RSS
 

Archive for the ‘Filmed in Italy’ Category

The Priest’s Wife

21 Oct

The Priest’s Wife — directed by Dino Risi. Dramedy. 103 Minutes Color 1971.

The Story: A frustrated female falls for a priest.

~

There is nothing really between them, except what we are told there is. That is the problem with the execution of the material, which has its own problems, as well.

What we have in casting Sophia Loren opposite Marcello Mastroianni here is that we cannot believe in his attraction to her resulting in love of her, because what she throws at him are her sumptuous charms rather than love itself. Magnificent Virgo that she is, Loren holds onto her reserves, but her charms she deploys with the utmost deliberation, as before her did Garbo and Bergman, those other two famous Virgo vamps. There is her wonderful walk, there is her confidence of herself as a woman, there is her sense of fun, her fine speaking voice, her goddess figure, her astounding face, vibrant hair, her immediacy, her talent. But she is essentially a cold actress. That is the challenge of her.

Mastroianni’s job is to register her volatility with his steadiness; his withdrawal in a dance with her control, but the love between them cannot register, and so the comedy and the drama never have any importance. He is also a cold actor.

Perhaps they were intimidated by the rashness of the script which takes on the Vatican itself and the regulation against priests’ marrying. It’s all right if they have mistresses, beget children, molest choirboys, but they must not tie the knot lest it distract them from their marriage to Jesus, who was certainly one for unconventional liaisons, nonetheless. These matters are met head on by the script as it proceeds. And a good thing too.

But really, Loren’s part is written as a crazy dame in miniskirts, aggressive in love from the start when she chases and runs down her faithless lover in her car. She soon chases and runs down Mastroianni, a confirmed prude and church careerist. Her behavior is actually nuts. She is run by desperate, ravenous frustration not by a need for love at all. And since Loren plays her all-out, there is nothing to correct this take on her character.

Loren is 37 and in full possession of her abilities and potential. Mastroianni is 47, but doesn’t look it one bit. The logical motion for this story would be that Loren becomes sane and Mastroianni become insane, and that they both feel love. But that’s not what happens. The director has not provided an inch of calm for either one of them. Mastroianni remains eager for nothing. Loren remains eager for everything in sight. And that’s that.

 

 

 
Comments Off on The Priest’s Wife

Posted in DRAMEDY, Filmed in Italy, Marcello Mastroianni, Sophia Loren: SCREEN GODDESS

 

Salò

14 Jan

Salò – directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Drama. 116 minutes, Color 1975.

★★★

The Story: A group of teenagers are forced into sex school by a coterie of autocrats.

If this is denounced as pornographic, it is enduring a terrible because irrelevant wrong. For no one has a good time at all in sex here. Everyone is either too mean or too horrified to feel or even pretend any pleasure. So, taken at its face value as pro-church and anti-pleasure – since any natural and easy pleasure that seeps in is punished morbidly – one must assume that Salò is about something else.

Watching it, my notion was that it is about sexual addiction, that is to say the imperious, internal compulsion that forces one to have sex rather than by normal inclination. For everyone is strong-armed into it here. All the young players are between 14 and 18 years old, and they are first kidnapped and then roughed into various sexual congress. But it’s never any fun and always unlovely, for, as it is based on a work of De Sade, it is, perforce, sadistic. The only beauty is that provided by a pianist who accompanies their lectures in degradation by playing Chopin. The exit of this pianist from the proceedings is typical of the director’s rigorous anhedonic message.

So, in terms of the actual material, Salò would seem to be The Allegory Of Rough Trade, which was Pasolini’s fancy and by which he soon was soon slain.

You have to go to the Extra Features to learn that the film was meant to be an allegory of neo-capitalism, the fascism of consumerism. There we learn that we are all being put under the trance of pleasant things. Pasolini himself tells us so. But you may be sure that when a director tells you what he intended to be in a film that he has failed to include that intention in it.

For no pleasant things are in the film itself. Or I should say, there are certain pleasant things, but they have nothing to do with neo-capitalism. We have such pleasant things as the nude bodies of the children who act in it, a bouquet of inviolable adolescents. And we have the sets, which are more interesting than the events which take place in them, for they are often big spare rooms decorated with elaborate old wallpaper. Pasolini has a classic eye for the formality of spectacle. And Pasolini’s set-ups and the arrangements of the personnel in them reveal a fine old-fashioned enjoyment of ritual. All these are pleasures to be sure. But sexual pleasure?

Pasolini himself says that power is anarchic, since it can do what it wants. And he’s right, and this is cogently illustrated by the rites of anarchy we see before us here. For fascism, dictatorship, absolutism, fundamentalism must have tremendous regimentation in which to do as it pleases. Too bad that, having achieved that level of power, doing what one pleases results in no pleasure whatsoever. The only two young people who slip out and take sexual pleasure are slaughtered.

What is it like seeing Salò? There are virtually no closeups, the camera seldom moves, and there is no focal character, only groups. Individual personalities do emerge, because Pasolini likes humans and is shy of them, both of which make him a good voyeur, so he is able to capture persons at true and characteristic moments. But that still leaves Pasolini as a bigot – the commercial classes being his detestation – since he sets them up as The Corrupt Against The Innocent – but bigotry is bigotry no matter what class you hate, and especially, as always is the case, you are fervently partial to your own notion of virtue in doing so.

Besides there is a technical problem with his Allegory, for you cannot have an allegory without a focal dupe. You cannot have a Duessa without a Red Cross Knight, a principal innocent. When in Allegory, even aimed at groups, a single person must carry us through it, as through a supermarket of abuse and temptation. For it is we, the reader, we the audience, who must pass through it with that dupe and therefore wake up to the trance of vice we are permitting ourselves to repose in. Here we witness a crowd from a distance beyond Pasolini’s own distance to it.

So the allegory is lost. But it is lost mainly because a sexual arena leads one to look for sex. It’s the crude but natural thing to do. Setting up A School For Orgy is such a bind on the imagination that the message about consumerism is somewhere over there off-campus. Yes, one is offered bread and circuses, if only in the shape of a starved clown and a crust, but still they are offered in the Circus Maximus of sex. In it, one cannot simultaneously overhear too well a homily from Saint Peter’s down the street. A different internal mob attends.

It has been elaborately re-released in a two-disc box, the second disc of which containing professors talking to professors about what professors talk to professors about. All this keeps professors in business professing, but has little to do with the actual picture, Salò, about which they are endeavoring to make a case. Although there are interesting inclusions by actual participants, such as actors, designer, original writer, and Pasolini, who is handsome, rather dear, very masculine, and genuinely reserved. A booklet of essays includes itself. I have not read it.

And why shall I read it? To prove myself wrong in all that I have said here. For why on earth would anyone read anything at all, save to be seriously disabused? For perhaps I too am lost in the vicious pleasure of consumerism. And what would it be that I consume so hungrily?

Why films, of course. Which is why I watched Salò, just as Pasolini asked me to, wanted me to, and why he made it for me to consume to begin with.

 

To Rome, With Love

04 Jul

To Rome, With Love –– written and directed by Woody Allen. Farce. Four groups of people find themselves out of their depths in the Eternal City. 102 minutes Color 2012.

★★★★★

As the fingers of two hands folded together mesh but do not meld together, these four adventures interlace in the narrative of this film, but never coincide, except in the satisfaction their juxtaposition affords, which is the same natural satisfaction that folded hands afford. It’s farce: speed is everything, and so are doors. As each door slams on one group it breezes open unapologetically on another. The young American girl and the young Roman lawyer, engaged to be married, meet her parents, Woody Allen and Judy Davis, and their parents meet his parents, and before you know it, bingo, the father of the one is rushing the father of the other, a mortician, into a major operatic career, although the poor man is only able to sing in the shower. Jesse Eisenberg and his live-in host her trivial titillating best friend, Ellen Page, and he tumbles for the minx, although she is clearly out his class.  A young married couple arrive from the country for his interview for a big-city job, and fall foul of a lady of the afternoon, Penélope Cruz, who through force of circumstance must double as his wife at an interview with his future bosses, every one of whom is her client. All this while the young man’s wife falls into the toils of a plump movie star who offers her once-in-a-lifetime sexual possibilities. She succumbs, I am glad to say, and husband and wife come out of their escapades with useful sexual educations. A nonentity clerk, Roberto Benigni is extracted from his little family into inexplicable notoriety, which he at first resists, then embraces wildly. These four cards are played for our amusement by Allen who plays them as playful playthings. Cruz is, of course, once again hilarious in the Sophia Loren role. The movie star, played by Antonio Albanese is superbly funny as the stout sex symbol matinee idol. Ellen Page is Jim Dandy as the girl who comes to dinner and eats the host. But the entire film is stolen by Her Greatness Judy Davis from whom one cannot wrench one’s eyes. She is the actress of actresses, and Allen wisely keeps her on camera in every scene with him that he can. Her role is purely responsive to him, but you never watch him for a minute while she is there, because in never attempting to steal a scene she steals all of them, and because she is the real thing and, of course, Allen isn’t. What he is is a cartoon. Sadsack is the name of the cartoon. As an actor Allen does what he has always done, be hapless and paranoid, and he is very funny, but he is also annoying and never appealing ever, and she is. He is always appealing and so he is never appealing. His comedy as a director is not visual, but verbal and histrionic. Which means he cannot tell a story with a camera. But when a camera is on, the sound track records some very good jokes and some very telling human behavior. And that is enough for us and all we need to deserve as an audience very used to this national monument with its pigeon droppings, Woody Allen. Alec Baldwin appears as the useless sexual wisdom of the future and the past, playing Jiminy Cricket to Eisenberg’s sexual Pinocchio. He and Judy Davis define the difference between humor and Woody Allen who defines comedy. A movie can satisfy without a belly laugh because it has humor. But a comedy, with all its belly laughs, cannot satisfy if it does not have humor. To Rome, With Love has both. When it was over, we all applauded. I would send Woody Allen one perfect rose, except I think it more proper to send him a huge cellophane-wrapped basket of fresh fruit as a bon voyage gratitude to his continued voyage before us.

 

 

Intervista

25 Aug

Intervista – Directed by Federico Fellini. Back Soundstage Movie Comedy. The comic story of shooting a film by Felinni about the first time Felinni came to a movie set when he was young. 102 minutes Color 1987.

* * * * *

Fellini is the Alexander Calder of film. Enchanting. Surprising. Fun. Here he gives us a film about how humans delight in what is made-up, artificial, fabricated. Not just but also in being those things. In being what is created, devised, imagined. In making themselves into those things. Not made up just by themselves but by someone else as well. Not just alone but as a group. And how they will endure folly, delay, uncertainty, rejection, and having their whole parade rained on in order that they have this privilege of concoction. Sacred and Exalted. Thrilling. Unifying. Hilarious. Natural. And forgiving.

And so we have one of the greatest and most unusual statements of human soul-reality ever made. And made how? Without ever coming out and saying so. It’s all done with a lot of people talking, shouting, carrying on, in the midst of every distraction and vituperation. And in all of this a story emerges which is coherent and which is told solely in film terms, in the rubric of film. Not just in narrative and entrancement but in felt content.

Emerging into this as though from the sky we have Marcello Mastroianni as a seedy magician. The crew all traipse in little cars to the villa of whom? She won’t let them in. She doesn’t believe it’s Felinni. When she does she sets her dogs on them. Anita Ekberg in orange towels. And this glorious Vercingetorix continues to appear in towels as though she had never quite dried off from that fountain all those years ago. Her reunion here takes my breath away, not because I am sentimental about the famous scene but because she and Mastroianni are 25 years older and look it and are beautiful and it’s just wonderful.

It’s a beautifully shaped picture. Like Singing In The Rain, it is a picture about pictures about pictures. Our happiness with fraud. Our envy of the freedom it confers. About the human energy it releases and the curious democracy which is its milieu and profound and delightful artifact.

[ad#300×250]

 

 

 

 

La Notte

13 Aug

La Notte – Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Drama. A couple married for some years accompany one another in three places during one 12-hour period in Rome. 115 minutes Black and White. 1961.

* * * *

Movies that start with two people getting out of a car and walking up to a door make my heart sink. It means the director is desperately in want of imagination for the merest resources in establishing a locale. What if the movie had opened on the face of the dying hospital patient? What if one of them had be in the room already? Anything but a car stopping, parking, people getting out, going up to a door. And the film suffers from just such a want of imagination. The couple wander through the boredom of their marriage and their company with one another, rich, heedless, unfeeling. Marcello Mastroianni and Jean Moreau – two more watery, affectless actors could not have been cast in these roles. They are not “bad” actors, but they are actors devoid of temperament, and so are the characters they play, and I would have found it tiresome to accompany them, but that things unfold: from the hospital, they separate, and the wife wanders through the slums of her newly-wed days (although somehow she has got a lot of money), and he is drawn in to have sex with a certifiable nut. She seems to be a mere adjunct of her marriage, which is all the more apparent when they go together to a publication party for him, and then to the shindig of a billionaire, with a lot of folks drifting through the luxe. The billionaire wanted what he’s got, but he wanted it when he was twenty. He forgot he would be old by the time he got it. His 18 year-old daughter is played by Monica Viti, a wonderful actress, whose bones Mastroianni tries to jump, but you sense he doesn’t have the juice, nor does his wife for a bloke who drives off with her for a hot screw. The party scenes are marvelous, as is the depiction of the inert ennui at the heart of every marriage. And the film ends with a scene on the billionaire’s golf course, with Marcello lying on top of Jean and trying to make it with her, while she keeps saying to tell her that he no longer loves her. It’s a great scene; it must be a famous one.  But don’t tell me all the world is like this.  No, only that small slice of caviar pizza that Antonioni knows only, though sometimes he sure does know how to serve it well.

[ad#300×250]

 

 

 

 

 

Two Women

01 Aug

Two Women – Directed by Vittorio De Sica. Low Tragedy. As World War II ends, a mother and her daughter seek shelter from destruction. 100 minutes Black and White 1960.

* * * * *

One of the great humorists of film and a master of many styles, De Sica was the most gifted, varied, and accessible of all the neo-realist film-makers of the New Wave. He made more films than any of the others, many of them before the War, and they ranged from White Telephone movies through neo-realistic movies like Bicycle Thief, to The Garden of The Finzi-Continis. Why the neo in neo-realism? I dunno. It was the first and only realism since silent pictures. Anyhow, this is a remarkable picture. Sophia Loren was slated to play the daughter, but when Anna Magnani was asked to play the mother she said, “Let Loren play her own mother!” and slammed the door on the role that won Loren The Cannes, The BAFTA, The Donatello, The Italian National, The San Jordi, The New York Film Critics, and The Oscar for the Best Performance By An Actress for 1960. She well deserved it. She plays a cunning, susceptible shopkeeper intent on preserving her 12 year old daughter from destruction from the bombing of Rome. They strike out for her native village in the mountains. There they live and survive. There she meets a student revolutionist, an intellectual wearing glasses, cast, in a stroke of genius, with the most sensual actor in films, Jean-Paul Belmondo. Loren is 25 when she does this, and is completely convincing as the widowed mother protecting her daughter like a tigress. Both Neapolitan, she and De Sica make wonderful film together. She has the energy and internal power of the lower classes from which she came, their knowledge, passion, strength, humor, and forgiveness. Moravia wrote the novel, Zavattini the screenplay. In all of this De Sica is never without humor, most of which is gestural and therefore all the more telling. See it.

[ad#300×250]

 

 

 

The Driver’s Seat

08 Jun

The Driver’s Seat – Directed by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi. Drama. A woman seeks a way out. 105 minutes 1974.

* * *

Oi! Age 42, Elizabeth Taylor is a woman so beautiful one wants to track that beauty through the decades. But here we have a portentous treatment of the travels and trials of a woman who is seeking to…well, I will not disclose the end. It is a poor choice of material for her particular instrument as an actor, for Elizabeth Taylor is completely devoid of neurotic underpinnings and does not have the gift or skill to fabricate them. She has other gifts and skills. She is, for one, that rare thing A Romantic Actress. And she stood by her men. But she also could pick and choose the men, and she knew that a woman in her position had to marry her lovers.  But that’s as far as it went, for In this picture various men try to abuse her sexually, and the script asks us to believe that she would permit it for a single instant. The fact is that our Liz would have said, “Get a hold of yourself, buster,” and that would have been the end of that. Whatever Elizabeth Taylor may have been in her internal life, a victim was not among them. Here as elsewhere in the last half of her acting life she was ill suited to the roles she was called upon to play and wanted to play and chose to play. Mildred Dunnock, who made Butterfield 8 with her, once said to me of Elizabeth Taylor, “She’s knows what she is and she isn’t fooled by it.” True enough. She knew what she was, but she didn’t know what she wasn’t.

[ad#300×250]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturn In Opposition

07 May

Saturn in Opposition – directed by Ferzan Ozpetek. Drama. A family of family and friends entangles and disentangles like roots in the earth. 110 minutes Color 2007.

* * * * *

I should think that anyone whose prejudices have ever posed themselves against homosexuality would want to see this film.  For if a prejudice ever existed internally in one, it will always remain lodged there like a boulder under water. It’s just natural. Changes of attitude and behavior are to be lauded, and they are vital to the ethos of culture and democracy and civil society, and no law is moral which upholds bigotry. But this film places the matter right in the lap of the viewer, and it is a tonic. As I watched I stepped back at one point and asked myself the question: Why is this a good movie, and I could not answer it, although the evidence was before my eyes. It’s beautifully directed by the same director who brought us the well-known His Secret Life.  It brings us Pierfrancesco Favino (“brother” to Javier Barden) and Margharita Buy, but the cast is an ensemble, as is the customary case with this director’s pieces. I recommending this film without telling you a thing about it, except that everything about it is excellent. There is nothing else I can do, and you will know why that is as you watch it.

[ad#300×250]

 

A Little Romance

14 Apr

A Little Romance – Directed by George Roy Hill. Teen Romance. Two thirteen-year olds fall in love and take off for parts known. 110 minutes Color 1979.

* * * *

Diane Lane is 13 when she makes this, and the French boy is probably the same age, which is fun. Sally Kellerman plays her mother in a manner that is as obvious as the writing requires, and Arthur Hill plays her third husband, as subtlely as the writing requires. The only mystery is how he could have married such a rude, mean, shallow woman to begin with. David Dukes plays her oncoming boyfriend, a bad film director. The movie takes us to Paris, then to Verona in Italy and eventually to Venice. For me, the trouble with the film is that it is a Hollywoodization of a teenage elopement, and so the tone is all wrong. Sometimes the two children cut through the balderdash with their simple grace. And sometimes Laurence Olivier cuts through the slow pace with his virtuoso tricks, which are spellbinding, as always. He plays the children’s guardian devil, whose tedious charm and Fagan-like skills help propel them onto their adventure. Olivier was a master of Restoration farce, playing characters with names like Snipe, Wormwood, or Titter, and this is a performance perfectly suited to that genre, so it’s to be treasured as an example of his cold and cunning range and wit. Diane Lane is lovely in her role, and she also offers some reminiscences on the Special Features section about Olivier and the making of this film. It was her first film and it settled her fate, little did she know it at the time.

[ad#300×250]

 

Idiot’s Delight

18 Jan

Idiot’s Delight — directed by   Clarence Brown — a comedy about a pack of vaudeville players and assorted types trapped in a European mountain resort as WWII breaks out around them.  107 minutes  black and white 1939.

* * * *

Clark Gable. He had a foundation of great masculinity, great presence, and great authority. So we who grew up with him in his heyday overlooked what a superb and various actor in the technical sense he always was. He loved being an actor. He trained hard for it. He made sacrifices to learn it. He took it seriously. We who saw him in his film heyday did not know that. What we knew was his extraordinary natural foundation of masculinity, presence, and authority. But here one would have to say that Gable really carries the picture on his acting alone, because, while Norma Shearer is rather good in the Garbo take-off, which dominates the central portion of the story, the scenes which frame her impersonation are not properly prepared and played. Nor do the supporting parts, as cut from Robert E. Sherwood’s play, work well, although they are played by masters of their craft, the great Charles Coburn and the ingenious Burgess Meredith, both in thankless roles. Edward Arnold’s part is as baffling in its story line as is Joseph Shildkraut’s. Their roles lack narrative completion; that is to say, they have not been properly honored by the writers, editors or producers. Lynn Fontanne played it originally with Alfred Lunt in the Gable role, but Gable is much better cast, for he makes a marvelous rogue. And no one could brush off a needy female like Gable. But what is really present — and watch for it — are the moments when the camera is on him alone. Behind that handsome mug and that masculinity and presence and authority is an actor in full operation on all burners, responding with exactly the right feeling for the situation at hand. Watch the variety of incredulities with which he receives Shearer’s tall tales. Watch his eyes. And sit for a moment and consider how convincing a motive is his scepticism as a driving force to uncover her ruse; it fuels his sexuality and it fuels his love for her. And yet he holds it very lightly, as lightly as the straw hat and cane with which he performs a creditable song-and-dance vaudeville routine, backed by six blonds, one of them the lovely Virginia Grey. Gable carries the film, and it’s worth watching to see how he does it.

[ad#300×250]

 

The Tourist

06 Jan

The Tourist – directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck – an international thriller in which two casual acquaintances must elude their assassins together. 103 minutes color 2010.

* * * * *

An Angelina Jolie picture guarantees luxe. Creamy photography, svelte closeups, and the promise of ineffable lips. And so it proves here. This is not a picture such as Changeling, where she is required to create a character. No indeedy, that is not in her gift. What we get is Angelina Jolie once more in one of her power-beauty roles, and boy is she good at it. We see her walk down the street in a fabulous dress, and everyone makes way for her to the right and the left and everywhere else in the picture — which is an international intrigue show. She sits at a cafe table — and the entire film rotates around her, spies, detectives, gangsters. For what more could one ask? The film really delivers your money’s worth in the realm of elegant mystery suspense along the lines of To Catch A Thief– and set in Technicolor Venice, to boot! Grand Canal, grand palace, grand hotel – wow! Johnny Depp plays the stranger she meets on a train, and it’s good to see him play such a gormless chap, a Midwestern, community college math teacher. She comes on to him, and he doesn’t know what to do with himself, and which of us would? Depp doesn’t miss a trick in playing this part. This is high praise for an actor who has seemed to become over-exposed of late, and given to performances which have not been worked through properly beforehand or mistakenly accepted, such as the demon barber of Fleet Street. But here the whole film is a fancy latte. It cools off a bit at the end as it becomes under-edited. But never mind; that’s what happens with a latte. Until then, you sip slowly and in a civilized manner, and you don’t ask for anything more than to be beguiled by the tasty confection presented.

[ad#300×250]

 

Indiscretion Of An American Wife

04 Dec

Indiscretion Of An American Wife – directed by Vittorio Da Sica – drama of a couple of grownups having to say goodbye in a railway station. 63 minutes black and white 1954.

* * * *

De Sica has an infallible comic sense. The entire picture takes place in a railway station, and he fills the canvas with absurd wonderful vignettes and intrusions. From the twelve year old boy to the 90 year old voyeur to the band marching to hail the arrival of The President to the ridiculous woman with the packages and the poodle. All this is spread before us as counterpoint and choral context to a tragedy. Unfortunately the tragedy does not ensue, for the simple reason that the passion necessary between the two characters burns only in the male. He is played by Montgomery Clift with complete conviction and intensity. You believe he loves her. You never believe she loves him. Oh, she is discomforted, she is upset, she is apologetic, she is various things, but she is never on fire for him. Jennifer Jones is the lady. And she remains The Lady, the wife of a producer who stole her from her husband and the father of her children, Robert Walker, with the promise of making her a big star. He then cast her as hot temptresses, women with names like Pearl and Ruby, whose illicit love-skills would drive even Gregory Peck to destruction, make even the righteous Charlton Heston’s stiff neck wobble. Naturally she is not going to play the thing she was: a two-timing wife, which is what she is cast as here. What she does here is a matron in a Dior suit. She is never indiscrete. Her uncertainty as an actress is touching. But pathos is insufficient for grand passion. Here as elsewhere she acts as though in a vitrine, holding herself as precious object to be gazed at behind glass. We know there is a longer version of this film, 90 minutes, with the original title, Stazione Termini –- Terminus in English, and the right title instead of this dreadfully wrong one. This is a version which was cut for American audiences and which failed to find them. Truman Capote wrote the English dialogue.

[ad#300×250]

 
 
Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button