VJohn Landis English 1010 Greg Souza 10/22/2012 Many films often carry only one stylistic element, either focusing on a character’s growth, which is commonly portrayed in classical Hollywood cinema, focusing on the complexity of a character and the effects of setting, which is commonly portrayed in Art cinema, or focusing on the realistic daily struggles of a person, which is commonly portrayed in Neorealist cinema. Rocky I however combines these three traditions in order to make an engaging, lifelike film.
Rocky I exemplifies an engaging, goal oriented character, a realistic setting, as the entire film is shot on site in the city of Philadelphia, and a genuine display of real world hardships. This film uniquely combines the traditions of classical Hollywood, Neorealism, and Art into one piece that allows viewers to experience a highly engaging and very relatable film. Beginning with a goal oriented character in Rocky Balboa, the Classical Hollywood underdog story takes shape.
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Throughout the entire film viewers are exposed to the tradition of Art cinema, with a great portrayal of the tough, not so welcoming streets of inner city Philadelphia and complex characters, such as Rocky and his girlfriend Adrian. This element displays the mental struggles of Rocky and gives us insight to his background. Viewers are also exposed to Neorealist cinema, with a display of the everyday hardships that a local Philadelphia man faces as he struggles to find work as well as a purpose to his life. This element displays the physical struggles that Rocky goes through each day.
The combination of the traditions of Classical Hollywood, Art, and Neorealist cinema tie together to produce an enjoyable underdog story with realistic scenes and a genuine display of real life hardships. This marriage of stylistic elements allows for a more genuine and engaging story, as it makes for a story that could in fact take place in the real world, as opposed to a story that carries only one tradition, such as a more classical mainstream Hollywood film that most likely would not happen in the real world.
The film Rocky I displays classical Hollywood cinema firstly with the motive driven main character in Rocky Balboa, who at the start of the film is a no name boxer with little potential. Although it seems that this boxer’s time for fame has already past, Rocky, even at the age of thirty, still believes that he is a great fighter and it is his goal to prove to his friends, his trainer, and the people of his city that he is a great boxer and not just a worthless, unintelligent fighter.
This is present early in the movie, when even after he has won a small, local fight he still fails to gain the respect of his trainer and even his friends, Rocky however is not discouraged but begins working harder. As the film continues his peers continuously tell him that he is too old and just wasting his time boxing. At one point his own trainer kicks him out of his gym locker, telling Rocky his time has passed and he has been replaced with a boxer of better potential. Rocky however does not give up on boxing, displaying his goal-oriented character.
Rocky wants to remove the classification by his peers that he is a “bum” and show that he can be great. With great luck he is chosen to fight the World Heavy Weight Champion, Apollo Creed and given an opportunity to reach his goal and prove to his peers and even himself that he is not just a washed up boxer, but that he is a great boxer and someone who is capable of greatness. This consistency of a never quit attitude by Rocky displays the Classical Hollywood goal oriented character and leads us into the well-structured story of an underdog, which is also prevalent in many Classical Hollywood films.
Although Rocky is given the opportunity to make a name for himself and face off against the greatest boxer in the world, his chances of success are very slim. This boxing event was staged by Apollo Creed as simply a form of entertainment, no one expected Rocky to even last more than a few rounds. This attitude is first displayed by interviewers on a television broadcast as they ask Apollo Creed, “Why did you agree to fight a man who has virtually no chance of winning? ” This question by the interviewer displays the general belief that almost no one expects Rocky to be victorious over Apollo Creed.
This attitude is again displayed the night before the fight when Rocky speaks with the director of the fight at the boxing arena. Rocky mentions that the banner with a picture of him in his boxing apparel has him wearing the wrong shorts. The director responds, “It doesn’t matter, I’m sure you are going to put on a great show. ” The manner in which he says this and looks at Rocky displays to viewers that even the man who set up the fight has no belief that Rocky could contest Apollo Creed, he still sees Rocky as a nobody and simply wants to make money. These scenes help build a well-structured underdog story.
Early on, Rocky even feels that he has no chance to last against such a great fighter, but as he begins to train and grow stronger, he begins to believe in himself. Rocky’s main goal, if he cannot defeat Apollo Creed, is to last the full 15 rounds against him, a feat that had never been done before. When the day of the fight has finally come, all people of Philadelphia are pulling for Rocky to pull the upset, although many of them still do not believe this will happen. During the introduction of the boxers, Apollo Creed enters the ring in gaudy fashion, mocking Rocky throughout his entrance.
This scene displays the classical Hollywood villain and sets the stage for what looks to be a David versus Goliath type of match. As the fight gets underway, Rocky is immediately pounded with punches and it looks as if this fight will end whenever Apollo Creed wants to end it. After being knocked down and cut open already in the first round, Rocky somehow finds strength and begins to fight back, knocking the “world’s greatest boxer” down for a few seconds. This knockdown alone is a shock to the world and the Cinderella story seems to be gaining steam.
The next few rounds are all out battles between two men who are not willing to lose. Rocky, at one point, has his eye lids cut open so he can see because all of the punching to his face had caused his eyes to swell up greatly. While Apollo Creed on the other hand, was spitting up blood regularly after many punches to his kidneys. These scenes display that Rocky is willing to do whatever it takes to reach his goal and go the distance with Apollo creed. This brutal fight would last all 15 rounds and would have to be settled by a judge’s anonymous decision.
Although Apollo Creed is determined the victor, Rocky has by far passed the expectations of anyone in the world. Rocky was able to achieve his goal of lasting all 15 rounds in the fight as well as finally become recognized as great fighter. Rocky gains a sense of purpose to his life at this point and the underdog story concludes. The motive driven character in Rocky, along with the well structured underdog story are clear displays of classical Hollywood cinema, but this is not the only traditional cinema carried by this film, the traditional Art cinema is also portrayed throughout this film, aiding to its effectiveness.
Aspects of Art cinema are displayed numerous times throughout Rocky I as firstly the portrayal of the elements surrounding the main character, such as the beaten down streets or abandoned houses, give a background to what Rocky goes through each day and what conditions he is living in. These elements are of great focus in the opening scenes when Rocky is walking home after winning a small boxing match. As he walks, viewers are introduced to the littered, somewhat abandoned streets of Philadelphia.
Graffiti is manifest on many of the walls he walks by and when he makes it to his home, it is a small, a bit dirty, basic apartment with only the basic necessities. These scenes not only give insight to Rocky’s socioeconomic status, but also since they are shot on site in inner city Philadelphia, there is a very realistic feel to this way of life for Rocky. As the film continues viewers are introduced to the people of Philadelphia and then finally the more appealing sites of Philadelphia are displayed.
In a scene when Rocky is walking to a local bar, he comes across locals who are socializing on a cold winter night by drinking alcohol, smoking, and singing together in the street. These locals of Italian descent, as many people who lived in inner city Philadelphia in the 1970s were of this descent, were friendly and offered him a drink. The way in which many inner city Philadelphians speak was also on display as many of locals had a particular accent and used the word “yo” many times in their diction. At one moment a man shouts out, “Ayo Rocky how you doin? This portrayal of the people of inner city Philadelphia is quite accurate and gives viewers a lifelike feel to the movie. More aspects of Art cinema are displayed during the scenes when Rocky is training. As Rocky runs all through Philadelphia, viewers are introduced to the more notable and common sites of Philadelphia, such as the Delaware River and the classical Art Museum, which Rocky sprints up at the end of his run. This realistic display of what life is like, how the people of the community act, and the outlook of inner city Philadelphia is able to present a lifelike feeling and increase this films effectiveness.
Lastly, aspects of Art Cinema are displayed with the complexity of two central characters, Rocky and his girlfriend Adrian. Rocky and Adrian are both around the age of thirty, yet neither one is married or has a direction in life. Rocky lives in an apartment by himself, just getting by with the little amount of education he has, while Adrian lives with her brother Paulie, Rocky’s friend, working in a pet shop. Adrian is often portrayed as a very shy woman who is almost afraid to speak. This is displayed throughout the film many times as Rocky isits Adrian’s pet shop. He is clearly going there to make conversation with Adrian, yet Adrian’s shyness only allows for a few small lines of dialogue. It seems as if Adrian has no personality and not until late in the film does she open up. Adrian finally shows some emotion as she lets out the anger that she has with her brother Paulie. Paulie continuously puts Adrian down and finally Adrian reaches her limit and finally fights back, screaming back at Paulie telling him she will no longer take care of him and she will move in with Rocky.
The complexities of Adrian’s character are a bit strange but the way in which she acts is very realistic and relatable to viewers. Rocky’s complex character is also displayed in multiple ways throughout the film. Firstly viewers are introduced to his lack of intelligence. This is evident as Rocky often has trouble with spelling words, such as the names of men who owe his boss money. His lack of intelligence is also displayed in one scene where he struggles through practicing a line that he wants to say to Adrian.
He repeats himself a few times but gives up when he cannot get it down; this scene displays his lack of education. These scenes are able to give us background information of Rocky’s character and help us understand who he is. Next viewers are exposed to some of the anger that Rocky holds in. When Rocky is chosen to fight Apollo Creed, his trainer, who previously called him a bum and kicked him out of his gym, comes back to Rocky asking to train him. Rocky then lets loose some anger and disgust in his trainer as he never wanted to help him before, but now that he has a shot he wants to be there for him.
This display of anger is the first time Rocky shows this type of great emotion, as previous to this it seemed he let everyone just say what they wanted about him and walk over him. Lastly the internal struggles of Rocky are displayed leading up to his fight with Apollo Creed. As it seems Rocky’s confidence is at its highest, the night before the fight he begins questioning himself and goes on to say that he cannot beat Apollo Creed and that he was just a nobody before this fight.
Teary eyed, Rocky says that if he can go all 15 rounds with Creed, he can prove to everyone, more importantly himself that he is not just another bum from the city. These internal struggles displayed by Rocky are able to connect the audience, drawing feelings of empathy and causing viewers to cheer for Rocky. This concentration on complexity of characters throughout the film is able to present very interesting, lifelike characters in which an audience can relate to. This connection with characters is able to engage viewers and further present a realistic story.
The traditions of classical Hollywood and Art cinema piece together to create an enjoyable, lifelike film, but it is with the inclusion of Neorealist cinema that this film truly becomes inspirational. The tradition of Neorealism is a key component to Rocky I as it creates a deep connection between the audience and the main character, Rocky. By displaying the physical daily hardships that Rocky faces each day, a feeling of sympathy for Rocky is forced upon viewers and attachments to his character are created. Early on, the struggles that Rocky has to go through in order to earn money to survive are present.
One way that Rocky earns a living is by fighting in local boxing matches. Rocky battles through fights, that only occur every two weeks, damaging his body only to earn a forty-dollar paycheck. On top of this, he works for a friend who is involved in the mob, serving as the collector of over due money, either collecting the money or inflicting pain on the person of overdue expenses. During these scenes Rocky is doing everything he can to do his job to the best of his abilities, yet it seems everything he does is never good enough, and for this his intelligence is satirized.
Rocky does not have a great education but he attempts to do the best he can with what he has, to do better for himself, although nothing seems to ever work. These physical hardships that Rocky faces each day display realistic daily hardships that many viewers can relate to and connect to. Rocky’s hardships do not end here however. When Rocky is given the opportunity of a lifetime and selected to challenge the best boxer in the world, he still finds himself at a great disadvantage.
Rocky at this moment is not in the best of shape, when compared to the world heavy weight champion, who is in the prime of his career. In order to get in better shape viewers are exposed to the physical daily hardships a boxer has to overcome in order to stay in proper form. Rocky begins by drinking a glass of eggs each day and then trains for countless hours throughout the day, multiple times. Rocky is even prohibited from “fooling around” with his wife, as this will be of negative impact to his training.
Furthermore, since Rocky does not have the money to train in the best facilities, he must work with what has to become stronger. This is displayed during the classic montage with the “Rocky Theme Song” which plays as Rocky trains in unconventional ways, such as running with bricks and squatting tree lumber. These hardships that Rocky must overcome in order to have a shot at greatness serve as a huge inspiration to viewers. This display of Neorealism is a key to the effectiveness of motivation and inspiration of this film as it demonstrates that a man with determination and heart can make anything possible.
Neorealism, combined with the traditions of classical Hollywood and Art cinema make for an overwhelmingly effective movie. In conclusion, the marriage of the stylistic elements of Classical Hollywood, Art, and Neorealism make Rocky I both a more realistic and engaging film. Rocky I carries on the tradition of Classical Hollywood with a relentless and determined, goal oriented character in Rocky Balboa. It further carries on the tradition of Art cinema displaying a lifelike setting in Philadelphia, with accurate displays of the streets and the people that live here.
Along with this aspects of Art cinema are displayed with complex characters in Rocky and Adrian, showing the mental struggles that Rocky faces each day and giving insight to his background. Finally Rocky I is able to strike viewers with motivation and inspiration as the physical daily struggles of man simply trying to make a name for himself are carried on in a Neorealist fashion. The combinations of these elements all come together to form a classical film that will be considered as one of the best of its time.
Clearly a film that carries on traditions of Classical Hollywood, Art, and Neorealism is one that feels as if it could take place in the real world, a film with these elements is more likely to be realistic and highly engaging. Works Cited Pramaggiore, Maria, and Tom Wallis. “Social Context and Film Style: National, International, and Transnational Cinema. ” Film: A Critical Introduction. Boston: Pearson Allyn and Bacon, 2011. 343- 362. Print. Rocky I. By Sylvester Stallone. Dir. John G. Avildsen. Perf. Sylvester Stallone. 1976. DVD.