Archive for Fellini

Antipasto

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2014 by dcairns

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Il Cinema Ritrovato presented a season of Italian shorts, culled from the compendium films that were so popular in the fifties and sixties. I kept hearing that Alexander Payne had declared one of these to be the find of the festival, but nobody who told me this could remember which one he was talking about. Could be Scola, Rosi, Rossellini & Greco, or De Filippo. I also heard that Giorgio Simonelli’s episode from 1954′s ACCADE AL COMMISARIATO was a standout, with an endless array of outrageous plot twists, beginning with the best-prepared “pull back to reveal no trousers” gag in Italian history.

I saw a few.

Alessandro Blasetti, recently undergoing a renaissance thanks to Scorsese’s campaigning, inaugurated the whole anthology movement in 1952 with ALTRI TEMPI (OTHER TIMES, screened at Bologna last year), which collected stories from different historical periods. He followed it up with TEMPI NOSTRI (OUR TIMES), an episode of which was introduced by his 90-year-old daughter, who talked up a blue streak and nearly exhausted her poor interpreter. But she provided vital background to this story of an amorous Neapolitan bus driver played by Vittorio De Sica — the piece was originally intended to co-star Gina Lollobrigida, who had successfully paired with VDS in the previous film, but she declined the chance to play a deceived wife, arguing that it was not plausible that any husband would cheat on her. (She has a point, though one could point to the case of Gardner Vs. Rooney as precedent.)

Blasetti recast, but for some reason also rewrote to make the woman not De Sica’s wife, but a foundling raised as is sister, which very nearly wrecks the story. However, thanks to De Sica’s ebullience and charm, and some very funny lines, he gets away with it. British attendees were amused by the set-up of a randy bus driver and a sour, long-faced supervisor who hates him — the exact set-up of 70s sitcom On the Buses, adapted for the cinema for Hammer films and best avoided in both televisual and film form. Blasetti shows what that premise could be like with appealing characters and a sexiness that eschews seaside postcard grotesquerie. And it’s nice to see De Sica in a working-joe role.

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STORIA SULLA SABBIA was directed by Riccardo Fellini in 1963. Ahah! I thought, another Idiot Brother to add to my collection. But perhaps not — R. Fellini, who acted in several of his brothers, most notably as one of I VITELLONI, creates a touching, funny mood piece out of a working class wedding on the beach at Rimini. He can’t match his sibling for visual flair, but the less artful style allows a more naturalistic humour to emerge. The film was poorly received and Riccardo turned to documentary in the end — he also fell out decisively with F.F., who demanded that he change his name if he was going to be a director. There could be only one Fellini! What a dick. I am almost ready to declare Fellini the idiot brother.

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TOBY DAMMIT screened in its correct multilingual version, but without English subs for the Italian parts — the only movie offered without translation, so I have to assume it was an oversight. Still, it freshened the experience, and made me realize that Tim Lucas’s suggestion that the film evokes the strangeness of being in Italy without speaking the lingo is not quite right. Terence Stamp as Toby is able to reply to questions asked in Italian, even if he answers in English. So the film is really about how strange Italy is even if you DO speak the lingo.

A clue to the nature of Italy — Chaplin’s EASY STREET, in Italy, was called LA STRADA DELLA PAURA — THE STREET OF TERROR! If we could understand this, we would know many things, like the fox of legend.

That’s Gratitude for You

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on November 13, 2013 by dcairns

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A late report from Pordenone Festival of Silent Film (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto) ~

The comic Polidor is most likely to be familiar from his late roles for Fellini (a clown in EIGHT AND A HALF, an elderly actor in TOBY DAMMIT) but he was a successful comedy star in his own right in the 1910s. Tontolini and Polidor were his screen names in most territories, but in the Dutch print of EXCESSIVE GRATITUDE screened at Pordenone he has been re-re-christened Flippie.

Flippie is suicidal because he has no money and it’s always raining (making this a perfect match for SYND in which Lars Hanson has the same problem). But when a good Samaritan gives him his wallet and umbrella, the clown’s exaggerated despair becomes equally disproportionate gratitude. The Roberto Benigni schtick soon drives his benefactor to thoughts of homicide. Failing at outright murder, he eventually shoves Flippie into the path of a slow-moving hand-cart, which graphically slices off both his legs at the knee, in an impressive Meliesian jump-cut trick effect. The Samaritan turned mutilator repairs to a roadside café triumphantly brandishing the amputated limbs, their trouser legs still miraculously attached, but is appalled by Flippie’s reappearance, perambulating around on his stumps like Lon Chaney in THE PENALTY, as infuriatingly upbeat and appreciative as ever.

Despite how it sounds (early Daffy Duck meets early Peter Jackson?) this was actually pretty funny — the product of an age when black comedy did not exist as a concept, it’s simply the product of filmmakers trying whatever struck them as funny or surprising. Nevertheless, if I’d seen this as the sensitive kid I used to be, the limb-lopping gag would have left me traumatized for DAYS.

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Polidor expresses his excessive gratitude in TOBY DAMMIT, Fellini’s episode of SPIRITS OF THE DEAD.

Spirits Of The Dead [Blu-ray] [1968]

Fortnight Elsewhere

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2013 by dcairns

I don’t know, I thought MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL was pretty good for what it was.

The film is TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN, in which Vincente Minnelli dives into la dolce vita with Kirk Douglas and Edward G Robinson shooting a euro-pudding super-film in Rome, 1959.

Here, they seem to have acquired the wallpaper from VERTIGO.

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Maybe it’s the fault of Irwin Shaw’s source novel, but the movie, often seen as a follow-up to the Minnelli-Douglas Hollywood melo THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, sometimes seems to lack logic — characters do whatever is required to bring on the next emotional frenzy. One second Robinson is scorning his desperate wife’s suicidal tendencies, the next she’s sympathising with him about his creative crisis. Their joint betrayal of another character at the end seems under-motivated or under-explained, but is nevertheless powerful — it’s a movie where power, exemplified by the jutting, dimpled Easter Island chin of Mr Douglas, is more important than sense. Just like the industry it deals with, in fact.

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George Hamilton is quite good, stropping about pouting, Rosanna Schiaffino is sweet, Daliah Lavi is a lot of fun as a luscious but fiery diva. We get a few minutes of gorgeous George MacReady, and Erich Von Stroheim Jnr plays an assistant while simultaneously BEING the real-life assistant director on the picture. Douglas does his usual muscular angst, amped up to eleven.

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In fact, everybody’s playing it big, broad, and on the nose, including composer David Raksin, who seems to be competing with Claire Trevor for the Volume and Hysteria Prize (given out every year at Cinecitta). I didn’t mind, though — there are acerbic comments on life and movies which sometimes feel accurate or at least heartfelt, and Minnelli trumps up an incredible climax as Kirk falls off the wagon and endures a long night of the soul in a series of Felliniesque night spots. As with SOME CAME RUNNING, Minnelli has saved so many of his big guns for this sequence that it almost feels like another movie, that other movie being TOBY DAMMIT. If Fellini influenced Minnelli, it obviously worked the other way too, as Terence Stamp’s nocturnal Ferrari phantom ride seems very much influenced by the screeching rear projection ordeal Kirk puts Cyd Charisse and his Lambourgine through.

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