Saturday, May 19, 2012

Interview to an English teacher
Good morning my name is Eleonora and I’m an ex student of this school, now before my specialist degree I have to do an interview to an English teacher and I thank you in advance, for the opportunity you are giving me.
You are welcome!
Can I start?
Of course, yes!
What’s your name?
My name is Gabriella Cuzari.
Why did you decide to do this job?
Well, actually I didn’t decide to do that. When I decided to attend a University course in foreign languages, I was just interested in foreign languages I wanted to work in the tourist trade to be a hostess for example.
Like me, it’s my dream!
Ok, but then soon, after I got my degree, I started teaching in a private school here in Messina. Here I am now.
Have you even worked abroad?
No, I have never worked abroad. I had to go to teach Italian in a Scottish school and I had my plane ticket that I had to give up for family problems.
Hmm...And in which course are you working now and have you ever worked in other places as a teacher?
Yes, now I’m teaching in courses with an emphasis on life sciences: psychology education, sociology, but I also worked in lower secondary schools and in financial-oriented secondary schools.
How is school organized or what are the courses?
It’s a big school, there are some forty courses and a lot of students. The school year is divided into two terms of four months each. Well I think the school is well-organized even if it is quite big.
How many hours do you have to work a day?
I usually work five hours a day. I’m free on Wednesday, but I’m often at school in the afternoon.
How do you organize your lessons? Do you use only books or multimedia instruments?
Not only books of course, multimedia instruments are necessary and essential. Today students are not used to spending long hours on books, so they need other instruments. We make use of CDs or DVDs, but also of smart boards.
Hmm ... what are smart boards?
Interactive boards! Ok?
Ok, ehm, so do you think it is important for students the use of internet or other multimedia instruments?
They can help, but not all of my students have the internet, an internet connection, so also books are necessary. On line lessons cannot replace traditional lessons.
And do you believe that an interview like this can help them to practice foreign languages?
Yes, we use role-plays as a rule in the classroom.
Then what are the characteristics of a good English student in general?
In general, yes, a good student of foreign languages, a good English student has to be curious, open minded and brave. Students are sometimes afraid of making fools of themselves and they are quite shy.
And do you believe it is important going to UK or other abroad to practice languages?
Yes, going abroad, of course yes. You don’t need necessary to go to the UK to speak English, you can also go to a country of Northern Europe: The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden for example. There English is a second language.
So for example is the Erasmus’ experience interesting in your opinion?
Yes, of course. Comenius for student of secondary school students and Erasmus for University students.
And in this school are they organized?
Yes,  there are Comenius activities, also stage in the UK, and stage in France, in Spain to practice foreign languages.
How important is English now? And we can substitute it to another language?
No, I don’t think English can be replaced. It is the world language, no doubts. It’s a pity because many other languages are as beautiful and interesting as English, but English is the world language.
It is said that it is the global language, since the first year of University we repeat it.
And do you believe that to understand English it’s better knowing also the culture of English people?
Culture and language are strictly connected, but the study of English also teaches you that many different cultures are connected to the English language, so British culture is quite different from the American one, but they all speak English.
Have you ever given any advice to your students to become English teachers?
Well, most of my students are not particularly interested in foreign languages. They are more concentrated more ... they focus their attention on other subjects: psychology, sociology, education. So I don’t think many of them will be English teachers in the future.
And have you ever worked in a Linguistic College?
No, never.
Have you ever asked to your students to make a similar interview?
Not, just this one. But role-plays in general.
Do you think it is interesting?
Role-plays you mean? Or such an interview?
Yes, it is a good activity!
Thank you very much for this opportunity and ... nothing, ... I hope not to have bored you.
No, of course not, you are welcome!
Ok, good bye!

Eleonora Giacoppo

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Special Announcement for Specialists

Extra lesson: May 9th, 4:30-6 pm, Course conclusion
This year’s experimental, non-frontal, non-vertical, project-based Specialist practice in English was intended to function as a bridge between the academic world and the real post-university world of work, social relations, aesthetic interests. That’s why we did the following (and posted many on our blog:
  • A complete transcription of the J.K. Rowling commencement speech at Harvard University
  • Europass curriculum vitae in English
  • A series of 8 translations of idiomatic English, done in groups to favor peer-teaching
  • A study of the Danish videos, “Teaching Teaching and Understanding Understanding”
  • An interview with a classmate on a personally-experienced historical event
  • A study of scansion followed by an analytical essay on sound in a chosen poem by Robert Frost
  • Telling an English joke in a natural style
  • Role-playing real linguistic situations
  • A translation of the songs on a favorite recording sent to the singer through their publisher
  • Advanced discussion of the terminology used in literary appreciation
  • Attendance at the 2011 TESOL conference in Rome
  • Collection and explanation of 10 slang terms or phrases
  • A study of regional accents through videos
  • An interview with an American and/or Brit based on our reading of the book, Brit-Think, Amer-Think, on perceived vs. actual cultural differences
  • Writing and reciting a sketch of dialogs in slang-jargon-idioms
  • A film review
  • Translation of a poem by contemporary poet Barbara Ras, then sent to her
  • Debating a topical issue in teams following the standard rules of debating
  • A letter to the editor, then a second written directly to an online newspaper
  • A multi-media presentation on women’s issues
  • Correcting bad translations and correcting old student papers
  • Interview with a working English teacher
  • Teaching a language lesson

We did a lot, maybe too much. If you were unable to complete any of these you may send them to me anytime at
Thank you for participating and good luck for your future,
Mr. Pedersen

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Interview with an English teacher

“Teacher knows all the answers on the test and practices pedagogy without fear of arrest…”

When I graduated from the University of Kazan, I was really happy that I completed my studies and finally I’m ready to start working. I thought that I knew quite all about my university, but as a student. A few years later when I came to Italy and began studying at the University of Messina I had an opportunity to learn the changes in Russian higher education system over time by interviewing Guzel Sadykova, English teacher and the head of the Philology Department of the University of Management “TISBI” (Kazan).

- Good afternoon, Guzel Zufarovna, why did you want to become a teacher?
- Well, actually, it was very, very long time ago and there wasn’t a question. Because my mother was a teacher and I finished language school with English language. And actually all girls at that time and I think still now are eager to become the interpreters of the foreign languages. So, that was my choice.

- Who influenced you to become a teacher?
- Yes, there was very young male teacher at our school. He was very handsome and we were all in love with him. The school itself was very good and as I’ve already said before – it wasn’t a question.

- What were you like as a student?
- Our University wasn’t in my native city, so that was the period of my independent life as my personal characteristics I was very active. And I think that I was a good student because I took several prizes as the winner in the pronunciation test and grammar test. Well, I think I was a good student.

- If you were given an opportunity to be in the education sector performing a different role that does not involve teaching would you take up that role or would you continue with teaching?
- To my mind I would be very happy if I had an opportunity to do some interpreting, may be for governmental or some international company. But I didn’t have the opportunities, so now it’s too late may be to think about it. So, I don’t think that I would change anything now.

- Can you imagine what would your students say about you?
- Well, I think that most of my students would say good about me. But who knows?

- Can you describe your ideal class.
- Of course, I like hard-working, industrious students, but that may be not the main features, the main things. I appreciate in my students their creativity, using their fantasy, if they don’t know some words, being able to use also the gestures. So, being creative, having maybe artistic values.

- How it’s possible to encourage creativity among the students?
- Well, we do a lot about that in our university. We use case studies and stage some plays, play games and role plays. We had a party not long ago devoted to magic fairy-tales and students involve themselves in different roles. And they understood that language would help them in their loves and when I spoke to some of my students they said that they remember the participation in that kind of plays.

- What methods of teaching do you use?
- There are a lot of methods nowadays – interactive methods. We try to use them as much as possible: computers, Internet. Of course, we watch the films and then discuss them, we take part in group discussions, but it depends on the level of students, of course. If the level isn’t very high, drilling helps a lot and gives good results.

- So, you use technology to enrich your lessons, don’t you?
- Yes, Internet and other kinds.

- Do you have your favorite students in each course?
- I thought, I don’t. But my students say that I do. I think it can’t be hidden. So there are some students that I don’t know why maybe because they look nice or they are clever enough, but sometimes they are lazy. But laziness, of course, isn’t a good quality, but it isn’t the worst thing.

- What was the most satisfying moment throughout your student teaching?
- Of course, I’m happy and I’m proud of my students when they take prizes in different competitions and when they undergo some kind of interviews for this or that position in their work. And they say that English helped them to occupy some higher positions or to win in this or that competitions. My students very often took nice positions and they are very happy.

- And on the contrary, what was the most frustrating thing about student teaching?
- Oh, when I’m not in a good mood and my students aren’t prepared for their classes, I’m not very kind.

- In your opinion what are your strengths and your weaknesses as a teacher?
- As speaking about my strengths I think I try to know as much as possible and to continue to get know many interesting things, try to get in touch with young people and to know what they want in their life, to remain young, still young, that helps to understand them better.
Weaknesses, I’m not strict enough I think. Because comparing myself with other teachers and comparing the results they get with the same group of students for example, I understand that with some students strictness is the best method, the best thing that could make them work, but I like sometimes this kind of thing.

- So, do you think that strictness is so necessary in the teaching?
- Oh, sometimes, it depends on the course.

- Are you open to feedback from your colleagues?
- Yeah, I think that all teacher in my department, in my chair know that we are very distant with each other and very open to each other and every decision that I take, we take together.

- What are the biggest challenges that teachers face today?
- The lowest salaries. (Laughing) The little money they get.
Well, I think that in Russia, especially, students nowadays come from schools that don’t teach them how to work, to study. Ant that’s why, of course, it’s very difficult make them understand that’s necessary.

- What are you most worried about in nowadays students?
- I’m most worried about maybe how they would use their knowledge they got here, because the life isn’t so easy. And I hope that everything will be good.

- How do you structure your time to manage all of your duties associated with teaching?
- Actually, it isn’t so difficult nowadays, because we have a lot of time, not so many classes, not so many students. And I think that I have enough time for everything.

- In your opinion, what are the qualities of an excellent teacher?
- Of course, higher qualification, good education, the eagerness to know as much as possible, patience.

- What are the advantages and disadvantages of teaching?
- Well, the advantages of teaching in general as I’ve read somewhere as a joke are that the teacher knows all the answers on the test and practices pedagogy without fear of arrest and so on.
But speaking more seriously, I think that the advantages are in holidays – 2 months holidays during the summer and more or less relatively flexible time when you can be more busy during one week and less busy during the other week and you can use that time sometimes with your family, for example, and so on.
The disadvantages? Well, I think that it’s very typical nowadays in Russia to try to teach students as you want and this is not so good.

- Thank you for your answers.

Dina Chashchinova

ALL THIS AND HEAVEN by Barbara Ras translated by Maria Stefania Cuttone


Ti stavo raccontando degli sfortunati,
di come lasciano la fabbrica del vetro alle cinque
e percorrono i loro percorsi provvisoriamente giù per la strada
come se stessero attraversando un salone pieno di specchi. La nostra discussione
era quasi sempre vicina al movimento, alla sua musica
o al canto, come le voci delle bambole, gli oooooh
dell’innocenza. Involontariamente, includiamo
i suoni di altri cocci composti
da qualunque cosa ci fosse nella mano, qualunque cosa
ci fosse in gioco.

Era Domenica. Un pomeriggio come Lima
dove il deserto incontra il mare, una spiaggia
di rocce e coperte e corpi quasi nudi
che cercano di far levitare le proprie ossa.
“E se la luce fosse soltanto il buio squarciato
dei trovatelli che ne hanno paura?” Non saprei dirlo.
Se la luce avesse avuto ragione, ci sarebbe dovuto essere meno
desiderio, meno di retrocedere in una più viola esistenza.
Invece retrocede verso la notte, un tocco di cielo con stelle.

Forse era soltanto troppo divertente
a rovinarci. La musica suonando come un indulgenza
planetaria, la religiosità alla fine del mondo.
Ti ho mostrato come ho disciplinato me stessa
alla speranza, alzando un sopracciglio minutamente, cioè,
minuto per minuto. Tu dicevi:

“Ero solito sognare anime, rigonfiate e singhiozzanti,
languendo contro i cancelli perlacei.
Adesso sto guidando un auto benedetta
da uno sbronzo. Tutto ciò per un trimestre.
Tutto questo e il paradiso. Forse perdere
Il cinismo è come ogni altra cosa, un po’ più piccola della fede,
forse nell’ordine di sorsi e baci, niente come
l’implorante romanticismo delle nuvole
così come appaiono nel sud, larghe e lanuginose.”

Maria Stefania Cuttone

Margin of Error by Barbara Ras translated by Eleonora Giacoppo

Margine di errore
Se è vero che le azioni sbagliate portano alla salvezza, allora non c’è bisogno di aggiustare
nulla, chiudete semplicemente gli occhi e sentite
le mani sulla vostra testa leggere come la luce, respirare
l’innocenza come l’odore del sale sull’aria della vostra infanzia,
il vostro animo clemente, gonfiarsi appena come una vela bianca in una calma baia blu.
Vi potreste aspettare il sacrificio, unica buona qualità, ma immediatamente qui
c’è il cavallo Cortés abbandonò nella città dell’isola di Tayasal,
dove i nativi dava da mangiare dei fiori e della carne.
Qualcuno ha tracciato il grafico di cosa può fare la fame alla bontà
come le canne ricurve nel vento possano rompersi,
proprio come il marito perfetto, la moglie perfetta,
una volta erano due boccioli sullo stesso albero, trasportati
da ramo a ramo per accoppiarsi perfettamente.
Poi una voce gridò, Basta con la profonda notte fragrante. Aggiustala, aggiustala,
sono stanco del buio.
Il giorno dopo gli amanti indossarono degli anelli fluorescenti sulle loro teste
come delle aureole. Il sistema funzionò fin quando la voce gridò, Luce
così potente potrebbe sconvolgere persone come voi.
Si, dissero gli amanti, Andiamo con un po’ di buio.
Naturalmente la voce continua a lamentare, Aggiustala, aggiustala,
alito cattivo, calma persa, labbra arricciate.
Gli amanti stanchi, vanno a letto per la notte.
Quando le luci si sono spente, la voce dice, Ascoltate. Le pistole sparano.
Loro si alzano, chiamano la polizia, e la voce dice, Aggiustatela, aggiustatela,
ma la polizia dice, Macchine con ritorno di fiamme. Dateci i vostri nomi
e tornate a letto.
Lo fanno, ma la radio sta continuando a parlare delle figurine
che invece dei giocatori di baseball rappresentano i poliziotti.
Qualcuno si sta arricchendo su poliziotti non molto famosi.
Gli amanti riescono a parlare, quanto sarebbe facile piacere meno alle persone,
portano la mazza fuori dal seminterrato per tenerlo accanto al letto, morire
di riflessioni apocalittiche, vacche gonfiate con ormoni di crescita,
richiedendo lillà e sangue, vodka e ali di pollo piccanti,
Nutriteci, nutriteci, dicono, Vogliamo provare tutto,
carne di zanzare, latte di madre, fil di ferro spinato.
A questo punto gli amanti pensano, Tenuto tutto.
Ma la voce ha una mente di per sé, intervenendo
a riflettere sull’onestà, errori, il grande margine
dell’avidità, il desiderio gonfio come una nave alta destinata a prendere il controllo del porto,
il filo della ragione che porta uomini buoni a pensare pensieri più ambiziosi,
pensando, Se ci liberiamo di queste cimici, ci sarà molto di più per noi, più cibo,
più fibra, possiamo aggiustarla, aggiustarla, avveleneremo i parassiti,
spargeremo il raccolto col veleno, solo un po’ di pulizie,
niente che ci possa dare fastidio,
sicuro nella nostra liberalità, la nostra chimica una sorta di devozione.
E i buon uomini pensarono ai loro pensieri famelici,
e nessuno chiese la misura delle cellule, o la grandezza
di un embrione, i suoi occhi chiusi,
la promessa delle buone mani sulla sua buona testa.

Eleonora Giacoppo

Monday, March 19, 2012

Film review: I, Don Giovanni

Genre: Period drama
Directed by: Carlos Saura
Starring: Lorenzo Balducci, Lino Guanciale, Emilia Verginelli, Tobias Moretti, Ennio Fantastichini.
Music by: Nicola Tescari.
Realised in: 2009
Running time: 127 minutes

I, Don Giovanni is a 2009 film by Carlos Saura; this film represents the libertine life of the most famous Venetian opera librettist and poet, Lorenzo Da Ponte, and compares his life to the one of Don Giovanni. This character was inspired by the one in Tirso de Molina’s El Burlador de Sevilla y el convidado de piedra, who is one of the most interesting and revisited characters in the history of theatre.

The film is set in Venice in 1763 when the Inquisition obliged priests to baptize converted Hebrews, among these is Lorenzo Da Ponte. Firstly, he escapes from the church, but then he becomes an abbot. His best friend, Casanova, teaches him to live a frivolous life: attending banquets, making love to many different girls, etc. Moreover, he uses his ability in writing to criticize the Church and the Inquisition. Because of this unregulated life, Lorenzo da Ponte is exiled, and he moves to Vienna, a more modern city. Here he meets a lot of famous singers and musicians such as Ferrarese, Cavalieri, Salieri and Mozart. Thanks to Joseph II, Lorenzo collaborates with Mozart in the realization of a lot of operas, among them the most important is Don Giovanni. Will this work change Lorenzo's view of life and love?

Music, scenes and costumes are very well done in Saura’s film version. The lyrical music, together with the painted scenes of theatrical operas, provide the right background to the film. Moreover, the use of XVI century Venetian costumes manages to recreate the atmosphere of that epoch and that place.

The cast is mainly composed of Italian actors among whom we have Leonardo Balducci, whose talent can be appreciated in the extraordinary central role of Lorenzo Da Ponte. The Venetian opera librettist has been compared to the character of Don Giovanni: both Lorenzo and Don Giovanni lead a frivolous and lewd life, but Lorenzo will distinguish himself from Don Giovanni by choosing love. It is probably the happy ending of this film version which has contributed to its extraordinary success.

Eleonora Giacoppo

Review of “La vita che corre”

Recently on Italian TV I saw an interesting film “La vita che corre”. It spoke about a big problem in the Italian society, the abuse of alcohol and drugs and its consequences.  Three girls do a dance trial. They pass, and they decide to go to a disco to celebrate this event.

At the same moment in another family, there is a difficult situation. In fact their son pushes drugs secretly, this boy is in conflict with his father. The other son is a doctor. That evening they also decide to go in the same disco, and they meet the three girls. But during that evening they all get drunk together with two boys .

Unfortunately, while they are coming back to home, they have a terrible accident. In that moment another man is coming back, and he is involved. He is badly injured. In fact the doctors must amputate his leg. He begins a long period of suffering because at the beginning he doesn’t accept his handicap, but afterwards he decides to face it.

He also loses his work, but he wants to begin a new life with his family One of two boys drops dead on the spot and after three days one of three girls. From that moment, the father of dead boy tries to save the other son that it has made the same mistake as his brother.

This film is an image of modern society, which is characterized by the insecurities in the world of young people. It brings out the often difficult relations between parents and children, that aren’t always idyllic.

Seeing this film, I was shocked. This film made me reflect. I liked it because I made this consideration: 
we have everything, and we can enjoy life honestly without using drugs. Young people think only about themselves. They don’t understand that in a minute they can destroy the life of somebody else.

One minute is sufficient to ruin everything.

Grazia Maria Franco

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Film review: Psycho, 1960

Have you ever thought to see one of the most recognizable films in cinema history or be scared to death while watching the most particular film scene ever made? Would you like to see the film based on the novel by Robert Bloch which was inspired by the crimes of Wisconsin murderer and grave robber Ed Gein? Oops, maybe I am revealing everything already. In any case, whatever you answer, I highly recommend you see the film that will stay engraved in your head for life! I’m talking about one of Hitchcock’s best films –Psycho.

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay by: Joseph Stefano
Genre: suspense, horror
Main actors:    Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates
Janet Leigh as Marion Crane
John Gavin as Sam Loomis
Martin Balsam as Det. Milton Arbogast
Themes: woman in jeopardy, mothers and sons
Tone: chilly, tense, creepy, deliberate, menacing, macabre
Keywords: embezzlement, missing-person, motel, mother, murder, private detective, psychopath, shower, stabbing, taxidermy
Run Time: 120min
Language: English

Summary of the plot
Psycho opens in Phoenix with the secret love affair of banker Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and Sam Loomis (John Gavin). After a discussion about not being able to continue meeting each other like this, Marion agrees to sneak off to Sam’s house in some distant town. She decides to spend one last day at work. While at work, she is given $40,000 to deposit, but she escapes with the money. There is a heavy rainstorm which prompts her to spend the night at the Bates Motel rather than drive in the rain. It is a quite friendly motel with a dark house looming over it in the background. Marion decides she should rest and wait for the rain to pass, so she checks into room number 1.

At the check-in counter she meets Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a man whose only companion is his sick mother. Marion agrees to have dinner with Norman in his motel. Here she has a long talk with Norman, and has a revelation. She realizes that Norman is living in a trap and that she is about to do the same. The rain lets up and she decides to return to Phoenix and return the money. With that on her mind, she goes to her room and takes a shower before she rests. However, a figure creeps up behind, rips open the curtains and stabs her to death.

This is the real mystery. Who murdered her? Why did they murder her? And the answer is so cool that you’re left in a state of awe. No one will be able to guess why she was murdered. The story is much more complex than it might seem and really worth it to find out who’s the murderess. I can only tell you that the rest of the story is shocking and unsuspected.
Psycho is an auteur film. It is a little difficult to understand but attracts the attention of the audience in an impressive way. There are many slow or silent scenes, and, at the same time, there are different details so important to catch the nuances of the film. Most of the shots are extreme close-ups. The combination of the close shots with their short duration makes the scenes of the film feel more menacing. The soundtrack of screeching violins, which intensified the scene and is scary, was composed by Bernard Herrmann. The film being in black and white looks simply stunning and breathtaking. The way Alfred Hitchcock sets up the atmosphere and the suspense is remarkable. The main figure of the film, Anthony Perkins, is excellent as the lonely Norman Bates. He is friendly and very likable.
In one way or another, if you are looking for a great scare, then Psycho is for you. It will make you think twice about taking a shower.

Magdalena Seget

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Film review: Amadeus

Genre: period drama
Directed by: Milos Forman
Starring: F. Murray Abraham; Tom Hulce; Elisabeth Berridge
Music by: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Antonio Salieri
Realise date: September 19, 1984
Running time: 161 minutes

Amadeus is a period drama about the rivalry between two famous composers of the 18th century: Mozart and Salieri. The Italian composer, Antonio Salieri, is threatened by the genius of the young Mozart who has recently arrived at Vienna where he will compose some of his masterworks for Emperor Joseph II. In order to save his reputation, Salieri will try to hinder his rival’s career by giving him some wrong advice. The whole story is narrated by using the flashback cinematographic technique: it is Salieri who tells us the story from his personal point of view; as a consequence the story is not objective and Mozart is represented as a childish genius who does not need to work very hard in order to compose a masterwork. The film greatly represents the ambiguous relationship Salieri had with Mozart, the Italian composer both loves and hates his colleague; he really appreciates his genius but he is also disappointed by the fact that Mozart does not need to make any effort in order to compose great music. On the contrary Salieri’s total dedication to music seems to be useless since he does not manage to create something brilliant. This is why he is so envious of his colleague.

The film starts in a in an insane asylum where Salieri stays after having tried to commit suicide; the Italian composer confesses to a priest that he is responsible for Mozart’s death. Salieri tells to the priest he really wanted to be a composer since he was a very young boy and thanks to his total dedication to music he has managed to become a good composer and to work for Emperor Joseph II. However Salieri’s achievements will be suddenly threatened by the arrival of a young and talented man: Mozart. Despite being a childish and lewd man, Mozart is an extraordinary composer who quickly obtains the favour of the emperor; Salieri, who is envious of his rival’s genius, plots against him. Salieri uses Mozart’s financial problems against him to lead his rival to a deep crisis both economical and personal; the Italian composer, on one side, makes Mozart think he wants to help him but, on the other side, he will actually plot against his rival by giving him some wrong advice. The story ends with the death of the great composer who dictates his famous requiem to Salieri.

This film was first shown in 1989, but in 2002 a director’s cut version was realised with almost 20 extra minutes. Amadeus has been praised by critics with 53 nominations and 40 awards, including 8 Academy Awards and 4 Golden Globes. Its best merit is to have provided for the extraordinary music of Mozart a framework that allows common people to appreciate it.

Maria Stefania Cuttone

Review of Midnight in Paris

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.  Ernest Hemingway

Everybody has his “dream city” or maybe not city, but a place where all dreams come true. For someone it’s the Eternal city – Rome, for others – hectic London or Barcelona, for the successful Hollywood screenwriter Gil Pender such a place is Paris. Paris of the 1920s, the cradle of great artists and authors.
Gil (Owen Wilson) with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) come to Paris on vacation where Gil is struggling to finish his first novel, while Inez dismisses his notions of the city and the idea that the 1920s was the golden age. Romantic Gil likes Paris especially in the rain. He adores the rain, small restaurants, green parks and numerous bridges with ancient street lamps. He really wants to live in 1920s Paris – a time and place with which he is obsessed.
One night Gil wanders alone the streets of Paris, but he gets lost. When the clock strikes midnight an antique car pulls up and the passengers dressed in 20s clothing urge Gil to join them. Later he comes to realize that he has been transported to 1920 where he encounters composer Cole Porter, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, an American writer and art collector Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway and others. Gil’s dream comes true - he finds himself in the 20s of the past century in the belle époque. However, in the morning he finds he has returned to 2010.
The main character is so happy to stay with his idols, the most brilliant artistic persons of the 20th century and over the next few days he waits for midnight to be transported to that fabulous past. Gil spending more and more time with Adriana (Marion Cotillard) who leaves Picasso and has a brief flirt with Hemingway realizes that he is falling in love with her, and this takes him closer to the heart of the city but further from the real world where there is a woman he’s about to marry.
At first glance “Midnight in Paris” is a light romantic comedy, but looking inside more deeply it’s possible to realize that there is no universal conflict between good and evil, there is no great theme of love, but it’s a story about a man who desires to dream and remember our past. This is a philosophical film, like all of Woody Allen’s films about people who think that they live in a wrong time and they need to find that unforgettable “la belle époque”. Every time the dissonance between the present and the past becomes stronger and more evident. The genius screenwriter emphasizes the romantic and realistic elements, more than the fantasy elements. Living in the modern world Gil understands that the past will always charm and attract him, but staying in the past means to suffer from the nostalgia of looking for something better.
As in all of Woody Allen’s films, the actors act easily and with a great pleasure. Owen Wilson is fascinating in typical Allen trousers and checked shirt as a hopeless romantic writer. There is no doubt that Gil is Allen’s prototype, but younger and perhaps more attractive. The French actress, Marion Cotillard, is smart and very sweet as Picasso’s and Modigliani’s muse. Adrien Brody’s role (as Salvador Dalì) is probably his best role since “The Pianist” (2002) - the small one, but memorable. The film’s real star, of course, is Paris, seductive and glowing in all it’s eras.
The film has been cited as one of Allen’s best films in recent years. In 2012 it won both the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the Golden Globe Awards for Best Screenplay.
Excellent romantic atmosphere, fascinating French, magic Paris in the rain -  only for this you ought to watch “Midnight in Paris”! A perfect casting choice (the director includes local French actors when filming in another country), excellent music compositions by Stephane Wrembel, the French jazz guitarist, a gorgeous setting with splendid costumes make a 94-minute film by Woody Allen a romantic and enjoyable film about love, dreams and beauty!

P.S. What are you going to do at midnight in Paris?

Dina Chashchinova

Film review: “The Illusionist” (2006)

A man who captivates a nation, a love that is forbidden, a secret that threatens an empire. These are the main points of “The Illusionist”, an English film shot by the director Neil Burger in 2006.

This film of love, magic tricks and political intrigue is really thrilling; its plot becomes more and more complex until you believe you have missed some scenes because at one point you don’t understand what is happening. Only at the end of the film do you discover the course of the story and remain surprised by the various twists.

The main character is Eisenheim (played by Edward Norton), a young man who has been always obsessed by magic tricks since he was a boy. In Vienna he falls in love with Sophie, a noblewoman. They are of different social classes and for this reason they are forced to meet secretly, until they are discovered and forcefully separated.

Eisenheim continues to improve his skills until he becomes a master of illusion and, after a long period abroad, he returns to Vienna. During one of his performances he meets Sophie, who is being forced to marry Prince Leopold.

From this moment Eisenheim and Sophie understand that they are still in love, and they decide to escape from Austria, but they must fight against Leopold. He is cruel, pampered and wants to usurp the crown of his father, but Eisenheim tricks him (and also the audience) making him believe that Sophie has been killed. During a performance, the illusionist (Eisenheim) invokes the spirit of Sophie, who says that someone in the theatre murdered her, indicating Leopold. The Prince orders Eisenheim arrested, but magically he disappears. At this point, after the spreading of the scandal (the plan to usurp the crown), Leopold kills himself and the story finishes with Eisenheim who walks towards Sophie.

It is a very beautiful film, the story is stirring and rich with twists and special effects. It is a dramatic and fantastic film not to be missed!

Maria Rosaria Torre

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review of “Pulp Fiction”

“The path of righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children.”

This verse, Ezekiel 25:17, that appears three times during the movie could announce to us a film with religious and Christian significance, but the reality is quite different, even if at the end it could have a change connected with the faith.

Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), a killer, pronounces this fantastic verse immediately before killing his victims. Pulp Fiction is a crime thriller of 1994 directed by Quentin Tarantino, with John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis and Tim Roth. It was nominated for seven Oscars: it won for Best Original Screenplay. Also it was awarded the Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the opening scene there is a couple discussing their plans of robbery in a café. Everything appears to be normal: the music in the background is the typical noise of a café. Moments after Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and  Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) initiate the hold-up, the scene breaks off and the titles roll. Still the scene needs to be continued… Jules Winnfield (S. L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) are two men in black suits that have to retrieve a briefcase from a man that has transgressed against their boss, Marsellus Wallas. Jules tells Vincent that Marsellus had a man thrown off a fourth floor balcony for giving his wife a foot massage. Vincent is worried about this fact because the gangster has asked him to escort his wife, Mrs Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman), while he’s out of town. Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) is an aging prizefighter and in exchange for a large sum of money promises he would take a dive in his oncoming match. But he will not fulfill the pact and will be forced to flee with his girlfriend, but a gold watch will make him face the danger. Jules and Vincent will try to deliver the briefcase, which is the driving force behind the action to Marsellus throughout many trials and a final twist.

The film contains an heterogeneus mix of American rock and roll, surf music, pop and soul by various artists. Notable songs include Misirlou by Dick Dale, in a surf- rock rendition, which is played in the opening scene and mixed with the words pronounced by Pumpkin  and Honey Bunny shouting at the people in the café and which gives the movie action and an imprint of western music. Another relevant song is the version of Son of a preacher man by Dusty Springfield which is the background of Vincent entering the Marsellus’ house to take Mia Wallace out. Urge Overkill's cover of the Neil Diamond song Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon is played when, after coming back home with Vincent, Mia is dancing alone in the living room. Mia feels sexy and it is clear she wants to seduce Vincent.

An interesting aspect of the movie is that it tells different stories, includes different characters that come in and out of the story, with their feeling a and personal background and with their own relevance within the story and in comparison with the other characters. It is a story of loyalty, betrayal and crime (but also of fun, dance and jokes). Hard drugs, especially cocaine and heroine, are a necessary complement for the world represented by the gangster, his wife and his henchmen such as the submission of the weakest people under the more powerful ones is another natural consequence of this kind of organization. Vincent and Mia Wallace are only two passive and weak characters in the hands of the destiny and of their boss. They can’t do anything else if not behave as he wants them to behave and move as he wants them to move. Uma Thurman is a great performer of that part, sensual and naïve at the same time.

The overdose of the weak Mia, “a woman soon”, as the text of the song says, shows her frailty and demonstrates that her look of woman in the surface hides a inner soul of girl. Tarantino inserts in some scenes a touch of irony, but also so much unexpected cruelty and violence; he gives us some raw images related to the use of cocaine and presented as something normal and ordinary. Also the gunshots are continual and the blood shed on the ground is so raw. But actually all the nastiness is driven away by the act of mocking the action, to exaggerate it, to make it perverse. For some aspects the movie is the representation of the modern times and seems so real to me in spite of its surface of fiction.


Love & Other Drugs

When Hollywood addicted audiences all over the world realized the movie Love and Other Drugs was about to be released the first thought that crossed their minds was that it was going to be another silly and unrealistic romantic comedy where the main characters realize they love each other for no apparent reason and in the final scene of the movie they rush to grab a taxi in order to get to the person they love as soon as possible. Well, once you see it, you realize that Love and Other like no Other American romantic comedies – although actually classified as belonging to the genre.

It is set back in the 1960s and it tells the story of a young fascinating man, Jamie, that begins his career as a pharmaceutical sales representative. He is going to change the life of many unhappy people since he is about to release a brand new drug called Viagra – and I guess we all know what I mean when I say that it has changed many lives. But if there is a life that is really going to be subverted is the protagonist’s life as soon as he runs into the female protagonist, Maggie. Jamie is handsome and successful, he can have as many women as he wants but when he meets Maggie, who suffers from early onset Parkinson's disease, he will realize that none of all the relationships that he had were real. So they fall in love and they  begin a relationship as a normal couple although they have to face many difficulties: Maggie’s illness is getting worse and Jamie is totally unprepared to face a long and painful voyage next to her.  Real dramas that occur in real lives have been treated by the director as every couple should do. Love sometimes can be like an illness, it requires a lot of patience and time to be “cured”, to be perfect and sometimes there is no drug that can prevent you from suffering.

The director  Edward Zwick not only has made a great cinematic work out of the novel Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman by Jamie Reidy; moreover he has chosen probably the best couple ever seen on screen: Jake Gyllenhaal as Jamie and Anne Hathaway as Maggie. Beyond Gyllenhaal’s  brilliant performance, it is necessary to underline the remarkable acting by Anne Hathaway. Both were nominated for many awards, she won the Satellite Award 2010 for Best actress. It has been a remarkable change in her career since the audience had always associated her pretty face to those romantic comedies that I have mentioned above. She was probably accused of lack of talent since those kind of movie did not require much of it. Indeed her acting in Love and Other Drugs proved everyone to be wrong and the audience realized that behind her beautiful smile the strong character of a smart young woman is hidden.

If we mix the brilliance of the cast, with the importance of the themes that the story touches, a meaningful and engaging movie is what we get that I am sure that all the kind of audiences will appreciate.

Giulia Platania