Archive for Dante

12) Verona — Monicelli

Posted in FILM, Painting with tags , , , , , , on April 26, 2022 by dcairns

Mario Monicelli gets to finish off the series 12 REGISTI a 12 CITTA’ with a visit to Verona, in collaboration with legendary screenwriter Suso Cecchi D’Amico (BICYCLE THIEVES, THE LEOPARD, Monicelli’s own BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET). I don’t recall the other episodes feature prominent writer credits, and one assumes the directors scripted for themselves, with mixed results.

D’Amico was so prolific and prestigious, she’d worked with several of the other filmmakers in this series: Zeffirelli, Pontecorvo, Bolognini, Rosi. She rewards Monicelli with a lovely voice-over and some quirky action, making a modern version of Zeno who sits fishing at the start, then surprisingly takes to the air, his levitation motivating a guided tour with helicopter shots.

I’m not familiar enough with Zeno to understand why he should fly — I thought he said motion was impossible? But the aerobatics may be a callback to MIRACLE IN MILAN, on which D’Amico collaborated.

The film is also only the second in this series to directly reference another movie, and the first to reference one by a member of the 12 Registi — Franco Zeffirelli, since Verona is the city of Romeo and Juliet. Although Lizzani’s earlier reference to THE LEOPARD counts as a nod to D’Amico, I guess.

What else? We begin with the birds and fishes, discovering the city via the animal kingdom, which I don’t think has been tried in the other eleven films. We track along porticos, which certainly has been. We allow Verdi his place on the soundtrack, which is familiar but never a bad idea. Sound effects from the historical past — the clangour of battle — flood the soundtrack elsewhere, a trope I remember from the profiles of castles and abbeys the BBC used to air whenever a sporting event was cancelled. It is stated that Verona is home to the only two smiling figures in the world of statuary, which is one in the eye for Buddha. Rather eurocentric, and while that may have advantages in a film of this kind, it clearly has drawbacks.

No mention of the football, I’m happy to say, but we do get Verona’s impressive arena.

And the filmmakers have found the most engaging way to drop in historical facts — as mysteries. Where did Giotto live? Was this Juliet’s balcony? Where did Dante live when he was hiding out in Verona? Amusingly, the great poet’s statue seems to be pondering this very question, a beautiful bit of montage.

Strangely, for the last film in the series, Monicelli’s episode has everything but an ending. I think we need to see our modern Zeno land somewhere. The build-up to the evening concert at Verona Arena is grand, Verdi is doing his work, but we never arrive at a shot which suggests the kind of grand finale that’s needed. Or is that just me?

If you were going to shuffle the films to pick a new number 12, which one would you pick?

Towers of London

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2009 by dcairns

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A disrespectful obit.

Regular Shadowplayer Paul Duane alerts me to the demise of noted B-movie god and sleazemeister Harry Alan Towers, whose low-budget Penny Dreadful-type Fu Manchu films excited my childish imagination when I was about, oh, thirty-eight. Also when I was eight.

I’m sure somebody will correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe HAT was such an enterprising, globe-trotting producer, that he made literally dozens of films while officially wanted in the US for violating the Mann act (transporting women across a state line for “immoral purposes”). This had something to do with sex slaves for UN delegates, if I’m correct. (Sorry to bring this up in an obit, but seriously, how could I not?) And wasn’t the matter quietly dropped when Harry argued that among his clients was JFK? Some immoral purposes are more respectable than others.

My late friend Lawrie Knight had a HAT story, and once again, it’s not really the kind of thing one should recount in an obituary, so I’m going to recount it. HAT took Lawrie out to dinner, with Richard Attenborough. Towers was no doubt trying to impress Dickie, perhaps in the run-up to starring him in some sixties low-grade spectacular, but the waiter arrived at the end of the meal and told HAT that his mother had called, and said not to accept any more of his cheques, because she wouldn’t be paying his restaurant bills anymore. Embarrassing.

Still, the positive side of HAT was that he wouldn’t let that kind of thing stop him. Jesus Franco said that the man could raise some money in Paris or somewhere, fly to Brazil or South Africa to make a movie with it, and type the screenplay on the flight over. He also said HAT was great because he never interfered, you never saw him during the shoot. The trouble was, you never saw the money either.

HAT said of Franco, “I seem to attract these weird characters. I saw one of Franco’s films a few years back and he was STILL doing that thing of pointlessly zooming in and out.”

In fact, there’s something to be said for Franco as a filmmaker, but I’m not going to say it here. I will say that HAT’s production of CALL OF THE WILD is worth seeing for Chuck Heston, Mario Nascimbene’s haunting score, and the ending, which follows Jack London more closely than is usual. I suspect Towers, who specialized in public-domain classic novel adaptations, saw no reason to tamper with his sources, since tampering takes time, and time is money. His COUNT DRACULA is far closer to Stoker than the Hammer movie, which I imagine is how he snared Sir Christopher Lee’s services. (The movie is also much worse than the Hammer version, but it did give us Pere Portabella’s mesmerizing CUADECUC-VAMPIR.)

In whatever branch of the celluloid inferno Mr. Towers now finds himself, I hope they’re making him comfortable. I imagine he’s already written an exploitation adaptation of Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY on his way down there. As long as he doesn’t get into trouble transporting women from the eighth to the ninth circle for immoral purposes, I’m sure he’ll be quite at home.