do to random actress trying to "live her life" as she imagines it rather than as it isiii ; the scene were local knock-offs of the Andrews Sisters sing local sentiment to the accompaniament of local instruments ; the scene which is really a piazza which is really a scene upon which middle aged housewife strews out for public display her entirely unwarranted pretensions to hygiene, and to cuisine, and to not knowing who taught the little kid the rhyme about how they'll all get fucked... He was there, what. He knows.
Fellini's Rome is interesting in an archeological sort of sense. The notation, cinematic as it happens to be is nevertheless accurate, not in the sense of detail but in the sense of substance, like one of those not-particularily-great exemplars of Etruscan art which somehow, inexplicably -- perhaps more through their shortcomings from the thing they, in their youth, aspired to and failed to embody -- nevertheless manage to click in the student's head the evanescent moment of, finally, enlightment. He understands it now, all the five thousand excellent examples piled in had simply needed this half-broken urn or vase, awkwardly misshod, to finally click into place. THIS! This is what it was, the wholes now finally make sense for this one hollow that explains them all.
I dare say watching this Rome is not wasted time, even if it should make no sense whatsoever. You never know when you run into the broken off mug handle that makes a large swathe of obscure, abstract memories coallesce into the magnificent pulsar of understanding.
PS. The frank depiction of period bordellos, especially in regards to the scarcity of male interest as only limiting factor in human sexuality is certainly worth a mention. If you against reasons had any lingering doubts on the matter, Rome provides an illustration of the point as fine and well researched as it is exotic.———
- 1972, by Federico Fellini, with Federico Fellini. [↩]
- Also including the very much related Le mille e una notte by Pasolini [↩]
- This is a very important distinction.
Jerry Seinfeld belongs to a class of performers which, when heckled, feels injured like performers ever did ; but who furthermore dares presume that this injury of his is unwarranted, unmerited, and most importantly -- not part of the show!
"You boo me? You hiss? You couldn't stop blathering through the whole set?"
"Oh, c'mon, I thought you were a pro, that's part of the show."
"No. Not part of the show. Booing and hissing are not part of the show. You boo puppets. You hiss villains in silent movies."
Jerry Seinfeld thinks a fine reply to hecklers would be something in the line of "how about I come to where you work and heckle you!". This view happens to be represented in the film, also : an old, unfunny twerp says that "he has to make a living too", to which the merciless, unerring answer from the audience comes directly : "how about getting a job, then!"
Shakespeare, unlike Jerry Seinfeld, did not think the audience is not part of the show. Shakespeare also did not live in a time when Orpheus, long retired from his mythical vocation, earns his meagre keep & fastfood jars by putting in his hours as a keeper at the local zoo, with a cap and a uniform and a company policies. Contrariwise, Shakespeare, along with all the other performance greats, flatly understood that the art of the stage can only happen once the hecklers were silenced by its intrinsic, mindblowing beauty.
That is the fundamental reason Shakespeare doesn't go to hang around Seinfeld's Manhattan pad : not the intervening earth and centuries, as you might imagine, but the simple fact that Shakespeare crossed a pons asinorum the modern man can't ever encounter. Where exactly did Orpheus find the hole that leads to Hell, so he could walk down the spiraling staircase of old granite ? And how exactly did Shakespeare manage to make the illiterate, syphilitic retards of an obscure, remote island sit the fuck put and shut the fuck up long enough for Othello ?
I fear we'll never know ; yet for our sins our ignorance does not extent sufficiently to also not know it ever happened. Happen, it did. How did it happen ? [↩]