RoGoPaG: Let's Wash Our Brains
(4 Stories by 4 Authors)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: 'RoGoPaG' offers tantalising and bite-size introductions to four auteurs whose work isn't always the easiest to digest. As usual, the Masters of Cinema have served up another unforgettable dish you probably wouldn't have ordered without their recommendation.
Dodgy, distracting dubbing (typical of this era of Italian filmmaking) doesn't help super-producer Alfredo Bini's oddly collated anthology feel any more cohesive today, but considering the many talents involved you can't help but look, and when a company like Eureka's Masters of Cinema range decides to release something that's worth a try on their recommendation alone.
'RoGoPaG' - the odd title assembled from the first letters of each of the four directors' well known surnames (Roberto Rossellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Ugo Gregoretti) is also known as 'Let's Wash Our Brains' and it just might make your head spin.
The first story, Roberto Rossellini's 'Virginity' is a likeable romcom of sorts that tracks a sexy flight attendant (Rosana Schiaffino) who videos everything to send to her lawyer fiancé back home. We get the feeling that she's loyal yet possibly naive. She's caught the eye of travelling TV exec (Bruce Balaban, cardboard-like) who in one brilliant scene goes through a flirtation guidebook on his own in his hotel room, analysing his first conversation with her and realising that he got it all wrong. Love is blindness could be the theme here but as with all four tale in this anthology, it's difficult to understand the intention of the narratives (especially when viewed together). However, the final shots in which the video tapes turn into a nightmare for the obsessed follower is delicious.
Up next is Godard's 'The New World', an audacious little ditty set in post-nuclear war Paris (still dubbed in Italian) that looks into the social changes of a snazzy young couple. While "on the face of it, everything looks the same" the destruction that surrounds the youth blossoms, and this is probably the most prophetic of the films here that depicts the subtlety bound within earth shattering events. Godard was a pack leader and he doesn't stray from the track with this short that takes nuclear fallout but plays it like a jazz riff on the kitchen sink relationships drama. A masterwork of editing, camerawork and sound design, 'The New World' oozes atmosphere and knocks you for six. A great, great watch that boasts a fantastic line recalled between lovers in transition: "I ex-love you". This film is also the shortest in the set.
And then comes the infamy: film three is none other than the one that got Pasolini busted by the cops/church and given a suspended jail sentence for four months. Essentially casting Orson Welles as himself (ironically his Italian is the best dubbed in the whole set), Pasolini makes a statement with garishly colourful 'Ricotta' tracks a filmshoot charting the crucifixion. Pasolini being Pasolini, he can't help but line up the institutions that ruled the era in his blisteringly accurate crosshairs. Watch a director that never ran for cover open fire even if his opening statement makes sure of saying how much he loves the story of The Passion before he depicts everyone involved as self-centred amateur actors. Still, while it was daring then, it wreaks of pretension today. Having said that if you want Pasolini's greatest take on religion, pick up another Masters of Cinema title: 'The Gospel According to Matthew' - it's sublime.
Last (and perhaps least) is Ugo Gregoretti's 'Free-Range Chicken' - an indictment of (robotically-voiced) consumerism through the eyes of a middle class family in Milan who fancy their chances of buying real estate but getting thwarted in the process from paying twice for one meal at a diner to much worse. This one lacks the off-the-wall appeal of the previous two but bookends well with the Rossellini. Gregoretti may be the least famous of the quartet but he's also the most grounded, ushering on welcome relief from the ego workouts that shouted for attention before.
All in all, Godard takes the gold but the rest hardly leave you cold. While none of the films stand up a the best that the talented directors had to offer, 'RoGoPaG' offers tantalising and bite-size introductions to four auteurs whose work isn't always the easiest to digest. As usual, the Masters of Cinema have served up another unforgettable dish you probably wouldn't have ordered without their recommendation.
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