Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Back to school

This afternoon at 1:00 pm at the Almonte Public Library I attended the first of six scheduled lectures ("Tom Shoebridge: The Magic of Cinema IV") organized by Learning in Almonte.

The Learning in Almonte series of lectures was originally conceived and founded by Dr. Don Wiles, Professor Emeritus at Carleton University in 2008. The program is now managed by Claire ApSimon, Marny McCook and Glenda Jones, providing lectures for a senior audience from September to April. Each series consists of 6 weekly lectures and have (sic) covered a wide range of popular topics.

This event drew what we were informed at the outset was another packed audience for this particular series. Today's film ("Lardi di Biciclette" - "Bicycle Thieves") was a black-and-white production from 1948, two features which resonate for me since I was born in 1948 and I adore the crispness of black-and-white film, photography, drawings and engravings.  It lubricated the gusto that my sole athletic passion is bicycling (a combination of mechanical and adventurous concepts). Neither is it a coincidence that the film evoked memories of productions by film director Federico Fellini who is my favourite. Likewise the connection of both film directors with the society of Rome is another reverberation, hearkening to our most recent European exploit.

Bicycle Thieves sometimes known in the United States as The Bicycle Thief is a 1948 Italian drama film directed by Vittorio De Sica . The film follows the story of a poor father searching post-World War II Rome for his stolen bicycle without which he will lose the job which was to be the salvation of his young family.

Strikingly the actors of this post-World War film were all "real people" (that is, none was paid or professional - the only person who later became an actor was the thief); and there were no sets other than the actual street and related scenes. Reportedly De Sica was a communist with overwhelming interest in the plight of the disadvantaged lower classes. This film certainly captures the indefatigable anxiety insinuating the lives of the poor. The paradox of the soothsayer in the film dismissing the hero's loss as just something to "get over" never quite diminishes the inescapable peril he faces. The subsequent Pollyanna suggestion that a thief must be excused his crime because he is already suffering evident tragedy has some cogency but the predominant theme is life's paramount hardship and perpetual trial.

Though of far less immediacy I have noted the obvious acquaintance of a restaurant with the film.  The fortuity in this instance is that within the past month we saw the restaurant when visiting Halifax, NS - the place where I studied law almost fifty years ago.

The Bicycle Thief exudes a relaxed, come-as-you-are feel in an atmosphere that blends Old School style with New School attitude.  Drop by for lunch or supper, or pull up a chair to our wicked wine bar for a fantastic glass from our titanic selection.  The Bicycle Their offers North American food with an Italian soul and legendary cooking that will steal your heart... 

Ever since I first read "The Mayor of Casterbridge" by Thomas Hardy when I was in my early teens I have been convinced of the reality and significance of coincidence. It is perhaps my closest admission of inveterate spiritualism.

What initially sparked my interest today in "back to school" wasn't my anticipated attendance at the lecture nor the traditional September catalogue but rather a note I read in an advertisement of a British boarding school. The advertisement proclaimed the value of routine and rigour.  These are flighty ambitions designed to promote the best in awakening youth. Their legitimacy however is somewhat restrained by the more palpable exposure to what for many is a far different reality. The elevation of habit and application is nonetheless of no inconsequence even for those of opportunity since it promotes what I suspect for many young people of any stripe is a severe syllabus. The current importance of education is a burgeoning imperative compounded by the expansion of technology, the advent of artificial intelligence and the perceived threat of the masses from China. Seventy years after The Bicycle Thief the spectre of deprivation lingers for many.

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