In Bazin's view of neorealism, its most important element is the primacy of reality. This, to me, is a metaphysical viewpoint. This avoids, on a certain level, the poetic and certainly the expressionistic note. Very existence, in and of itself, precedes story, message or ideology. As Bazin notes, the neorealists know better than to "treat...reality as a means to an end." As to their approach with characters, "Nobody is reduced to the condition of an object or a symbol that would allow one to hate them in comfort without having first to leap the hurdle of their humanity."
contriving the story to prove any thesis. The "events" of the movie are mostly accidental, having no explicit meaning. As Bazin puts it, "events and people are never introduced in support of a social thesis-- but the thesis emerges fully armed and all the more irrefutable because it is presented as something thrown in into the bargain. It is our intelligence that discerns and shapes it, not the film." Bazin goes on to praise the use of the son who technically doesn't change the story, but gives it a depth. He also praises the use of non-actors and the elimination of the very idea of "acting." The Bicycle Thief is a series of "accidents" that loosely resembles drama and is more powerful for its lack of melodrama. It commands our attention by its reality. It is nearly an immediate fact to be reckoned with. A couple more essays on DeSica follow this chapter.
The essays on the later work of Charlie Chaplin interested me much less than anything else in the book. Chaplin strikes me as very "Hollywood" in comparison to the other films discussed and mostly praised here. Chaplin's later work is looked at as a response to his earlier work as the Tramp in the 1920's and before. The essays should be at least somewhat interesting to those, like myself who have seen many of Chaplin's works, especially the ones cited in the book.
It is neat to read a highbrow French film critic so in love with the American Western. He considers it the "American film par excellence." After listing off the most obvious semantic signifiers of the Western and noting its universal, timeless appeal, he looks at the Western as myth and some of the ideas in it. One of these is the ultimate purity of women and their worthiness of a pedestal. This leads to the feats of the man in pursuit of her. He also looks at law, morality and might within the Western. As a final observation, he notes, "The Civil War is a part of nineteenth century history, the Western has turned it into the Trojan War of the most modern of epics. The migration to the West is our odyssey." In his next essay, Bazin compares the classic Western to the self-aware revisionist Western and sees how examples of both are working simultaneously.
What is Cinema?: Volume 2 is a fantastic book of essays from a great writer. I highly recommend it to those who enjoyed volume 1.