Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodramas

Discuss DVDs released in the Eclipse and Essential Art House lines and the films on them.
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ArchCarrier
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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#26 Post by ArchCarrier » Fri May 06, 2011 8:42 am

ellipsis7 wrote:Apparently, at the time of their original release in Italy, CHAINS made 600 million lire at the box office, NOBODY'S CHILDREN an even more sensational 1 billion lire!...
Was that around the time when a loaf of bread cost 6 million lire?

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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#27 Post by MichaelB » Fri May 06, 2011 10:31 am

Exchange rate in 1947: $1:575 lire
Exchange rate in 1949: $1:625 lire

So assuming an average of 600 lire to the dollar, 600 million lire would equate to $1 million and a billion lire would be $1.66 million.

To put that in perspective, the biggest US hit of the late 1940s seems to have been the 1947 reissue of Bambi, which grossed $2.2 million. (I could well be wrong about that last bit, so corrections welcome!)

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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#28 Post by Saimo » Fri May 06, 2011 11:26 am

ArchCarrier wrote:
ellipsis7 wrote:Apparently, at the time of their original release in Italy, CHAINS made 600 million lire at the box office, NOBODY'S CHILDREN an even more sensational 1 billion lire!...
Was that around the time when a loaf of bread cost 6 million lire?
One ticket cost about 100 £. In 1949, Bitter Rice (Riso amaro) by De Santis was a great hit and made 442.000.000 £. Chains (Catene), same 1949, was a HUGE hit and made 735.000.000 £.
Last edited by Saimo on Fri May 06, 2011 5:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#29 Post by Saimo » Fri May 06, 2011 12:11 pm

That's true, Matarazzo's melodramas feature "delirious plot twists and overheated religious symbolism", and that was very appealing with Italian rural audiences. It should be understood, however, that these films were pretty refreshing compared to Italian pre-war melodramas, often set in high society or ancient past. Matarazzo instead narrates low classes with their dreams and their nightmares, and even if his films are often over-the-top, they simply reflect 50s Italian popular culture (believe me: I have two grandmothers from South Italy and when they speak about religion, family or love I can distinctly recognize the same attitude in Matarazzo's films). His approach to melodrama is very mediterranean, very latin, but if you can accept that you will also find some subtle, penetrating criticism about Italian society, especially about female condition. And if you watch his films looking for recurring visual and thematic patterns, you will discover a properly developed universe: shadows, songs, trials, crosses, prisons, water...

In my opinion, Chains is a good film, and so is White Angel (surely the most perverse one). Nobody's Children is still a well-made drama, and only Tormento perhaps isn't that interesting, but has a marvellous (self-mocking?) ending.
Among Matarazzo's best works I also include biopic Giuseppe Verdi (1953) and La nave delle donne maledette (1953), but I also like very much three comedies he directed in the 30-40s, Sono stato io! (1937), Giù il sipario (1940, both released on Ripley's DVD, but without English subs) and Giorno di nozze (1942).

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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#30 Post by rohmerin » Sun May 08, 2011 8:52 am

I am from the north of Spain and I can feel indentify with his subjects/ portraits. For me to watch an Italian film is like seeing Spaniards speaking Italian and living in freedom without Franco.

Spain, Argentina and Italy (and I suppose Portugal) are the same in many ways.

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otis
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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#31 Post by otis » Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:04 pm



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knives
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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#33 Post by knives » Mon Jun 20, 2011 2:45 pm

The mail is too slow for me. I really can't wait to get my over the top melodrama on. This set looks absolutely diabetic.

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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#34 Post by cdnchris » Mon Jun 20, 2011 3:57 pm

This set is pretty awesome. Each film gets more ridiculous as you go. I usually have adverse reactions to melodramas but these were really just too much fun and I got sucked into them after only a few minutes each.

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ellipsis7
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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#35 Post by ellipsis7 » Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:17 pm

I've just read Brunetta's book THE HISTORY OF ITALIAN CINEMA and these films are huge in the way they reached their audiences and financially underpinned their producers and the wider industry.... My set about to ship...

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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#36 Post by Saimo » Tue Jun 21, 2011 6:28 am

OT
Tomorrow (22 june 2011) RHV will release Matarazzo's long-awaited L'avventuriera del piano di sopra (Upstair Girl), a 1941 comedy starring Vittorio De Sica, edited and produced by Riccardo Freda (The Horrible Dr. Hichcock). Matarazzo himself considered this to be one of his best works. Italian and French subs only.

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Michael
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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#37 Post by Michael » Wed Jun 22, 2011 9:53 am

Having seen only one film Chains which I caught last night, I have a hunch that the set is going to be my favorite of all Eclipse sets. The film was so much fun that I can't wait to see the rest of the set. Actually watching the film was like reliving Christmas dinners with my family!

My grandparents from both sides of my family are from Italy (Napoli and Palermo) and two decades ago when I was discovering Fellini and Antonioni, I asked my grandparents if they had seen anything by either one of those directors. They were not sure but they described the films they watched when they were younger back in the 1940s - 1950s. Their descriptions sound awfully a lot like Chains.

I was exhilarated by the sublime Southern Italian sensibilities of Chains - the family unit complete with nonna, the Catholic symbolism, the Southern Italian songs, and so forth. The saint under glass on the bureau - my grandparents had the same thing. It was really lovely to see the Napoli / Amalfi coast, that birthday dinner party part was amazing - a celebration overlooking a bay and the intense discomfort invading the song-filled air as we fixate on an obsessive ex-lover stalker sitting next to the birthday wife. Fabulous stuff.

Looking up Matarazzo on Hulu, I discovered two titles: Torno and He Who Is Without Sin. Does that mean Criterion is planning to release them on disc? I am thinking about joining Hulu just to watch those films after I'm finished with the set.

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Michael
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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#38 Post by Michael » Thu Jun 23, 2011 9:39 am

Two down, two more to go. My partner and I watched Tormento last night, another fun ride. We agreed that Matarazzo films, the two we've seen, resemble Almodovar films a lot. Like Almodovar films, the Matarazzos are labyrinthine in structure, baroque in style, and from the box description, "luxuriate in plot twists". In both Catene and Tormento, there are folks singing as we watch Yvonne Sanson longing for her life to stabilize again and I was reminded of that sublime Caetano Veloso bit of Talk to Her and Penelope Cruz singing in Volver.

If you love Almodovar, then it's a safe bet that you will love this set.

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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#39 Post by knives » Thu Jun 23, 2011 11:09 pm

The, I think, flashback in Chains is worth every penny of this set. It walks the line between sarcastic, sad, ridiculous, sublime, basically every descriptor in the book so well that I'm giddy. The film struck me as only okay up until this point, but now it's great in my book. The stuff with the kid finding out in this scene is just too perfect. It captures his feelings so well I was dizzy afterward.

That may be my favorite thing about the film. Though it is firmly the mother's story it goes into the family members psychology so well that despite being as melodramatic as I've ever seen it remains permanently neutral toward those characters. There's no judgments or harsh moralizing against them. This doesn't even go into the lame catharsis that most other weepies do. Instead things just happen for better or typically worse.

Again I know it's Rosa who I should be talking about, but it's the boy who I really connected to. This isn't a judgment thing on my part. The movie makes me want to refuse to judge her, but the worries and problems of the boy are so much closer to what I've experienced that I just had to throw myself into his POV. I wonder if there is anyone who could throw themselves into the POV of the father or maybe the returned lover? I doubt there's anyone for the little girl given how sparsely she's sketched.

There's a real love for every character that's rare even by the standards of the genre. The movie manages to go so high into camp that it almost comes back into earth. These characters are so full and amazing that they almost seem more real than any fictional character could even as they go further than most soaps in their melodrama.

Even beyond these marvelous characters the artistry on display here is to die for. I want this score on album, from the songs played by the various musicians working as chorus to just the real thing it just fits this movie like a wondrous glove. Both pieces are so earnest that they even manage past charming to hypnotizing. This is the opposite of minimalism on display here, but it achieves the same effect. When watching it was like dreaming with me eyes open and some of the whipping camera movements pushed that feeling further than even Gerry at times.

Already this is such a fantastic release that I urge everyone to pick it up already.

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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#40 Post by knives » Sat Jun 25, 2011 1:54 am

Tormento is equally amazing in all the same ways. Things just get worse and worse and worse and all I can do is watch it with a more focused mind even as it lulls me into a clear mind. This film is like yoga with the way it puts me at rest. These films are just such a gorgeous extreme I've never experienced before. I really want to further my Gerry comparison since these films really are the total opposite of that in form while accomplishing all of the same goals. They almost prove Kiarostami wrong in how they plaster me against a wall and pummel me onto edge, but they stay within for so long and there are moments I'll never forget such as the first act of extreme melodrama in the film when somebody gets into trouble.

Since I've made my point on gushing about Matarazzo's style I think I need to compliment the already great in my eyes Yvonne Sanson. This is really the first of the movies that live or die by her and that just makes for a more exhilarating experience. I would say she grounds the experience in her tough face, but it's more like she conduces the melodrama into the form it is. The shape of the highs are formed around her in a way that lets the melodrama be high, but not campy. She allows the films to be serious in a way I can engage with on a serious level. I treat this hyper-reality as the true one because she does. Hoer pain is both clear and invisible with many smaller movements hidden next to the more expressive absurdities. She's an amazing actress with her eyes which can go from tear inducing minatures to these bulging Buscemiesque grotesque things. All of this extreme acting is done in an instant and in a way that's thoroughly thought out. Now more than ever I have to see The Conformist just to see how she is without the realm of Matarazzo.

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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#41 Post by Michael » Sat Jun 25, 2011 11:51 am

knives, love reading your posts. Talking about extreme, just wait till you watch Nobody's Children and The White Angel. Still reeling from watching them back to back this morning.

All I have to say:

1) Oh. My. God.

2) Not even Chains and Tormento could prepare you for those films. They make Hollywood's grand melodramas look tame by comparison.

I love this set. Criterion Collection, thank you!

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knives
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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#42 Post by knives » Sat Jun 25, 2011 2:10 pm

Thanks, I'm finding these as good late night viewing. I'm considering just watching these last two on double feature, but doubt I'll handle it. Who would have thought any release this year would be as enjoyable as the Naruse's?

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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#43 Post by zombeaner » Sat Jun 25, 2011 5:25 pm

I'd never heard of any of these, but the more I read about them the more excited I get. I love melodrama, and these are now on my list

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Roger Ryan
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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#44 Post by Roger Ryan » Sun Jun 26, 2011 12:36 pm


RodneyWelch

Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#45 Post by RodneyWelch » Sun Jun 26, 2011 3:00 pm

Just watched "Nobody's Children" on Hulu. Ridiculously entertaining, but there's a problem at an hour and 19 minutes into it -- looks like a sequence got left out. You can see what I mean even without watching the whole thing.

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Michael
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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#46 Post by Michael » Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:18 pm

That's a great article. Thanks for posting. I agree with Dave Kehr: More Matarazzo!

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knives
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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#47 Post by knives » Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:31 pm

I would love it if they have The Shipped of Condemned Women. The more I hear about it the greater it sounds. It really seems like Criterion wants to do a packed disc for him and this is just testing the water. I hope it's come up with a 7.

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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#48 Post by ellipsis7 » Sun Jun 26, 2011 6:06 pm

THE SHIP OF CONDEMNED WOMEN seems to have had a previous US theatrical outing...

Image

Dave Kehr's piece great...

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knives
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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#49 Post by knives » Mon Jun 27, 2011 11:47 pm

About a half hour into Nobody's Children as Sanson runs through the rain, an emotional mess accused by the man she loves of what she considers her strongest honor, the film topples all of the melodrama that has come in the past two films. The film becomes such a sensory overload that my brain needed to stop for a few seconds and restart. The film somehow had gone beyond simple hypnosis to some sort of drunken experience.

Matarazzo goes to and possibly beyond opera here as things twist and turn so quickly and so randomly that there is no catching of breath, not even catching up. Even before I had the opportunity to think I caught up with the film I was lost. The sexual and religious imagery often coinciding in the same second (a massive cross above Sanson as it looks like her shirt is going to fall off if she just breathes too hard)is more pronounced than ever and purely concussive.

Watching the film was sort of like being dead for an hour as my consciousness was absorbed by this insanity that should be the campiest thing in the world but isn't. It almost makes me afraid of The White Angel and what response it will provoke considering how much this movie ups the ante and by all points that's deliberate.

The past two movies had many similarities in story, but the way this one relates to Chains is almost like a late Ozu film. This story also of false infidelity and exile is like if Matarazzo was trying to see if he could at once make that first melodrama more insular with just the figures of the wife, husband, and mother present but also more extreme and well you read the above. The film more than ever is so intently focused on those three 'holy' personas that every other aspect is removed. Even the cause for accusations of adultery is mostly left off screen. I'm not necessarily sure what this accomplished compared with the other switchups, but I think on the most basic level it allowed the films extremities to be even more powerfully felt. Maybe that's what helps it to go past camp even as it shoots beyond the most campy material in the world. The movie is a simple stunner.

That's not to say there isn't a fourth persona involved. Once again the child is here, but in an odd spot that I think better balances all of the personalities. He essentially takes over the entire second half of the story (between these films and de Sica I now believe no one knows the secret to directing child actors like the Italians) but considering the nature of his journey the conflicts of the first half are always present making it Sanson's journey still. That's not to say that his journey isn't amazing by itself, but Matarazzo learned a lot about presenting multiple story lines since Chains.

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Michael
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Re: Eclipse Series 27: Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodra

#50 Post by Michael » Tue Jun 28, 2011 8:58 am

knives, I have been enjoying reading your posts a lot. It really is a challege describing Matarazzo films without making them sound campy. You have articulated what makes his films so great.

From Dave Kehr's excellent article posted here: French critic Jacques Lourcelles, perhaps Matarazzo’s most articulate champion, compares the “lyrical purity” of Matarazzo’s images to “the most successful works of Lang, Dreyer and Mizoguchi.” I couldn't agree more.

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