Archive for La Signora di Tutti

Morpheus Descending

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2008 by dcairns

A Song is Born

Max Ophuls’ LA SIGNORA DI TUTTI is a sort of Italian answer to A STAR IS BORN. While, like SANS LENDEMAIN, it isn’t up there with the Divine Max’s post-war work, it does have its share of passion and poetry, and features plenty of memorably eccentric bits of technique.

Ophuls starts with a spiralling iris-out from a spinning gramophone record, before tilting up to a cyncial movie producer, who starts talking almost straight into the lens, almost like an Ozu character.

Cutting back to the gramophone once more but with the camera now spun 180 degrees, Ophuls now tilts up to an agent, also talking almost into the lens.

The next scene gives us a whirlwind tour of a film studio, with the camera rocketing around at speed as assistants try to locate a missing movie star. You can really feel the weight of the giant blimped sound camera as it swerves round corners, even spinning 360 degrees as a character circles a room before exiting from the door he came in by.

Then we’re tracking through walls in the manner mimicked by Kubrick (a big Ophuls fan) in THE KILLING and LOLITA, and then we get MY FAVOURITE BIT —

The Experiment

Morpheus Descending

Our heroine (the legendary Isa Miranda) has attempted suicide, and lies on the operating table awaiting some kind of potentially life-saving operation. Gloved hands turn a SPECIAL VALVE and an anaesthetic mask descends from the ceiling. Ophuls does what many directors would do in such a situation — he shows us the heroine’s POV as the smothering instrument descends towards her face. This is in line with those subjective camera shots we see in many hospital movies from the ’40s on — wheeling along on a gurney, looking at the ceiling, that kind of thing.

The Mask

Mask

But Ophuls does something else, something maybe only he and Sam Raimi would do — he cuts to the POV of the mask itself, descending towards the heroine’s face until she is pushed into a blurry smear.

Awake

The Woman in White

The Fog

And in the midst of that blur, the central flashback can begin…

(LA SIGNORA DI TUTTI is now available on DVD in Italy, and they’ve actually included English subtitles!)

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