On Bicycle Thieves by Kenzo Fukuda

We recently watched Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves in Cine CLub with San Francisco Art & Film for Teenagers. The film follows Antonio Ricci, a poor father who is desperate to find his stolen bike because otherwise he would not be able to keep his job. The film displays the economic crisis of post-World War II Italy, specifically in Rome, through the eyes of Ricci and also his son Bruno Ricci. This leads to a juxtaposition in the view of their situation, between a father trying to provide for his family and a young boy who is forced to mature due to the circumstances.

At the start of the film, Antonio Ricci is portrayed as prideful, and a man of dignity. This is evident in the scene where he and his wife, Maria Ricci are in a fortune teller’s apartment and Antonio declares that he does not believe there is higher power, especially a sketchy fortune teller. But after his bike is stolen, he slowly begins to lose his pride and dignity because of what that would mean for his family and himself. It would mean failure to his wife, after his she sold their bed sheets to re-buy the bike, and action that showed faith to him. But because of the circumstances and the lack of opportunity, Antonio is forced to betray his own values in gestures of a worrying desperation. This is shown, through the fortune teller again, when Antonio and his son Bruno visit the her after a long afternoon of searching for the bike thief. The fortune teller tells them, “Either, you’ll find it now or you never will,” Antonio acts on these words and becoming a hypocrite to his own claim.

Bruno, on the other hand, is portrayed at the beginning of the film as innocent and oblivious. For example, when Bruno is cleaning the bike, he notices a dent and tells his father. Antonio brushes away his comment saying it will have to make due. Bruno responds by exclaiming that he would have told the man at the pawn shop so he could have it fixed. But what Bruno does not realize is that Antonio does not have time to have the bike fixed, it could cost him his job, and especially if the damage is something that can be managed without the cost of money and time. Later in the film, Bruno’s innocence and obliviousness slowly begin to deteriorate. He begins to realize this in the scene where Antonio takes him to an expensive restaurant out of guilt for hitting him earlier. The table next to them had a wealth family and a boy who was also Bruno’s age. The wealthy boy looks down on the way Bruno is dressed, the way he eats his food, and the way he acts. Bruno begins to realize that his family is not high in social standing. He begins to realize why his father is so desperate to recover the bike and they should not be at this fancy restaurant because the cost of the meal is detrimental to their situation. When Bruno realizes this, he stops eating, only for his father to insist that he finish his food. This is also where Bruno realizes his father is being a bit irresponsible, further shifting their dynamic.

The penultimate sequence that changes the father-son dynamic between the Antonio and Bruno is when Antonio steals someone’s bike out of desperation in front of his son Bruno. Several men catch him before he can get away and they sorely let him go because they did not want to arrest him in front of Bruno. The movie ends with Antonio holding Bruno’s hand for support; Bruno being forced to console his father, something that normally occurs the other way around. This final scene shows Antonio reduced to someone low enough to steal a bike, even though he was out of options. Had he not stolen the bike, he would have held pride and dignity but jobless. But if he successfully stole the bike, he would have job and could maybe scrape together some of his pride later. He was willing to sacrifice his own state of being to feed his family. In a time of survival, Antonio chose the short-term over long-term. Bruno’s innocence was lost in this entire ordeal. Witnessing his father become a thief right in front of him shattered any sense of good and bad morality that is easy to believe as a child. By the end of the film, Bruno is no longer a child because he is forced to carry this burden that his father failed to do.

Kenzo Fukuda, class of 2020

Saturday at the Symphony by Nina Berggren

On Saturday evening, I slipped into classy attire and rode the train to Davies Symphony Hall, downtown. I entered the lobby early, and settled into a seat beside several sophomore peers. None of us had had the opportunity to research the performance in store for us, so we discussed our previous experiences attending the symphony. Eventually, Ronald Chase approached us. Ronald is the founder of San Francisco Art & Film for Teenagers, an organization that immerses interested teenagers in a world of art, film, and music for free! By providing free access to local cultural programs, students like myself learn to better engage with, discuss, dissect, and enjoy, art, film, and music. Saturday night was my first time taking advantage of Art & Film’s free symphony tickets.

Ronald joined us on our bench, quickly launching into an elaborate explanation of musical history relating to the following evening’s music. With our minds brimming with newfound knowledge, we clutched our tickets tightly and entered the grand symphony hall. Our tickets lead us to a collection of seats in the second row of the front orchestra. Ecstatically we sunk into yellow, cushioned chairs and endured the thirty minute lecture that came before the music. As the long rows behind us filled with elegant ladies and equally spiffy gentlemen, I admired the tall rounded ceiling and lavish nature of my surrounding environment. At long last, the conductor walked onstage, almost close enough for me to reach out and touch him. His wrinkled face revealed comfort that can only be attributed to someone that has been in a particular business for decades. A choir rose in the back and musicians took their seats, taking brief moments to tune their instruments. Then, they played and sang and my body felt full and complete as I absorbed the music with every fiber of my being. I leaned forward and allowed the sounds to run through me and take my mind from thought to image and back again. I sat so close to a violin player that I could hear the scratch of his bow on strings, which added an element of intensity and authenticity to the sound, much like a record player does. The distance I had always felt from most classical music was immediately eliminated, because I was both physically and mentally in the thick of it.

Between two hymns performed, I got to thinking that classical music and the romantic poetry we are studying in Creative Writing 1, are similar in many ways. First, one must approach both poetry and music with patience. In order to appreciate each word or note in a piece, as well as the piece as a whole, one must patiently interpret it and come to various conclusions on their own. Second, both compositions and poems are inspiring and inspired by the world around us. Romantics in the 1800s spent lifetimes writing poetry about nature and emotions. While composers often sought out urban environments to write music about. One example of this, was the final song played at the symphony called “An American in Paris,” a stunning classic that was inspired by a foreigner walking through Parisian streets.

With this knowledge, I listened to the symphony play it and could clearly visualize an American in Paris, listening to unfamiliar sounds and inhaling the culture. Which brings me to my third point, not only are poets and composers inspired by life, the works of art they create provide clear images in one’s mind, whether one has to read or listen, to see it. Fourth, both poetry and music convey emotions and make you feel emotions. All through the evening I heard sound combinations that swelled my heart and sounded so complicated and beautiful. During intermission, Ronald Chase informed us that all the history and information he had initially taught us, described different pieces that he mistakenly thought would be played that night. However the unpredictability of going into something unfamiliar forced me to run with my emotions as opposed to my mind. This strengthened my experience and made me come out of it with a newfound interest and wonder for classical music and symphonies.

I was especially fascinated by one of the main differentiating aspects of writing and music: teamwork. While poetry is personal and often written in privacy, symphonies would not thrive without countless unified musicians, working together to bring a piece to life. Their flawless ability to play in such harmony, was enough to draw me back to many more future performances. I highly encourage others to attend, and I look forward to venturing forth into more musically influenced endeavors. Thank you Art & Film!

Nina Berggren, class of 2020

Cine Club by Rae Dox Kim

San Francisco Art & Film for Teenagers holds a weekly showing of a film at the picturesque SF Art Institute. The hike up the hill to the building is the ultimate test of faith, but makes for a great view. Prior to the film, you can watch the sun setting over the tourist district or look for stray cats under the bushes in the courtyard. There is always sparking water to sip as the lights go down in the theater, and an oatmeal cookie. The movie is paired with an animated short–often Looney Tunes, which aptly sets the stage for the war film or deep inspection of our human experience that follows. You are instructed to spend five minutes, not a moment less, meeting your fellow moviegoers.

The great joy of Cine Club is that I will see movies there that I would not see otherwise, in different languages, set in the past and even the future. Many of the high-budget blockbusters in the American theaters of today are limited to one perspective. The movies shown at Cine Club are more than drawn-out plot progression and attractive CGI action scenes. They demonstrate powers of cinematography, well-written dialogue (or lack thereof… some of the films are more silent than not) and immaculate design. They do not lean on the guarantee of a happily-ever-after conclusion. These are films recognized as classics, critical to an education in media. Sitting in that theater, I have learned more about movies and about life than in any class.

Attending Cine Club is an assignment for Creative Writing, but once I sit down and torture the little tables on the armrests into a horizontal position, I can’t help but feel content. I am surrounded by people who aren’t just there to see a movie, but to find some kind of meaning in art. And later, while churning out a reflection on the movie I have seen, I feel that contentment again.

Rae Dox Kim, class of 2020

The Army of Shadows

 
Friday 17: Cine/Club: Randall Museum

Jean Pierre Melville’s THE ARMY OF SHADOWS (1995, France)

Another film that fills you in on some of the fascinating events of WWII that may not be covered in your social studies class. In this case, the French Resistance: a group of unusual French citizens working to sabotage the Nazis any way they can in occupied France. Unfortunately, the Nazis are slowly reducing their numbers. Who is giving them away to the enemy? Could it be one of their own?

   
WHY WE CHOSE THIS FILM:

The Army of Shadows gives you a tremendous context in which to place your knowledge of WWII. Lots of ordinary citizens gave their lives to resist the Nazis, and the group of people in the film come from real life. The film acts like a thriller, but also is filled with carefully etched personalities, and a great suspenseful plot. All the major people in the film lived through these events, so they can nautrually bring them vividly to life. You’ll be on the edge of your seats.

   
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR:

Jean Pierre Melville adopted the last name of his favorite writer, Herman Melville (Moby Dick). Much of his life follows the same unsual pattern. During WW II he worked in the French Resistance against the Nazis. Refused in his attempts to work in film, he decided to make his own films with his own money, and eventually owned his own studio. His friendship with Godard (another film maker associated with the French “new wave”) led to his habit of filming on location—but his fondness for America gangster films can be found in all his early films—the weapons,coats, fedoras dot many of his “film noirs” like Le Samurai and Le Circle Rouge. He is not very well known in the U.S.