Archive for Senta Berger

Neapolitan Style

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on August 2, 2019 by dcairns

Dino Risi’s caper comedy OPERAZIONE SAN GENNARO should be enjoyably silly but it has a running “gag” about protagonist Nino Manfredi slapping his character’s fiancee (and later, wife) Claudine Auger, which makes it hard to like. Some things just don’t age well, and domestic violence comedy appears to be one of them.

The plot is very silly, rendered even dafter by those moments when visiting American heisters Harry Guardino (!) and Senta Berger speak English — she’s been dubbed with a broad yank accent, not her own, but apparently all they could find for poor Harry was a thickly-accented Italian.

Mario Adorf is funny — he’s developed a really funny run, and he runs a lot in this film. Toto, seemingly a required presence in any Italian crime comedy, blesses the proceedings with an appearance by his chin, followed some minutes later by the rest of him.

The airport chase at the end is great. THIS shot appears to be real, and very, very irresponsible if so.

“What’s it like being so sexually attractive?”

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2017 by dcairns

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YES! You should see THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM, the film in which Max Von Sydow asks this question of George Segal. You have to wonder if screenwriter Harold Pinter knew what the casting was going to be and how funny this line would seem. I mean, some don’t like George Segal but I do, I find his presence sympathetic. But I don’t see him as any Cary Grant in the glamour department. I think Pinter must have known, and intended the line to be funny (it also has, like everything Max says in this film, a definite Comedy of Menace undertone) but he also has the sexy and soft-focus (cut that out, cameraman Erwin Hillier!) Senta Berger fall eagerly into bed with George, in a way that’s even more suspicious than Eva Marie Saint’s come-ons to Cary in NORTH BY NORTHWEST. This has the potential to blow a giant hole in the plot, and is either deliberate but inexplicable, or a consequence of Harold not being as good so writing women.

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“We could do an underwater ballet,” says George to Senta as they wander an empty swimming pool, causing Fiona and I to exchange surprised glances at this synchronicity — this being the first non-Esther Williams film we’ve watched in some time. And then a tiny John Moulder-Brown turns up, future star of DEEP END, the all-time great empty swimming pool movie. Perhaps when you start tuning in to Pinter’s cryptic subsubsubtexts, the universe begins to seem full of significant insignificances.

This is a sixties spy film — it seems to have all the same Germans as FUNERAL IN BERLIN, including the Gay German Christopher Lloyd — as written by Pinter. The characters meet with elaborate coded conversations about cigarette brands — “Is it milder than other brands?” “It’s milder than some other brands,” and then go into more spontaneous discussions that have exactly the same coded quality. The whole thing looks pretty ugly for the first half, modern Berlin looking like one big hideous airport, but the chance to see Alec Guinness, say, or George Sanders, doing Pinter makes it electrifying. Guinness chooses to make his irksome spook slightly lower middle-class and a lot more camp than we’re used to, making the shady rendezvous at the start more resonant — or it would be if George Segal weren’t George Segal, bless him. Also, Guinness is constantly nibbling, especially during the nost ominous moments…

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Then Max shows up, the settings get older and grungier, and suddenly the film becomes extremely beautiful and extremely tense. Director Michael DAMBUSTERS Anderson is one of those first ADs who moved up to directing and was generally efficient, sometimes inspired. The compositions in Max’s truth serum dungeon are fantastic, with lurking henchmen of various sizes dotted around the frame as you might say MUTE SENTINELS. And there’s a great bit of interrogation where Max walks to and fro before the seated George and George’s close-up is filmed from his approx POV, tracking past George first one way, then the other. I  wonder what Michael had been looking at — the same thing Leone was looking at for Charles Bronson’s rotating close-up in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST?

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Then the whole third act is basically George wandering helplessly around the city at night, shadowed by the Mute Sentinel guys, with elevated trains and derelict buildings making for a much more gritty and habitable world than the airportscapes of the first half. It’s incredibly tense and almost nothing is happening: an ideal Pinter climax.

And then a rather chilling ending. It’s one of the best visualisations of Pinter Wonderland, which usually revolves around dialogue. George and Senta’s last scene is amazingly cryptic, with every thought and emotion clouded by obfuscating billows of terse dialogue, and then we’re just pulling back from a school. But the school itself is like a Pinter sentence, bland and companionable on the surface, threatening and loaded with sinister meaning just underneath. The new Nazis are coming, and as Guinness remarks earlier, “They look like everybody else.”

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Nibble, nibble.

Puzzle Pieces

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2012 by dcairns

A moderately good example of stealing (to contrast with CRIMES OF THE BLACK CAT, where the crimes would seem to be blatant plagiarism) — in PUZZLE (L’UOMO SENZA MEMORIA, 1974) , an unconventional amnesia-centred quasi-giallo, ginger villain Bruno Corazzari menaces the lovely Senta Berger, who’s laid up with a leg in plaster, by striking matches and dropping them on her. Just as we’re remembering that this is a swipe from CHARADE and that it happened to Audrey Hepburn first, Bruno admits that he saw the trick in a movie. This kind of takes the curse off it, ties in with the modest strain of self-reflective postmodernity in the giallo genre, and allows us to reflect that the gag actually works better with a disabled character and the figure of menace standing over her so she can’t simply huff the matches out before they’re dropped. In CHARADE, Audrey does seem a wee bit pathetic to be so terrified for so little reason.

PUZZLE is not bad — Duccio Tessari serves up some nice visuals and some stupid ones. He zooms like mad and racks focus like he was afflicted with the compulsive bolt-tightening movements of Chaplin in MODERN TIMES.

The plot suffers from a central silliness — murderous heroin-smuggler Luc Merenda has lost his memory and somehow become a nice guy. Regaining his memory by the end, he retains his niceness. How and why? It’s a little like TOTAL RECALL, only there a handy plot mechanism has been provided by the scenarists: the nice Ahnoltd is a construct, who manages to avoid being converted back to his authentic, horrid personality. An amusing conceit — most movies value free will and have heroes embarking on a voyage of self-discovery, but when Schwartzenegger’s Doug Quaid learns who he truly is, he decides to stick with his bogus nice-guy overlay.

I thought of a really stupid plot twist for PUZZLE which would have explained all this, but maybe I should keep it to myself — it might make for a whole other screenplay.

Meanwhile. PUZZLE isn’t completely satisfactory but does end with a brutal chase/fight involving the three leads, a straight razor, a chainsaw and some heroin-filled sausages in a toy train. The chic white interiors get sprayed red. People in gialli just can’t have nice things.

Fiona was very taken with Senta’s diving helmet lamp. And, by a coincidence so implausible you wouldn’t accept it in a giallo, the very next day I found an actual deep-sea diving helmet for sale in Georgian Antiques, where I was scouting props for an  upcoming shoot. Unfortunately, the figure on the price tag was not only more money than I’ve ever seen in my life, it was more money than you could get if you sold every object I’ve ever seen in my life. Still, these coincidences happen for a reason, and this time no doubt the reason was to remind me that it would be nice to be rich. I’ll see what I can do.

The whole thing is was on YouTube.