Archive for Lucia Bose

That’s entertainment

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on April 20, 2011 by dcairns

Very grateful to Masters of Cinema for sending me a complimentary dual-format edition of THE LADY WITHOUT CAMELIAS, and early, underseen Antonioni movie starring the stunning Lucia Bosè. Watched it with guest David Wingrove, which was a good decision — the film is slow to start, and the more people you have in the audience on such an occasion, the less likely you are to switch off. And I’m so glad we didn’t!

The picture begins with Bosè becoming an overnight sensation in her first movie — this Milanese shopgirl is now a rising star. The problems she now faces concern both love and art — can she achieve anything worthwhile in the cinema, and can she balance that with a successful romantic life. The reason both goals are so difficult is that the men in her life all want complete control of her, and are threatened whenever she tries to make a decision. It’s when this starts to become clear that the drama kicks in and the film goes from sliding past your eyes in a slightly apologetic fashion, to gripping you by the skull while fixing you with a hypnotic gaze. More of what we think of as the Antonioni style becomes visible as the story develops, also, as the drab studios and streets of the opening scenes are replaced with ultra-modern cinemas and chic, soulless duplexes.

They’re so chic they have a fire surround in the middle of the room.

Sophia Loren was apparently offered the lead role, but turned it down as being too close to home. But it’s Bosè
who really was a Milanese shopgirl (Loren’s background was less respectable), though Loren did work in the fumetti, as this character is supposed to have done. Bosè’s extraordinary glamour comes with a slightly uncomfortable edge — her waist is so slender it looks cinched, but isn’t. Her body achieves a blending of the voluptuous and the starved that no body should be expected to attain. Her performance has something of the glacial quality I associate with later Antonioni, but the movie invites emotional engagement with the character in a way that’s progressively less common in the maestro’s oeuvre.

The obvious comparison is Ophuls’ Italian opus, LA SIGNORA DI TUTTI, which likewise charts the rise and fall of a female movie star. That film begins with a suicide before flashing back, whereas this one adopts a straight linear path, maybe accounting for its trouble getting started, but the Antonioni is no less clearly a tragedy. While the fate that awaits Isa Miranda in the thirties flick is potentional death by her own hand, Antonioni’s heroine is threatened with spiritual death — the possibility of a life of compromise and failure. It’s potentially more depressing that way — Ophuls’ tragedy carried with it a built-in feeling of “if only”. There may be no “if only” in Antonioni’s world.

“Is every man in her life part of some conspiracy to drive her insane?” asked David W, quite early on. The answer is YES, with the multi-tier conspiracy consisting of the film business, family life, marriage, Italian society, and human nature.

David later apologized in case he was poor company, having been emotionally shattered by the experience of the film (of course, he was still spendid company, even while reeling). I never actually find films depressing if they’re good. This one I’d call devastating but not depressing. Fiona thought it was depressing, but she still liked it. Does that say something about our differing personalities?

David W tells me that only ill-health kept the octogenarian Bosè from her stated intention of appearing on the Italian version of Celebrity Love Island last year, which suggests that Antonioni’s askance view of celebrity may be more timely than ever.

Eating Duras

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2008 by dcairns

Everybody who’s done the long-haul film festival thing will have experienced screenings where they suddenly realise they’re too tired to take in what’s happening on the screen. I got tired just a few days into the E.I.F.F. but now I seem to be floating along on a cloud of cinema, still exhausted (I fell asleep this morning and was nearly late for Jeanne Moreau’s L’ADOLESCENTE) but unable to really feel it.

At the screening of Marguerite Duras’ NATHALIE GRANGER yesterday, I had a different problem. It was noon, and I hadn’t eaten that morning, and suddenly I found myself famished. The film is, on the surface, extremely uneventful, following Lucia Bosé and Jeanne Moreau as they float around Duras’ house in capes, do housework, listen to the news, and talk on the phone (but not so much to each other, face to face). As with many “avant garde” films, one is able to think one’s own thoughts, influenced by the film, rather than being completely wrapped up in an unfolding narrative and thinking only the movie’s thoughts.

This led to an unusual viewing experience for me, since what I was thinking about desperately was food. How I would never go anywhere without a snack again. And how I would like to climb up on the screen like Buster Keaton in SHERLOCK JNR and eat the food on it. That apple is the size of a refrigerator! It’s grey, this being a b&w film, but what the hell. People in b&w movies live on grey food and it doesn’t seem to do them any harm. I guess the skin of the apple would be pretty thick, hard to break through, and the surface curves too gently for a person to bit into it. But I could throw my arms around the apples and smell it and maybe cut a piece off with a knife, if I could find one small enough to lift. Or wait until a longshot appears, and the apples are a more normal size.

A baguette the size of a couch! I could break through the crust and crawl inside, tearing at the soft flesh of the bread and cramming it into my mouth, entering the bread and curling up inside, protected by the brittle carapace of the crust and pillowed by fluffy loaf-matter.

Anyhow, that’s what the film made me think of.

EXCEPT for the sudden burst of — what? comedy? – as a painfully young Gerard Depardieu shambles in, and attempts to sell the ladies a washing machine. The youthful Depardieu is always a startling sight for those who know the beefy lummox of today. That impossibly long, strange face, apparently assembled in armature form out of leg-bones, then covered in a translucent coating of unborn calf skin and decorated with a mop. Yet it speaks! And attempts to sell a Vedetta-Tabard washing machine. The ladies stare coolly at Mr. D., giving nothing back as he sweats and stutters his way through a prolonged, incoherent sales pitch. Finally, utterly defeated, he goes to look at their present washing machine. He staggers back, somehow EVEN MORE defeated. “It’s a Vedetta-Tabard,” he mutters, aghast at the cruelty.

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