Despite the seemingly hopeless situation of Umberto D, there is something beyond the tragedy that raises his character to levels of humility, and truthfullness that may be exclusive to film. It’s something “like” comedy, although not quite comedy… it’s a quality that perhaps can only be called “Chaplin-esque”. De Sica’s approach to his characters is neither deifies their plight, nor condemns them, it’s not even so much an “objective” interpretation of their lives, or the closest thing to it in art. He emphasizes the humanity in them, perhaps to the point of exagerration, but the final effect is so poignant that one can forgive his excesses. Umberto D is the story of an old man living on a meager pension that is not enough for his own survival, we watch him as he tries valiantly to find a way to make by, always accompanied by his little dog. Much like Chaplin, De Sica has so much empathy and respect for people that he can’t help taking pleasure in the smallest moment and expression. One of these scenes is as Maria, the young pregnant maid, prepares breakfast. Not a word is spoken as she ritually goes through her everyday chores, and yet they are painted so beautifully that it becomes a heavenly ballet that only the viewers are priviliged to. The film is an emotional powerhouse, and the simplicity only accentuates the power of the film. I am going to go out of my way to find more neorealist films.
2 Days in Paris is one of the freshest and sharpest comedies of recent years, and perhaps the best film of 2007. Delpy’s directorial debut take a minute or two to get on it’s feet, there is a sense that perhaps it won’t work… but then the viewer is eased slowly and wonderfully into her dark comic world. Once she arrives at her studio in Paris with her American boyfriend, the film really takes off. From then on it’s almost non-stop laughs, and strangely apt observations on life and love. It never delves too deeply into it’s quirkiness (thankfully) and becomes a real portrait of a real couple. The choice France for a setting was essential in emphasizing the lack of communication between Marion and Jack. He is cut out from her conversations, and her past purely on a linguistic level, which points to a much larger problem. He’s forced to rely on body language and facial expressions to decipher her moods and conversations, often missing the mark entirely on the content of what is going on. Furthermore, she burries herself deeper by being deceptive about her past, saying it was to protect him. Everything though is approached with humour, and it never truly delves into an uncomfortable or angry territory that some darker comedies tend to find themselves in. So much credit deserves to go to Delpy as she writes, directs and stars, but Adam Goldberg is her equal at least in the acting department and the supporting cast couldn’t be better. I can’t wait to see what Delpy offers as her next film.