How one classic inspired another.
The first season of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None was a brazenly realistic look at modern love. The second season was as well, but with the added benefit of some truly cinematic direction, mostly from Ansari himself, that helped to elevate an already-dynamic series to the next level. The first episode of the second season – “The Thief” – in particular was a graceful, gorgeous, and charming black-and-white ode to the films of the Italian neorealism movement (fitting since the second season opens in Italy), specifically Vittorio DeSica’s 1948 Oscar-winning masterpiece Bicycle Thieves, from which Ansari borrowed the basic plot and several visual cues.
Since the moment I saw the episode, I’ve been waiting for someone to come up with a video like the one below, and I’m tickled pink it came from our good and very talented friend Nelson Carvajal, because his indisputably cinematic eye has captured the perfect kinship between the two works, not just visually but tonally and artistically. Ansari wasn’t replicating a specific film, he was mimicking the emotional landscape of Italian neorealism derived from shooting on location, with non-professional actors, attention to the mundane, prominent use of children as representations of skewed innocence, and a focus on the working class and the minor, everyday maladies of living that affect us more than the major events. Carvajal’s knowing edits reveal that not only was Ansari successful, he was elegant in the attempt.