Luchino Visconti

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Scharphedin2
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Luchino Visconti

#1 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sat Mar 25, 2006 12:03 pm

Luchino Visconti (1906-1976)

Image

Perhaps the key to cinematographic rendering . . .
is to attempt to feel again and to catch the magic of
rhythm, of the vague yearning for the unknown, the
realization that things are not right, or that they
could be better, which is the poetic substance of that
play of destinies which cross . . . without ever
encountering [one another]. -Luchino Visconti

(from "Il Cinema anthropologico", Cinema, 1943)


Fimography

Ossessione (1943) Image (R1) / BFI (R2 UK) / Films Sans Frontières (R2 FR) / Kinokuniya (R2 JP) included in Luchino Visconti Box, Vol. 3

La terra trema (1948) RHV (R2 IT) / BFI (R2 UK) / Image (R1) / Kinokuniya (R2 JP) included in Luchino Visconti Box, Vol. 1

Appunti su un fatto di cronaca (documentary short, 1951)

Bellissima (1951) Masters of Cinema (R2 UK) / Medusa (R2 IT) / Kinokuniya (R2 JP) included in Luchino Visconti Box, Vol. 3

Siamo donne / We, the Women - segment Anna Magnani (1953) Sony (R2 IT)

Senso (1954) Optimum Releasing (R2 UK) / Kinokuniya (R2 JP) included in Luchino Visconti Box, Vol. 1

Le notti bianche / White Nights) (1957) Criterion (R1) / Kinokuniya (R2 JP) included in Luchino Visconti Box, Vol. 3 / 20th Century Fox (R2 IT)

Rocco e i suoi fratelli / Rocco and His Brothers (1960) Masters of Cinema (R2 UK) / Medusa (R2 IT) / Image (R1) / C'est La Vie (R2 UK) / René Chateau (R2 FR) / Arthaus Kinowelt (R2 DE) / Tohokushinsha (R2 JP)

Boccaccio '70 - segment Il lavoro (1962) NoShame (R1) / Mr. Bongo Films (R2 UK) / Filmax (R2 ES) / Gaumont (R2 FR)

Il Gattopardo / The Leopard (1963) Criterion (R1) / Madman (R4 AU) / BFI (R2 UK) / Medusa (R2 IT) / Fox Pathé (R2 FR) / Koch (R2 DE)

Vaghe stele dell'Orsa... / Sandra of a Thousand Delights) (1965) Kinokuniya (R2 JP) included in Luchino Visconti Box, Vol. 2 / Sony Pictures (R2 IT) tbr 23 June, 2009

Le streghe / The Witches - segment La strega bruciata viva / The Witch Burnt Alive (1967)

Lo straniero (The Stranger) (1967)

La caduta degli dei / The Damned) (1969) Warner Brothers (R1) / Warner Brothers (R2 DE, ES, FR, UK) / Instituto Luce (R2 IT)

Morte a Venezia / Death in Venice) (1971) Warner Brothers (R1) / Warner Brothers (R2 ES, FR, UK)

Ludwig (1972) Kinowelt (R2 DE) / Infinity Arthouse (R2 UK) / Koch Lorber (R1 US) / Medusa (R2 IT) / Kinowelt (R2 DE) / Kinokuniya (R2 JP) included in Luchino Visconti Box, Vol. 2

Gruppo di famiglia in un interno / Conversation Piece (1974) Minerva (R2 IT) / Madman (R4 AU) / Arrow Film (R2 UK) / Kinokuniya (R2 JP) included in Luchino Visconti Box, Vol. 1

L'innocente (1976) Koch Lorber (R1 US) / Nouveaux (R2 UK) / Studio Canal (R2 FR) / Kinokuniya (R2 JP) included in Luchino Visconti Box, Vol. 2


Forum Discussions

Bellissima (Masters of Cinema)

BFI: La terra trema & Ossessione (Visconti)

Dubbing in Italian Cinema - includes some comments relative to Visconti's films

International Cinema Collection (Warner Bros.) - includes Death in Venice and The Damned

Italian Epics

The Leopard (Criterion)

Luchino Visconti on DVD

Melville, Visconti, and Dreyer - mystery Visconti release coming from Masters of Cinema

Le notti bianche (Criterion)

Ossessione (Luchino Visconti, 1943)

Rocco and his Brothers (Visconti, 1960)

The Stranger (Luchino Visconti, 1967)


Web Resources

The Decadent Realist - David Thomson (The Guardian, 2003)

Luchino Visconti (BFI)

Luchino Visconti: The Leopard - Derek Malcolm (The Guardian, 2000)

La terra trema and Ossessione - Gary Morris (Images Journal)

Luchino Visconti (in Italian)

Mahler in Venice - Michael Chanan (Music & Musicians, 2000)

Visconti's Cinema of Twilight - Maximilian Le Cain (Senses of Cinema, 2001)

Visconti in Venice - Hollis Alpert (Saturday Review, 1970)


Books

Luchino Visconti by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (BFI Publishing, 2003)

Visconti - Explorations of Beauty and Decay by Henry Bacon (Cambridge University Press, 1998)

___________________________________________________________________________________________
Thanks to kinjitsu for providing valuable input, plus several links, the photograph, and the quote that prefaces this topic.

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#2 Post by carax09 » Sat Mar 25, 2006 12:42 pm

Michael wrote:Coming across numerous Brazilian DVDs of Bellissima on ebay, I'm tempted to buy one because a) the only DVDs available for that film b) Visconti c) Magnani d) the deliciously miserable looking girl on the cover.

How's the film? Worth viewing? How's the quality of the transfer? English subtitles?
Michael, I think you might be better off going for this Italian dvd, which people are raving about. I plan on picking this one up myself next month.

It is definitely Magnani's show, and the girl is just tremendous too. Xploitedcinema.com (fast/reliable) will be getting it back in April 6th at around $26---Hope that helps.

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#3 Post by Michael » Sat Mar 25, 2006 1:16 pm

Oh wow. Thanks. But neither store has the DVD in stock at this moment. Are there any others that might have it in stock?

The dvdtalk.com review (above) led me to exploitedcinema.com where Bellissima is out of stock until early April. What "in stock" means to me is that the DVD is ready to be shipped anytime now, under 24 hours at least...I guess I've been using Amazon way too much lately.

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#4 Post by david hare » Sat Mar 25, 2006 5:50 pm

Michael Tony from Xploited assures me they expect new stock to arrive from Italy in "early April". I'll wait. Be Patient kiddo.

Has anyone received theirs from xploited yet?

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#5 Post by Michael » Fri Apr 14, 2006 4:59 pm

Has anyone received theirs from xploited yet?

Mine should be here anytime soon. I will keep you posted.

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#6 Post by david hare » Tue Apr 18, 2006 3:23 am

Bellissima!

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Absolutely gorgeous disc! A must buy.

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#7 Post by Michael » Tue Apr 18, 2006 8:33 am

How goosebump-inducing!

Bellissima should be in my mailbox today.

I love Magnani. Possibly my favorite actress ever.

davidhare, would you say that her performance in Bellissima is her crowning achievement? What do you like about her?

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#8 Post by Dylan » Tue Apr 18, 2006 8:59 am

I love Visconti, so I'm sure this film is right up my alley. This is the only feature of his in between "Ossessione" and "The Leopard" that I haven't seen (I do need to catch up on all of his later work, which isn't a cheap task, or easy if I want to see "Sandra" and "The Stranger"...of these post-Leopard films I've only seen "Death in Venice," which is, of course, a masterpiece). The caps David posted look as good as any Criterion disc.

"The Damned" is the only readily available Visconti I haven't seen, and I'll get around to it soon enough, it looks very cool. As far as reasonably priced Visconti goes, "Conversation Piece" is under $10 at Amazon.co.uk, and I'll pick that up one of these days. I'd get "L' Innocente" soon, but the current DVD just doesn't look so hot and I have a lot of hope a better version will surface (who owns the US rights?).

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#9 Post by carax09 » Tue Apr 18, 2006 4:37 pm

Thanks for the caps, David! That really made my day...

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#10 Post by david hare » Tue Apr 18, 2006 6:55 pm

I haven't yet explored the extras or anything more than a single viewing but I should forewarn enthusiasts this is not like any other Visconti you've seen. It's probably the closest he comes to comedy, although some scenes in Conversation Piece work at that level.

And it is first and foremost a Magnani picture. As much as Renoir's Golden Coach or Rossellini's l'Amore or even Mamma Roma. She talks and talks and talks with ferocious life force at a speed that puts Roz Russell as Hildy to shame. Most fascinatingly the screenplay was taken from a Zavattini story but Visconti strips away any of the often gross sentimentality that pervades the deSica/Zavattini pictures. Indeed the 8 year old girl is largley impassive through the whole movie and it's really Magnani as the driven stage mother who propels the narrative. As I said quite unlike other early Viscontis but it wears an extremely fresh and likeable face. And where oh where is the Rossellini? And the restored Senso!!

Michael I think this, and the Renoir and Mamma Roma and l"Amore (she is astonishing playing two roles in a two parter - "Il Miracolo written by Fellini, and Cocteau's "la Voix Humaine which she does solo on the telephone. You would LOVE this!) Look, even Cukor has a ball with her in Wild is the Wind. (As he does with an utterly charming, vivaceous Sophia Loren in Heller in Pink Tights - a quite decent transfer from Paramount BTW and a great movie.)

Magnani IS bigger than life, and an object of countless traditions of pure theatre transcended into cinema. I do think in the Pasolini she very much engages with the director to bring her very heightened style to bear on what he superbly welds into a tragedy of metaphysical resonance about "small" people. She is fantastic in this, as is the movie. And again the Renoir is so centrally about life and performance, illusion, acting, the theatre/cinema. She understands perfectly what he is doing and is asolutely at the centre of Golden Coach's meaning. Certainly she is an icon, like Dietrich with Sternberg, who appers to bring all her humanity to bear through a particular style of heightened energy and reality.

Should add the fascinating extras unfortunately don't carry English subs, a real test of my ancient and appalling University Italian - Interviews/monologues from Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Zefirelli and Francesco Rosi, all co-scenarists with Luchino, plus Visconti's regular designer the sublime Piero Tosi. Zefferelli in particular is fairly dismissive of Zavattini, as far as I can tell (and Franco goes up a notch for this in my estimation. I REALLY cringe at the Zavattini/de Sica melodramas, and Bellissima is such a great antidote.)

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#11 Post by LonHuber » Thu Apr 20, 2006 1:19 pm

davidhare wrote:...the often gross sentimentality that pervades the deSica/Zavattini pictures ...

I REALLY cringe at the Zavattini/de Sica melodramas, and Bellissima is such a great antidote.)
I'm really curious to know what it is that makes you cringe so in those films. I don't find the de Sica films sentimental at all, much less grossly so. Can you point to specific scenes or threads in them that provoke this extreme reaction in you?

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#12 Post by david hare » Fri Apr 21, 2006 6:26 am

Look, I had lunch today with one of oldest friends who - to my amazement - told me he loves Umberto D, and FLIKE! (no less).

While the dog is great and de Sica elicits always fine perfs from a variety oif actors, I find at least the almost obscenely overdrawn music scores and cues are hugely manipulative. As is the general tone of the Zavattini screenplays.

But let's get into that in another thread. I really enjoy THIS picture.

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#13 Post by Michael » Fri Apr 21, 2006 9:53 am

I really enjoy THIS picture.
Me too! And about Bellissima, three words: Oh! My! God! But really, a very refreshing, deeply felt tale of one mother's disillusion and her willing to sell herself to shift the spotlight to her daughter. It also shimmers with brilliant humor that comes from...hmmm I have no idea where. With a story like Bellissimma, you would expect a typical Italian melodrama complete with extreme sentimentality.. maybe in other directors' hands but not Visconti's. He bleaches the story of any speck of sentimentality and turns it into a very lively, painfully humane and hilarious opera of glorious heart and soul.

Visconti's direction is flawless and precise as usual. All the stage mothers are always feverous, sweating, and fanning themselves to death. Is it really from the heat? Or the nerves!? The closing shot shows one single trail of sweat dripping slowly down the girl's head as she sleeps peacefully finally. But that sweat brings out a different meaning. A luminous touch that only Visconti could achieve.

Magnani lets loose completely with the most bravura performance you could ever seen coming from her. Her sheer volcanic beauty jumps out and shakes you, leaving you feeling exhausted and exhilarated as the same time. I think with Visconti's background in opera and Magnani's acting really defining the word "operatic", he brought out Magnani's unique gift better than other directors, Pasolini, Renoir, Rossellini, etc. Look at the close ups of her. They say so much about the love and admiration between the two gods. Look at her moments in the mirror, combing her hair, always debating to herself. Simply ravishing.

I also love how Visconti subtly reveals the "victims" of cinema - the old actress painted in silent-movie pancake and the former starlet now reduced to working in the editing department. Oh god, there's so much more to praise about Bellissima. That little girl absolutely deserves her own thread on this forum. She couldn't be more perfect.

I know Bellissima's going to remain with me for the rest of my life. It is one of Visconti's finest films, much richer than the recent Criterion release Le Notti Bianche. I think that Bellissima is more interesting and richer than Le Notti Bianche. In my opinion, Notti has some flaws. Mastroianni seems miscast. There is a couple of sequences that seem out of place...the beating up of Mastroianni or Calamai.. I can't remember. Call me fussy but how could this poor woman (Natalia) manage to walk a lot in the snow with the type of shoes she has on? Maybe this doesn't really matter but thinking about it every time really leaves me shudder.

I apologize if I made it sound like I was dissing Notti. It's a good film but not among my favorite Visconti films. This film has a healthy number of fans of Notti. Some people don't like Ossessione but I think it's one of the greatest, most emotionally raw films ever made. This one remains my favorite Visconti film. Rocco and His Brothers and now Bellissima come very, very close.
Last edited by Michael on Fri Apr 21, 2006 11:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#14 Post by LonHuber » Fri Apr 21, 2006 11:52 am

davidhare wrote:I find at least the almost obscenely overdrawn music scores and cues are hugely manipulative. As is the general tone of the Zavattini screenplays.

But let's get into that in another thread. I really enjoy THIS picture.
I'm sure I'll like BELLISIMA a lot, I've not failed to enjoy any Visconti so far. I've had the DVD for a few weeks, and will be watching soon.

I'm not trying to start an argument regarding de Sica; I genuinely do not understand the force and sweep of your reaction. Danny Elfman writes "obscenely overdrawn music scores;" I've never heard anything like that in a de Sica film. I suppose a case could be made for "somewhat" manipulative, but if so then there's no difference between de Sica's use of music and Visconti's or (often) Rossellini's for that matter. As to the "general tone" of the scripts, I don't see it - that's why I asked for specifics in my original question.

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#15 Post by Lino » Fri Apr 21, 2006 1:59 pm

I once watched Bellissima on the big screen for the first time some years ago on a Visconti Retrospective and it somehow managed to stay with me ever since.

For me, this is not a Visconti film as say, The Leopard is a truly viscontian film. Magnani completely steals the film away from him and it becomes her, totally. In fact, she manages to do that in every film she stars in. She's way too big for the celuloid, anyway. Lucky us, I guess.

When I watched it, it was preceded by a short feature starring Magnani as well. It was a segment from an omnibus film called Siamo Donne. It was very funny and it was presumably inspired by an anedoctical event of Magnani's life in which she somehow manages to get herself arrested and the lengths she went through to solve the whole damn business. It's available in Italy on DVD without english subs.

Mr. Hare, if you're wondering about the DVD release of Senso, there is one out in Brazil which boasts to be from restored and remastered elements

It's been out for almost two years now and it's puzzling that it's not yet available in its home country. Oh, mais hèlas le DVD ne porte pas des sous-titres anglais. Dommage!

(maintenaint, on sent un trés violent cri venu de l'Australie - "Nom de Dieu!")

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#16 Post by david hare » Fri Apr 21, 2006 9:09 pm

Annie - queen of Brazil! Thanx for finding the Senso. I'll ponder this one, even sans subs.

I wondered when mention of Le Notti Bianche would come up. I personally find it very flawed, self consciously "literary" in a way The Leopard never is, and fatally miscast - particularly Maria Schell and Mastoianni who looks like he merely needs a game of football to snap him out of this foolish depression. He is also very wrong in The Stranger/'l'Etranger/lo Straniero, which also suffers from "Literary Masterpiece-ness". Strangely really as his disaffected numb journalist in la Dolce Vita is perfect.

Annie mentions Siamo Donne which I've never seen, but a friend at lunch yesterday remembers it fondly, especially for the home movie Rossellini segment with Ingrid watering the cabbages, or some such thing!

I regret Visconti's only other foray into comedy is a few scenes from Conversation piece. I really wish he had spent more time in this mode, and spared us things like - sorry Dylan - Ludwig, l'Innocente and Death in Venice.

LonHuber - regarding deSica. Again yesterday's lunch with old cinephile push friends reminds me we all came from a generation which venerated people like Stahl and the female "weepie" but had a distinct antipathy to the Zavattini, supposedly neo-realist "male weepie." Maybe it's generatonal/cultural. But looking at early Visconti again I still feel Neo-Realism must be one of the shortest lived "movements" in film history. And despite all the leftist basis for the Zavattini/de Sica pics the movies are essentially melodramas. For years now I've been far more interested in the post Noir American "realist" 40s and 50s movement - Kazan, Hathaway, Mankiewicz, Ray, Quine, Dassin etc etc, including many blacklistees whose American careers were cut short by HUAC.

EDIT: I couldn''t agree with you more about a lot of Renzo Rossellini's awful, cue-ey music in a number of bro's pictures. But Rossellini's mise-en-scene in things like Germania Anno Zero and Francesco maintains a constant detachment from the action, and his observations even of the devastating suicides of the children in Germania and Europa 51 are NEVER, never sentimental. Indeed in the latter, Rossellini's camera observes Bergman's distraught reaction to the death of her son in a profoundly meditative way, never inviting the audience to become immersed in her character, for the very reason that we must observe the rest of her journey through "society" and human relationships, to that other place of sainthood. Same with Francesco - two scenes always move me to tears - F talking to the birds who are "interrupting" his prayer, and his embrace of the leper and his futile attempt to transfer the man's suffering to himself. These are transcendentally beautiful moments and no amount of emphatic music scoring can touch them.

I also cry every time I see Flike run away from Umberto. But the tears one sheds in a de Sica are quickly gone, while the tears shed viewing a Rossellini touch the core.

Another big minus opf Notti is Nino Rota's tinkly little score. It bears no resemblance to his big gutsy scores for Fellini, and is indicative of the whole feel of the movie to me, in the sense that everyone involved with transferring the great Dostyevsky to the screen handled the whole project with tongs.
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#17 Post by kinjitsu » Fri Apr 21, 2006 10:06 pm

davidhare wrote:I regret Visconti's only other foray into comedy is a few scenes from Conversation piece. I really wish he had spent more time in this mode, and spared us things like - sorry Dylan - Ludwig, l'Innocente and Death in Venice. .

Oh c'mon David, Ludwig may be long and exasperating at times, but you have to admit that it's deliciously Wagnerian and gorgeous to look at, plus Helmut in fine hysterical form. Speaking of long Wagnerian epics, a friend of mine after a screening of Death in Venice, called it the longest cruise film ever made.

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#18 Post by david hare » Fri Apr 21, 2006 10:16 pm

With very bad hair job and makeup. I personally prefer the Night of the Long Knives as underwear drag party. Not to mention darling Helmut, never convincing as a het, muttering - "I vill DESTROY you Mudder." Plus Ingrid in post Cries and Whispers downhill mode. Surely Luchino KNEW he was making a piece of great camp with the Damned. And that hideous Maurice Jarre score.

After painfully sitting/shifting through even the shorter version of Ludwig a thousand years ago my arse was sore for a week. And not from pleasure.

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#19 Post by Dylan » Fri Apr 21, 2006 10:35 pm

Good God are people are pretty split on the bulk of Visconti. I love "Ossessione," "Senso," "Le Notti Bianche" (my favorite by a mile), "Rocco and His Brothers," "The Leopard," and "Death in Venice" and I really like and respect "La Terra Trema," and I can't wait to see the others. His films have certainly done a lot for me, I consider him a God among directors.

Michael, we just talked about how much you loved "Le Notti Bianche" not too long ago, no? Did you watch it again after that and it didn't hold up or something? It's supposed to be a dreamy romance, so I'm not sure why her walking out at night in a totally expressionistic town would bother you. I love that Visconti wrote in the whore and that sad, uncomfortable scene where Marcello is hit after he fails to be intimate with her. I can't stress enough how perfectly cast I feel Mastroianni is, it's one of my all-time favorite performances. If all else fails, how about his dance scene? That was simply marvelous. And Rotunno's coverage and lighting of the nightclub is absolutely burnished in my memory, as is the song "13 Women." I don't think there's anything remotely wrong with that film, it's as excellent as they come. I'm surprised there isn't more love for it here.

Wish I had seen "Bellissima" as that's the darling of the thread, but I haven't. I most certainly will though, but I'm not sure when. I'm sure it's terrific.

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#20 Post by Michael » Sat Apr 22, 2006 10:54 am

Dylan, Notti has numerous impressive qualities - lighting and editing to name a couple. The dance scene is the absolute highlight of Notti. It is a good film but if looking at the whole Visconti oeuvre, it's still not as stunning as most of his works. Yes, it's a dreamy romance but sadly it's so flat that it failed to maintain my attention during repeated viewings. The characters in Notti are too simple and not as rich or layered in any way as the ones in Ossessione or Bellissima or Rocco. Notti is just not chewy enough for me to want to come back to it again and again. It's pretty much crispy, leaving crumbs to be swept away quickly. I love Mastroianni and yes, he is in davidhare's words "fatally miscast". He didn't seem to really enjoy playing his Notti role as much as his Fellini roles or even the fabulous, delicious one in Divorce Italian Style. Bellissima's little girl is more memorable and interesting to watch than all the Notti characters put together.

I'm not sure why her walking out at night in a totally expressionistic town would bother you.

No, it didn't bother me a bit. I think you misunderstood. In the end when the snow fell overnight, I just couldn't deal with Natalia walking for hours in the thick snow with the type of shoes she had on (and no socks!), like it was nothing. If it was me, my toes would fall off! I know that sounds silly and like you said, everything's supposed to be totally expressionistic.

Dylan, I love the passion that you have for Notti and many other films. And that means the whole world to me.

I hope you will get to watch Bellissima soon. I've watched it twice already and the second viewing was even so much better.

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#21 Post by LonHuber » Sat Apr 22, 2006 7:12 pm

davidhare wrote:I couldn''t agree with you more about a lot of Renzo Rossellini's awful, cue-ey music in a number of bro's pictures.
What I said was:
LonHuber wrote:Danny Elfman writes "obscenely overdrawn music scores;" I've never heard anything like that in a de Sica film. I suppose a case could be made for "somewhat" manipulative, but if so then there's no difference between de Sica's use of music and Visconti's or (often) Rossellini's for that matter.
In other words, de Sica's scores are not "obscenely overdrawn," any more than those in Visconti or Rossellini films. You don't seem to be agreeing with me at all.
davidhare wrote:But Rossellini's mise-en-scene in things like Germania Anno Zero and Francesco maintains a constant detachment from the action, and his observations even of the devastating suicides of the children in Germania and Europa 51 are NEVER, never sentimental. Indeed in the latter, Rossellini's camera observes Bergman's distraught reaction to the death of her son in a profoundly meditative way, never inviting the audience to become immersed in her character, for the very reason that we must observe the rest of her journey through "society" and human relationships, to that other place of sainthood. Same with Francesco - two scenes always move me to tears - F talking to the birds who are "interrupting" his prayer, and his embrace of the leper and his futile attempt to transfer the man's suffering to himself. These are transcendentally beautiful moments and no amount of emphatic music scoring can touch them.
Aside from the music, your other evidence of the "gross sentimentality that pervades the deSica/Zavattini pictures" was "the general tone of the Zavattini screenplays." I asked for specific examples, and now you're off talking about Rossellini's mise-en-scene and/or directorial style. Is the problem with the de Sica films in the screenplays or not?
davidhare wrote:I also cry every time I see Flike run away from Umberto. But the tears one sheds in a de Sica are quickly gone, while the tears shed viewing a Rossellini touch the core.
If it affects you that way, then it affects you that way. That's a personal response, and you're welcome to it. Personally, I'm moved by de Sica and Rossellini (and Visconti) about equally, though in different ways in accordance with each director's unique talents.

However, whatever their differences, the differences exist in the context of some remarkable similarities. No one of them is so far from the other in tone as to justify characterizing the work as "gross sentimentality" or "melodrama." If THE BICYCLE THIEF or UMBERTO D. are melodrama, then ALL drama is melodrama, and we might as well erase the all distinctions between the terms.

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#22 Post by david hare » Sat Apr 22, 2006 7:51 pm

This is a worthwhile discussion but we should have been shifting it into another thread. I am really wearing out my comments on de Sica. In fact I normally try not to post about directors or movies I don't like. (But don't always take my own wise counsel.)

My problems with the Z/de Sica pics come from the way the sceenplays and the direction of the performers elongates pathos, and in a pre-Spielbergian, way manipulates the audience into predetermined feelings. Of course every director manipulates to a degree and purpose - Hitchcock, Lang whoever - by virtue of the simple fact they're shaping the material. But de Sica reminds me of George Stevens in the sense that the big emotional climaxes are stretched and played out for all they're worth. Part of this is surely due to the co-"authorship" of these movies by Zavattini and de Sica's apparent subservience to the screenplay.

You can see the difference when watching a master of melodrama like Mizoguchi - climactic moments with his heroines (inevitably Kinuyo Tanaka) in Life of OHaru, for instance evolving into emotionally moving spectacles organically, without underlining from scoring, extended closeups, etc etc. I do in fact like Umberto D. (Far more than the others) but I keep imagining it without the music for instance, or with a slightlly different emphasis on some of the secondary characters (landlady, pregnant housemaid etc) and think what a masterpiece it almost is. I certainly admire the fact that it doesn't simply portray Umberto one dimensionally.

Anyhow that's me. I have no desire to rain on other people's considerable pleasures with these movies (including several people whose taste I almost entirely share and respect.)

Getting back to Visconti - Vale the glorious Alida Valli. I am digging out my crap copy of Senso and wallowing totally today. Here is a magnicicent Visconti - all the things Notti Bianche fails at. Extreme paroxysims of emotion tipping over into hysteria, with Alida at the centre of it transcedning gross out with the sheer force of her performance (under Visconti's unrestrainedly powerful direction) and the ennobling underscoring of nothing less than Bruckner's 7th Symphony. Utterly flawless taste, mise-en-scene and judgment.

If there's time Im digging out Paradine Case, Spiders Stratgem, Luna and (even) Third Man for a day of Valli worship.

DYlan in an effort to put your mind at ease a rundown:

Ossessione - noir-operatic masterpiece
la Terra Trema - I admire it more than I like it but it IS his only true neo-realist work
Bellissima - great Magnani vehicle
Siamo Donne: episode - unseen
Senso - operatic masterpiece
le Notti Bianche - literary failure
Rocco e suoi Fratelli - operatic masterpiece
Boccaccio 70:Episode - fine Romy Schneider vehicle
il Gattopardo - operatic/post-literary masterpiece
Vaghe Stelle dell'Orsa - a sort of last film with a connection to Italian history; haven't seen for decades but used to love it. Jean Sorel, Claudia and music by Cesar Franck!
le Streghe/the Witches: Episode - great Claudia vehicle
the Stranger/lo Straniero/l'Etranger - literary flop
the Damned - operatic camp
Death in Venice - literary self indulgence, tragic queen syndrome
Ludwig (short version only seen) - a mess, teeters on tragic queen syndrome
Conversation Piece/Gruppa di Famiglia in un Interno - entertaining diversion (Italian lang only, English lang plays flat)
l'Innocente - literary flop (but he was on a stretcher, post-stroke.)

As a sidebar we should recall his work with Renoir, Partie de Campagne and la Tosca.

The gold completely outshines the dross, and he remains a major director for me.

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#23 Post by Dylan » Sat Apr 22, 2006 9:14 pm

I didn't need my mind to be put at ease, I was just surprised how split some of you seemed on him, but thanks for the rundown. You're certainly a fan of his first twenty years and I'm right there with you on the ones you like. However, I don't buy for a split second what you say about "Notti" (I love Rota's score too), but that's never been a very popular film on the boards. All of Visconti's films reach me on a very personal level, and I love that, but I also see him as one of the greatest craftsman and storytellers. I think about his films a lot, and I'd love to read a book on him, he had a fascinating life from the little I've read.

I don't think I should go too much into the De Sica/Rossellini thing, though I do think "The Bicycle Thief" is as beautiful and as important as any film ever made, and "Voyage to Italy" is wonderful.

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#24 Post by david hare » Sat Apr 22, 2006 10:16 pm

Now that Alida Valli has left us someone bring on Senso!!!!!

Watched again this morning and it still leaves me speechless. She has some incredibly prescient dialogue in the opening scene during the performance of il Trovatore when she "counsels" Farley Garnger/ Mahler not to take the melodramatics of opera out into life, "on the whim of an impulse you will forever regret." !!!!!!!

In a glorious sweep across 20 years Bertolucci has Valli in an almost silent small role in la Luna, virtually reviving her persona from Spider's Stratagem. In Luna, earlier he recapitulates Visconti's fantastic use of part of Act 11 Trovatore with mise-en-scene that swoops back and forth from the stage to the political passions in the auditorium, in the great scene with Matthew Barry rushing to watch the end of Act 1 starring his mother, and the fantastic backstage sequence which lovingly deconstructs all the stage mechanics of the production and ends filming the climax from the audience's POV in a celebration of opera and cinema.

Dylan, I really think given the interest in neo-realism someone should start a thread on just this subject. Re books, I only have the ancient Geoffrey Nowell-Smith. Any other recos welcome.

INterestingly Visconti uses actual locations in Venice for Senso, including il Fenice, perhpas to counter the massive stylization of the dramatic sequences. It must have looked hyper real in the original Technicolor - you cant really tell from any print I've ever seen which all fluctuate from yellow, to green to almost monochrome.

Lon if you are fond of V in an occasionally lighter mode you'll find Bellissima a treat.

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#25 Post by LonHuber » Sun Apr 23, 2006 3:19 am

Luchino Visconti by Gaia Servadio the only biography I've found in English. It is very readable, and seems reasonably objective, though it is by a friend and so unflattering material may have been left out or glossed over.

On the NOTTI BIANCHE issue, I can't think of it as literary at all. The striking artifice of the set to me is an announcement of how the film is meant to be taken, as a cinematic exploration of the operatic stage. The rhythms of the film, in dialogue, in narrative tempo, even in the blocking of the actors' movements - operatic in every way. Not to mention the story. I really liked it a lot, it was nice to see something so purely entertaining from a director who had previously been so grimly serious. Whether the characters had depth or not is irrelevant to me, as the film captivates me on an entirely other level. As to whether Mastroianni is miscast or not, I'm not prepared to say at this point. Maybe with more screenings. Certainly the melancholy which is often just below the surface of his expression is used icongraphically here - that may be all Visconti wanted, who knows?

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