From Matrimony to Divorce

The day — our last in Bologna — began with the sweet and hilarious HOLY MATRIMONY, directed by John Stahl, from Nunnally Johnson’s script (his favourite of his own works, adapted from Arnold Bennett) — and ended with DIVORCE: ITALIAN STYLE, Pietro Germi’s black comedy starring Mastroianni, which managed to make comedy out of Sicilian so-called “honour killings” without appearing misogynistic or crass — something the central performance contributes to enormously.

In between, we did a bit of walking about in the 35° heat, perhaps having picked not the best day for sight-seeing, but also took in Henry King’s depression-era whimsy ONE MORE SPRING (written by NOW I’LL TELL’s Edwin J. Burke — a subject for further investigation) — and the staggering CAROSELLO NAPOLETANO, a full-on attempt to transpose the epic audio-visual splendour of THE RED SHOES to Italy (complete with Massine as choreographer). In fact, lacking as it does a real central narrative, it may be closer to TALES OF HOFFMANN, which makes it even more radical. More on this one soon also.

So I only saw four shows — my fewest of the fest, I think. Fiona saw three. But everything was damned good.

Now we have a plane to catch, a stopover to endure, and an eventual late-night arrival in our refurbished flat — and, tomorrow, a very heavy cat to collect.

3 Responses to “From Matrimony to Divorce”

  1. bensondonald Says:

    One of the charms of HOLY MATRIMONY is that it’s two or three different things elegantly laced together: A gentle romance, a comedy of renounced identity, and a witty attack of the business of art. Midway through you stop worrying about the romance; that’s now pleasant background. What holds you in the final act is the quietly mad trial: Everybody’s behavior is logical and self-interested — even the artist’s refusal to accept fame and fortune — but finally the nation is in an uproar over Monty Woolley refusing to unbutton his collar.

    A more conventional script would have insisted on a Boy Loses Girl contrivance, and the end would have centered on an equally contrived Boy Gets Girl and perhaps some crowd-pleasing karma for the art dealer (as it stands, he does appear to win). Instead, Gracie Fields simply gets up and puts an end to the foolishness. Headlines, a coldly funny visual, and with no further explanation a gently funny fadeout.

    There was a Broadway musical in 1968 starring Vincent Price and Patricia Rutledge, with music by Jules Style, lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, and book by Johnson (at least when they started). It bombed, but the score was good enough that there have been various attempts to resurrect it.

  2. The undisturbed calm of the Woolley-Fields marriage is one of the film’s unusual pleasures, and I’m so glad they felt no need to gussy it up with strife. The characters do see it as threatened by the prospect of MW being elevated and knighted, so it’s not that no dramatic tension comes from it, but the threat is safely external.

  3. bensondonald Says:

    Another nice touch: Fields loves Woolley, but not his paintings. Even at the blissful fadeout she sneaks a look at the easel, still unconvinced.

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