Archive for Vittorio De Sica

Gold off Naples

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2021 by dcairns

In DR STRANGELOVE, Peter Sellers is getting at least some of his vocal inflections from Kubrick when he plays Merkin Muffley, and in TOM THUMB he’s doing George Pal. The third in the trinity of directorial impersonations is AFTER THE FOX, where he reportedly patterned his performance as Italian master criminal Aldo “the Fox” Vanucci on Vittorio De Sica, who he’d already acted alongside in THE MILLIONAIRESS.

It makes sense, when cast as an Italian, to have an actual Italian as model, especially if that Italian is going to be close at hand. And especially since your character masquerades as a great Italian film director. But the movie’s self-referencing doesn’t end there. Vanucci plans to smuggle stolen gold into Italy under cover of a fake film shoot — a film about smuggling gold into Italy — so he enlists real movie star Victor Mature, playing fictional movie star Tony Powell (but with a clip of Mature in Jacques Tourneur’s EASY LIVING to illustrate his career). Mature, who had been semi-retired from the screen, evidently found the experience as invigorating as his character does. It’s quite an early case of an actor sending themselves up with vicious glee, and Mature is not only a good sport but a proficient farceur.

Oh, the title of the fake movie (below) is a broad reference to an earlier, real De Sica film.

And here’s De Sica as himself, directing a movie. Rather excellent gag where a fake sandstorm is produced for the scene, and when the storm dies down, all the equipment has been stolen. This fake movie the real director is making stars another real director, John Huston, but confusingly/hilariously, he’s not played by John Huston. Maybe they’d assumed that Huston, like De Sica a serious gambler, would need the money and agree to play himself playing Moses. Bizarrely, he eventually did play a different Lawgiver in BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES.

And is it a reference to Italian movie dubbing when Akim Tamiroff (whose presence in caper movies seemed to be de rigeur — OCEAN’S ELEVEN, TOPKAPI) is lip-synched by Maria Grazia Buccella? It’s quite funny, anyway.

Neil Simon, who scripted, reckoned that the film was only fair, and that there was more funny stuff on a cutting room floor in Rome somewhere (including Sellers disguised as a Beatle). But, going into it with low expectations — I’d seen it once, years ago, and hadn’t laughed much, and we watched the other De Sica-Sellers collaboration, WOMAN TIMES SEVEN, and didn’t laugh at all — we actually found it very enjoyable indeed. It doesn’t really have a second act, just a bunch of stuff, but it has one of the best closing lines in history.

OK, maybe not top ten best end lines, but top hundred. I like it because it destroys the reality of what we’ve been watching, it FORCES THE FILM TO STOP.

AFTER THE FOX stars Pearly Gates; Samson; Goodnight; Det. Milton Arbogast; ‘Uncle’ Joe Grandi; Pope Alexander III; Nero Wolfe; Lucrezia Borgia; Professor Henry Harrington; Kreacher; Baron Fabrizio Donati; Sgt. ‘Muscles’ Dunn; Capannelle; and Fran Garland (archive footage).

Thief or Thieves?

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on September 9, 2020 by dcairns

In America, seemingly, it’s called THE BICYCLE THIEF. In Britain, BICYCLE THIEVES. In Italy, LADRI DI BICICLETTE. The Italian title is correct, the British one and accurate translation, the US one an abberation.

Since we spend the film following two characters, father and son, the plural FEELS right, but of course only the father is a thief, the other thief is the guy who stole HIS bike.

Eventually I suppose everyone in Rome will have stolen everyone else’s bike, but meanwhile here is the new Blu-ray from Arrow, which has a video essay I made with ace editor Alex Starr.

Bicycle Thieves [Blu-ray]

Virtual Paradise

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2020 by dcairns

So this year, courtesy of the worldwide pandemic, we get to experience a small sampling of Il Cinema Ritrovato’s offerings from the comfort of our own filthy flat in the freezing drizzle of a Scottish summer. It’s very good value — for fifty euros Fiona and I can get enough content to fill our days, or almost, for a week. I don’t really like streaming things — you pay for something but you don’t get to own it — but it’s definitely preferable to international travel in the current world situation.

Day one — yesterday — we dipped in. Two not-quite documentaries. Jean-Pierre Berthomé & Emmanuel Charon’s BABYLON IN HOLLYWOOD is a work-in-progress short film about DW Griffith’s celebrated giant sets for INTOLERANCE — the filmmakers have calculated the measurements and the star of their film is a 3D computer reconstruction of the edifice, which the audience gets whizzed around and about and through. Based on little-seen stills, the filmmakers have also deduced that the set is not a closed, three-sided box as it usually appears — the walls don’t join, thus allowing the extras in more easily, and letting the light flood in. All this was fascinating.

The presentation is rocky, but then the thing isn’t finished.

I first saw Mara Blasetti, daughter of the great Alessandro Blasetti, and a pioneering female production manager, at Bologna on one of my first visits. Now her golden stash of production stills has been rediscovered, and she narrates RITRATTO DI MARA BLASETTI, which has fewer ambitions to be cinematic than the BABYLON joint, but succeeds extremely well as a rostrum-camera slide-show full of insights and history with behind-the-scenes appearances by Sophia, Marcello, et al. Fiona got excited about the thought of Vittorio De Sica playing a lunatic bus driver in TEMPI NOSTRI – ZIBALDONE N. 2 (1954, aka THE ANATOMY OF LOVE) so I popped the disc in and we enjoyed that as an off-shoot of our Bolognese adventure.

Oh, and two shorts — in THE NEW MAID IS TOO MUCH OF A FLIRT (1912), a household crumbles into chaos when none of the male staff can resist the beauteous new ladies’ maid, but the mistress sorts out the fumbling admirers with a bit of hosepipe slapstick (a reliable finish since Lumiere). In TONTOLINI E TRISTE, the downcast comedian tries everything he can to cheer himself up, but the theatre is too tragic and the circus show devolves into a riot, but a trip to the movie house to see himself caper about finally brings a smile to his face.