The Stranger (Luchino Visconti, 1967)

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Dylan
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#1 Post by Dylan » Sat Jan 15, 2005 5:31 pm

This is one film that's almost an entire mystery to the film community. There was a thread about it on the old board over a year ago, and I thought it was time to bring it up again.

This is, at the moment, perhaps my most desired release out of all unreleased films. The film stars Marcello Mastroianni and Anna Karina (the best actor/actress combo I can conjure, personally), adapted from the novel by Albert Camus, and with a score by the late Piero Piccioni.

Has anybody on this board been able to see it? And another question, who has the rights to this film? Has anybody caught viewings in theaters and noticed logos? This is one lost film that I very much hope gets a release, as only a (reportedly) terrible, full screen, English dub boot is available.

Dylan

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#2 Post by david hare » Sat Jan 15, 2005 7:17 pm

Matt I'm sure this won't exactly make your day, but anyway:

It was screened initially in Oz at Sydney FF in 1968 and followed with a short commercial run. This is SO long ago I can hardly remember(I was still sneaking into movies in School Uniform - calm down TrAnnie). As I recall Paramount released it in Oz, have no idea about other territories, and I can't track down any VHS release here - the print was a French language version (with Marcello's voice dubbed but the remainder of the cast's own voices.) This would probably have been the preferred version to the Italian one.
As for the movie - I'm afraid it struck me as deathly dull. Nothing in the material seemed to me to be at all sympa with Visconti's style. No grand accumulation of decor, music, rivetting performances. Marcello seems totally miscast as Meursault (just as I think he is miscast in le Notti Bianche). Of all the performers only Karina comes alive. And like that movie it has the feel of a still-born high-toned literary adaptation. Another tell-tale sign of Visconti's decline as a filmmaker is the ubiquitous Zoom lens (which first reared its ugly head in Vaghe Stelle dell''Orsa.) Bear in mind this opinion from someone who has little time for Visconti's work after The Leopard - of all the later movies I can only re-watch Conversation Piece with any pleasure.

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#3 Post by david hare » Sat Jan 15, 2005 8:33 pm

Sorry Dylan photo had me fooled!

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Dylan
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#4 Post by Dylan » Sun Jan 16, 2005 2:16 am

Thanks for the comments flox, even if you didn't like it so much. Roger Ebert's reivew, one of the very few reviews of "Stranger" online, gives it four stars, but even he says Mastroianni is miscast. Since Marcello is my favorite actor, I can't see myself agreeing with that (and for the record, I personally thought he was perfect in "White Nights," which is not only his greatest performance, but also a beautiful portrait of a shy romantic), but then again, I'm not familiar with Camus' novel (but I am a fan of Mastroianni!).

Dylan

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#5 Post by david hare » Sun Jan 16, 2005 3:32 am

Yeah I figure what you mean about Marcello - he is surely not my very favorite actor but certainly an iconic presence in Italian cinema.

really I have to beg some latitude for seeing this nearly forty years ago but I really thought it was terrible. I recall the critical reception was also routinely down (but they were all dumb in those days I would trust Sarris more than Ebert if you can find a review.) The prob for Marcello was perhaps being a handsome, physical actor (as he is) in this with nothing to do except NOT react to everything around him and finally give in to a form of suicide. I do recall his scenes with Karina, which she alone brings to life, as though Visconti were merely illustrating Camus' text. But the movie just doesn't jell. On paper the movie sounds like a fantasy project for Antonioni (I have also imagined Michelangelo doing Proust) but he obviously never wanted to indulge in Clcassical Lit.

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#6 Post by cafeman » Sun Jan 16, 2005 1:50 pm

Marcello is da man, but he is totally miscast for this role. Maersault from the book doesn`t resemble Marcello in any way.

That said, L`Etranger appears to be the perfect material for Visconti to copletely botch. Being a enormous fan of the book, I`d like to see it anyway, but being an enormous anti-fan of Visconti, not with terror and trepidation in my bones.

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#7 Post by therainsong » Sun Jan 16, 2005 7:42 pm

I'm not sure what his opinion adds up to around here, but Leonard Maltin gives the film ***1/2 out of **** and says that Mastroianni is perfectly cast.

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#8 Post by david hare » Sun Jan 16, 2005 10:39 pm

He would.

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#9 Post by Jun-Dai » Tue Mar 08, 2005 4:23 pm

We never got around to seeing this film in the class I took on Visconti (we even read the novel in preparation for it). It's got to be one of the only films based on a novel that is itself based on another novel (the Postman Always Rings Twice) that the director has also adapted. I can only wonder whether Visconti makes any connections between these other works.

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#10 Post by iangj » Tue Mar 08, 2005 9:10 pm

I saw this ages ago (in the eighties, I think) and have to agree with Flixyflox: it is pretty awful. If you're approaching it from a love for the novel, you'll find it a complete travesty. As I recall, Nowell-Smith is pretty scathing about the film in his Visconti book.

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#11 Post by Lino » Wed Mar 09, 2005 5:29 am

Jun-Dai wrote: It's got to be one of the only films based on a novel that is itself based on another novel (the Postman Always Rings Twice) that the director has also adapted.
How come? I saw the film and read the book by Dostoievsky and didn't spot the reference. Isn't your mind playing tricks on you and putting White Nights and Ossessione together?

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#12 Post by david hare » Wed Mar 09, 2005 6:13 am

Yes annie it was!

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#13 Post by Lino » Wed Mar 09, 2005 11:33 am

Ok, I need a Scooby-Doo moment here (you know, that moment in the show where someone explained what went the hell on up until then) and need a kind soul to explain to me just where does Visconti's film version of Dostoyevsky's White Nights contains reference to The Postman always rings twice.

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#14 Post by Jun-Dai » Wed Mar 09, 2005 1:16 pm

I'm afraid you've wandered into the wrong thread. We're talking about Lo Straniero, based on L'Étranger, which in turn was based on The Postman Always Rings Twice, which was adapted into a film, Ossessione, by Visconti, before L'Étranger was written. The only thing that would make it weirder would be if Camus had based it on Visconti's film.

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#15 Post by Scharphedin2 » Wed May 17, 2006 5:33 am

I went to see "Lo straniero" at the Danish Film Institute a couple of years ago. The quality of the print was so poor that it made it very difficult to enjoy the film. Looking past this, I still feel that this film falls short of Visconti's best films.

As other posts have pointed out, Mastroianni was not ideal for the part of Mersault. For one thing, he seemed too old for the part, and he was not really believable as the kind of introvert and isolated character (that I at least remember the character in the novel to be). As with the film in general, my impression was that Mastroianni very much touched the character from a distance.

It may also be my memory playing tricks on me, but the film did not appear to have the balance of the book. The time that Mersault spends in prison does not carry the weight in the film that it did in the book, and the court proceedings played like a farce.

The locales used for the film did, and the look and atmosphere of the film as such did capture the mood of the book, and it did carry Visconti's signature.

I too would be very interested in hearing other opinions on this particular film.

Again, it was some time ago that I saw the film, and even longer since I read the book. I also have to say that it makes me ill at heart to write a rather negative piece on a film by Visconti starring Mastroianni, because Visconti is definitely one of my favorite directors, and I would almost watch anything with Mastroianni in it.

So, I also hope this film will see the light of day on DVD, and that it will lead to a new and much improved experience of the film. And, even more exciting are the rumours around here of "Senso" possibly coming sometime soon. This I have never had a chance to see, but everything I have read and heard about this film should make it one of Visconti's very best.

In closing, could anyone here give a definitive recommendation on which version of "Rocco and His Brothers" that I should pick up? I own the old Image Laserdisc, which did little more for this film, than the Danish Film Institute did for "Lo stranero". (Any region works for me).

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#16 Post by a7m4 » Wed May 17, 2006 8:15 pm

I saw this at UCLA during their Visconti retrospective in October 2004. The programmer that introduced this film mentioned that Visconti disowned the film because he thought that Mastroianni was miscast (he wanted Alain Delon in the role but the producer refused to pay his high salary), and the Camus estate would not allow him to adjust the story and was forced to stay very close to the novel. Supposedly Visconti wanted to to tie the war in Algeria into Meursault's actions and the story somehow (though I'm doubtful that would have made the film any better).

I have to agree with that the film doesn't work very well. It seems that because Visconti wasn't allowed the changes he wanted he instead turned to a stubborn fidelity to the text (down to a voice over which seems to have been taken word for word from parts of the book) that loses sight of the novel's effectiveness along the way.

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#17 Post by greekboy » Thu May 18, 2006 11:58 pm

Does anyone have any info on a release of Visconti's The Stranger on DVD. I recently reread the booka nd by chance noticed that Visconti made a film with Mastoianni. Any info would be appreciated.

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#18 Post by Anonymous » Fri May 19, 2006 4:10 am

Whilst not a great film, I feel that Visconti's L'Etranger is unfairly malaigned. The mis-en-scene is characteristically enveloping and the rights issues, I had been led to believe, are due to Visconti's subtle lack of fidelity to the text - an unsympathetic portrayal of Meursault and emphasis on the racial aspects of the crime. It is a separate entity from the novel, if you expect the same qualities you will surely be disappointed.

Visconti's use of the zoom lens in his later work is part of a defined visual style. There's more than one way to skin a goose.

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#19 Post by david hare » Fri May 19, 2006 4:32 am

The ONLY director to use the zoom with a meaning and purpose is surely Altman!

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#20 Post by otis » Fri May 19, 2006 7:48 am

davidhare wrote:The ONLY director to use the zoom with a meaning and purpose is surely Altman!
A bit of an exaggeration, David. What about, for example, Rossellini (La Prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV), Chabrol, Jancsó, Kubrick, and of course Michael Snow (Wavelength)? And doesn't the famous last (or second last) shot of The Passenger use a zoom to get through the bars and into the room?

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#21 Post by david hare » Fri May 19, 2006 9:02 am

Read me again -- "with meaning and purpose!"

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#22 Post by otis » Fri May 19, 2006 9:49 am

Can you explain what you mean by "meaning and purpose", and give one or two examples? I'm not being funny, but as so many discussions on this forum seem to consist of people talking at cross purposes, it'd be useful to get this clear before going further. I thought you meant something akin to "exploring the potential of the zoom lens in aesthetically interesting ways", and was trying to offer examples of other filmmakers who have done so (in my opinion, and certainly not taking anything away from Altman, who's obviously a master). Have I misunderstood?

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#23 Post by Scharphedin2 » Fri May 19, 2006 5:15 pm

You sure do know how to throw a party, davidhare :lol: I too look forward to your reply on this one...

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#24 Post by david hare » Fri May 19, 2006 5:19 pm

Sorry didn't mean to sound snappy.

What I'm saying is that Altman incorporated the zoom into his mise-en-scene for a long period - Nashville, Long Goodbye a Wedding. For him it's a visual means to dissociate individual actors and create the "Crowd". Also a way to maintain continuous action in long takes. Visconti appears to use it from Vaghe Stelle dell'Orsa on merely as a substitute for pans or dollies, but it becomes so overused it ends up a distraction.

I agree with you about Prise de Pouvoir (and some later "historical" Rossellinis like Agostino d'Ippona,) but R didn't use it in such a consistently stylistic fashion.

EDIT: Favorite Altman zoom sequence is the beach house in Long Goodbye, in which he pulls back and forth between Gould and NIna van Pallandt in the foreground, and Sterling Haydne in the background, on the beach committing suicide.

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#25 Post by Scharphedin2 » Fri May 19, 2006 5:59 pm

How about Kurosawa... I think he used it very consistently as a part of his style as well, although admittedly not to the extent of Altman.

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