#196 Spartacus

Watched: August 18 2018

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis, John Gavin, Nina Foch, John Dall

Year: 1960

Runtime: 3h 17min

Spartacus

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In the days of the Roman Empire, Spartacus (Douglas) is born into slavery and sold to a gladiator school after exhibiting some disobedience. Batiatus (Ustinov), the owner of the school, sees some promise in him and provides him with training and a prostitute – anything he could possibly crave.

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Along with some fancy body paint, of course

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Trainer and former gladiator Marcellus is not a fan of his new pupil though, and when he notices Spartacus’ feelings for servant Varinia (Simmons) he makes a point of keeping them apart.

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Ah, the feelings one can convey with only a glance when one is fearing for one’s life…

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One day, a bunch of rich bitches come by and demand a fight to the death. One of the chosen fighters is our hero, but when he loses the battle, his fellow gladiator refuses to kill him and charges the spectators instead.

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Draba just couldn’t let Spartacus go to his grave in that outfit, citing the theory that your ghost form will forever wear the clothes you had on when you died and no one deserved that fate

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After Draba’s death, and the continued mistreatment of the gladiators, Spartacus leads a rebellion and marches on Rome, freeing and recruiting more slaves on the way. Their plan is to amass enough riches to hire pirates to take them all back to their countries of origin. However, the Roman leaders are furious that someone dares defy them and set out to capture and/or kill them all, particularly Roman Braveheart Spartacus.

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“They make take our lives. But they may never take our freedom!”

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Spartacus is an epic not unlike Ben Hur, and apparently it was Kirk Douglas’ response to not getting the part of the Judean hero. Clocking in at well over 3 hours each, we’re grateful to Edgar Wright and the list for finally convincing us to watch them because they are fantastic.

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As an added bonus, Roman uniforms always remind us of Asterix

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We loved the political games, the old slave couple, Batiatus (for some reason, ’cause he’s a bit of a bastard. We think it was the actor who saved him), the humour, all the men looking for consent from the women before sexy-times (as a powerplay, but still!), and the epicness of it all. If you have 3+ hours to spare, Spartacus is the way to go. It’s impossible to dislike a story of people who are mistreated and repressed and who fight back.

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Also, Tony Curtis is there, being all handsome and musical

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Now, we are sorry to end this blog entry on a sad note, but one of the reasons it has taken us two weeks to update this time is because our beloved doggo Dewin had to be put down last weekend. He was our trusty film watching partner, and the bestest boy, but he was old and sick, and in the end we had to do the only humane thing for our wonderful friend. We will always remember his enthusiasm when watching anything with animals, particularly westerns with lots of horses, and (for some reason) Ingmar Bergman films. He loved Bergman. He was a better and more sophisticated man than us. Thank you for the good times, Dewin. We love you.

 

What we learned: I’m Spartacus.

Next time: The Apartment (1960)

#84 Ladri di biciclette/Bicycle Thieves

Watched: February 12 2017

Director: Vittorio De Sica

Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell

Year: 1948

Runtime: 1h 29min

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In post-war Rome, Antonio Ricci (Maggiorani) is experiencing the Poverty Catch-22: he is (finally) offered a good job, but the job requires a bicycle which he has pawned to provide for his family and cannot reclaim until his first paycheck. Which he won’t get without his bike. Luckily for Antonio he has a good wife, Maria (Carell), who sells their sheets to retrieve his bicycle. With his mode of transportation back, Antonio is set to start his new job, putting up posters of glamorous stars around the city.

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The job also requires expert balancing skills… Biking around with this gear is seriously impressive!

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As promising as the beginning is – the tale of a man who works his way out of poverty after someone gave a break – we just know that something terrible will happen. And of course, as the title implies, the bicycle is stolen. On Antonio’s first day, no less. He gives chase, but the thief’s cohorts distract him and send him down the wrong path. He reports the theft to the police, but they do not consider this case a priority. All Antonio can do to keep his job and make a living for himself and his family is to go look for the bike himself.

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Finding a bike in a city of millions isn’t made easier by their decision to inspect every possible bike in detail

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He takes his young son Bruno (Staiola) with him to a market to look for his stolen property, whole or in parts, and they spend the entire day roaming around Rome on their quest. The day puts a strain on Antonio’s relationship with his young son, especially as he, in his desperation, makes some bad choices and cannot live up to the heroic view Bruno has had of him up until now.

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The weather does absolutely nothing to lighten the overall mood of the film

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This was a rewatch for (one of) us and not a particularly happy one. Not because we didn’t like the film – it’s amazing, but it is also thoroughly depressing. Antonio and Bruno have a few good moments during their quest such as the restaurant scene (which made us kind of hungry, we must admit), but there is a mood of hopelessness and desperation throughout Bicycle Thieves (the plural noun in the title implies more than we’re prepared to reveal) which stays with you for a while.

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However many mistakes Antonio makes though, his son stays by his side. Bless.

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Antonio is not a bad man, but he is not really a particularly good one either. He is human and desperate and he acts as such. Which is understandable. The film is an interesting (and beautiful) insight into post-war Italy and the effects poverty has on people. While it is sadder and more depressing than anything we’d willingly expose ourselves to (we prefer to live on fluffy clouds), it is not by far the worst one from De Sica in terms of sob factor. Seriously, if anyone tries to make us watch Umberto D. (1952) again, we might have to resort to violence. That shit is brutal.

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We mean it. If you care at all about dogs or old people (and you should! Both!), De Sica’s Umberto D will mess you up.

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What we learned: It always rains on Sundays. Also, there’s a cure for everything except death.

Next time: Oliver Twist (1948)