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PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 10:58 am 
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Raffaello Matarazzo’s Runaway Melodramas

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In the late 1940s and early 1950s, film critics, international festivalgoers, and other studious viewers were swept up by the tide of Italian neorealism. Meanwhile, mainstream Italian audiences were indulging in a different kind of cinema experience: the sensational, extravagant melodramas of superstar director Raffaello Matarazzo. These galvanic hits about splintered lovers and broken homes, all written by Aldo De Benedetti and starring mustachioed matinee idol Amedeo Nazzari and icon of feminine purity Yvonne Sanson, luxuriate in delirious plot twists and overheated religious symbolism. Four of them, each more unbridled and entertaining than the last, are collected here, chronicles of men and women on winding roads to redemption.

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Chains

After years of working mostly on comedies and literary adaptations, Raffaello Matarazzo turned to melodrama with this intense tale of a tight-knit working-class family shattered by temptation. There’s a touch of noir in Chains (Catene), in which the virtuous yet earthy Yvonne Sanson, as the devoted wife of a mechanic (Amedeo Nazzari), finds herself unwillingly drawn back toward a criminal ex-lover.

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Tormento

Anna (Sanson) flees her home, where she has been victimized for years by her spineless father’s mean-spirited second wife, to be with her lover (Nazzari), an honest businessman yet to make his fortune. When he is accused of a murder he didn’t commit, the couple’s domestic tranquillity is upended.

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Nobody's Children

Bursting at the seams as it is with outlandish twists and turns, Nobody’s Children (I figli del nessuno) is only the first half of Matarazzo’s supersized diptych of melodramas, which chronicles the labyrinthine misfortunes of a couple torn cruelly apart by fate (and some meddling villains).

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The White Angel

In The White Angel (L’angelo bianco), Matarazzo’s sequel to his blockbuster Nobody’s Children, the perpetually put-upon Guido and Luisa (the Italian director’s eternal star couple, Nazzari and Sanson) return for a new round of trials and tribulations.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 6:46 pm 
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Has anyone seen the film contained herein?


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 6:49 pm 
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Criterion to me:


This is one of the releases we are most excited about too. Unfortunately, there's almost nothing written in English about Matarazzo, so he's a real discovery. Even our most adventurous filmgoing friends had never heard of him. It's surprising, because in Italy for a decade after the war, there was almost no one bigger. While the intelligentsia (at home and abroad) converged around neo-realism, Italian audiences converged on Matarazzo. His wonderfully entertaining melodramas, each more over-the-top than the last, made him hugely popular. If you're feeling resourceful, you could try to scare up the program notes to the 2007 Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, where we first saw these films, but otherwise you're just going to have to see the films for yourself and decide what you think. We love them. The image that we posted of Yvonne Sanson was from Tormento, in case you were wondering.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 6:54 pm 
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Peacock wrote:
Criterion to me:
Even our most adventurous filmgoing friends had never heard of him. It's surprising, because in Italy for a decade after the war, there was almost no one bigger.

Even if you take the Bondanella Matarazzo's at least mentioned in passing, so he isn't exactly the most unknown director imaginable.
There are no subs on these films on the net, therefore I welcome this set. I have however some doubts if the films are really top priority, a set of lesser known neorealistic features from Germi, Lattuada and De Santis might have been more interesting to the general public.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 7:01 pm 
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Great to see some Italian films released by Criterion that I've never even really heard of. Would love to get round to importing this set eventually.

lubitsch wrote:
Peacock wrote:
Criterion to me:
Even our most adventurous filmgoing friends had never heard of him. It's surprising, because in Italy for a decade after the war, there was almost no one bigger.

Even if you take the Bondanella Matarazzo's at least mentioned in passing, so he isn't exactly the most unknown director imaginable.
There are no subs on these films on the net, therefore I welcome this set. I have however some doubts if the films are really top priority, a set of lesser known neorealistic features from Germi, Lattuada and De Santis might have been more interesting to the general public.

Because it isn't as if pretty much of all Germi and Lattuada isn't already available on quality DVDs?


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 7:10 pm 
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lubitsch wrote:
Peacock wrote:
Criterion to me:
Even our most adventurous filmgoing friends had never heard of him. It's surprising, because in Italy for a decade after the war, there was almost no one bigger.

Even if you take the Bondanella Matarazzo's at least mentioned in passing, so he isn't exactly the most unknown director imaginable.
There are no subs on these films on the net, therefore I welcome this set. I have however some doubts if the films are really top priority, a set of lesser known neorealistic features from Germi, Lattuada and De Santis might have been more interesting to the general public.

To judge from what Criterion's saying about them, these were much more popular with the general public in Italy than even the major Neo-Realism stuff was, when they were being released. I bet that would still be true now.

Of course, people who blind-buy Eclipse sets are definitely not the general public, so movies more geared to the arthouse crowd might have a more established niche. I think Criterion's trying to create a new niche, though, and that's a motive I have a lot of respect for.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 7:18 pm 
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Postwar Italy kind of makes me drunk, so I think I need to get this.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 8:19 pm 
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Looked at one way, this is one of the most important Criterion releases in recent memory: A total rebuild of a truly obscure auteur. These are the left-field releases that Eclipse excels at. One thing that going through a lot of those neglected, non-auteur 60s Czech and Slovak films has shown me is that these kind of once popular or mildly mainstream films offer almost as many points of interest and enjoyment as their more well-known brethren, if you don't start to get overwhelmed at just how much of cinema we really don't know anymore.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2011 7:49 am 
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The climax set in a women's prison of THE WHITE ANGEL here, while opening of NOBODY'S CHILDREN is here...


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 10:39 am 
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Remember, you can enjoy "and cry" with Catene in Cinema paradiso, is the film that Totò has to carry on cycle because it's shown in two towns at the same time.

I've seen and own 3 of the 4 releases. Tormento not, but may be I'll buy the Italian dvd.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 11:21 am 
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matrixschmatrix wrote:
Of course, people who blind-buy Eclipse sets are definitely not the general public, so movies more geared to the arthouse crowd might have a more established niche. I think Criterion's trying to create a new niche, though, and that's a motive I have a lot of respect for.

So do I - it's analogous to what the BFI has been doing with postwar British film history and Second Run with Eastern European films. Critics and distributors alike are far too often enslaved by canons and official histories, but I think it's far more exciting to strike out into unknown or long-forgotten territory - especially if you end up finding and preserving work that's been undeservedly neglected.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 11:54 am 
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rohmerin wrote:
Remember, you can enjoy "and cry" with Catene in Cinema paradiso, is the film that Totò has to carry on cycle because it's shown in two towns at the same time.

I've seen and own 3 of the 4 releases. Tormento not, but may be I'll buy the Italian dvd.

Now I've seen that the films have all been released in Italy at fair prices, I think I'll purchase them from there. Not quite the "real discovery" Criterion has made them out to be.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:42 pm 
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Being a fan of Italian cinema and melodramas, this is most welcomed. For those of you who have seen Matarazzo's films, what are they like? I am curious why "runaway".


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:51 pm 
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Just from those excerpts on youttube, overheated melodrama seems to be more appropriate that 'runaway', with a heavy dose of religious heebyjeebies piled on, presumably presenting clear and ultimately reassuring moral messages set in the heightened context of glorified soap opera dilemmas, keenly devoured by the ordinary Italian peasant or industrial worker of the early 1950s...


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 3:24 pm 
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ellipsis7 wrote:
Just from those excerpts on youttube, overheated melodrama seems to be more appropriate that 'runaway', with a heavy dose of religious heebyjeebies piled on, presumably presenting clear and ultimately reassuring moral messages set in the heightened context of glorified soap opera dilemmas, keenly devoured by the ordinary Italian peasant or industrial worker of the early 1950s...

I'm Holy Mother Church and I approve of this message.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 4:02 pm 

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ellipsis7 wrote:
Just from those excerpts on youttube, overheated melodrama seems to be more appropriate that 'runaway', with a heavy dose of religious heebyjeebies piled on, presumably presenting clear and ultimately reassuring moral messages set in the heightened context of glorified soap opera dilemmas, keenly devoured by the ordinary Italian peasant or industrial worker of the early 1950s...

I don't know if you're Italian or not but I can tell you that you're absolutely right (and I'm 100% Italian)

That was the audience he had in Italy in those years and he's been recently rediscovered by some critics and film theorists, some compared him to Douglas Sirk ( ! ), his best work is considered 'La nave delle donne maledette' (The Ship of Condemned Women 1954), very rare to find even in VHS


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 5:05 pm 
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I know it doesn't fit within this box, but there's actually one Matarazzo film that's supposed to be good not just melodramatic crap and that's Treno popolare (1933). Amusingly this film is often compared to People on Sunday, so Criterion could have used it as an extra there.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 5:34 pm 
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Giulio wrote:
his best work is considered 'La nave delle donne maledette' (The Ship of Condemned Women 1954)
A film with that title could easily be great. And with these taglines, this is either one big bundle of camp or a frustrating case of false advertising.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 7:20 am 
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lubitsch wrote:
I know it doesn't fit within this box, but there's actually one Matarazzo film that's supposed to be good not just melodramatic crap and that's Treno popolare (1933). Amusingly this film is often compared to People on Sunday, so Criterion could have used it as an extra there.


There are some similarities, basically on the plot level: a Sunday outing, impressive outdoor photography of Orvieto, various couples and their affairs, some avant touches. But still, "Treno popolare" doesn't really work for me. It's played too much as an over-heated comedy, too 'hectic' (confirming each and every cliché about the Italians, I'm afraid), and simply doesn't have the emotional impact of "People on Sunday". Really glad that they opted for the Schüfftan.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:13 pm 
The White Angel is such a gorgeous film. It also predates Vertigo in the exquisite feminine transfiguration that will obsess the protagonist. It's curious to read some of the comments about Matarazzo in this thread, and what his films might be like. In the 50's it seems the same thing happened. Because his films were so popular in all the south of europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal), the critics rushed to judgement about them at the time, and he became completely forgotten with the passage of time.

In fact, it was with great surprise that Adriano Aprà was contacted by a young Bernard Eisenschitz when he went to Italy, to interview Matarazzo. It was the only(!) interview he gave all his life about making movies, and he died a few years later. At the time of his death, no one wanted to publish it. Only in the seventies when he was reavaluated by several french critics (what a surprise) did Positif published the interview. It seems Aprà regrets to this day not going with the young Eisenchitz to meet the venerable italian director. I remember this curious story from a lovely text that was written for a program of the 'Cinemateca'. I wished it was organized by date or film title so I could recover it right now from that immense pile of papers. Oh well.

The movies I've seen (Tormento and White Angel) are indeed quite excessive at first. You start to smile by how ridiculous and delirious the development of the story goes. But when you think you've seen it all, he really doesn't hold back and goes for broke. Everything is allowed to bring tears from the audience, and not so strangely it starts to get to you emotionally, despite your first thoughts. It has to be seen to be believed. It's the magic of cinema after all.

It may be an exaggeration to put him on the same level as other great melodrama filmmakers like Stahl and Borzage, but he certainly deserves to be known.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 10:31 pm 
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TMDaines wrote:
Now I've seen that the films have all been released in Italy at fair prices, I think I'll purchase them from there. Not quite the "real discovery" Criterion has made them out to be.

The kind of people that are aware of such things are even rarer than the likes of us who blind buy Eclipse sets. Considering that Criterion is an American company releasing films for an American audience, this is a rather ridiculous dig. Criterion's audience is a tiny fraction of the movie going public in America, and those like you who buy from numerous companies from numerous foreign countries, of which Criterion is one of many, are but a fraction of their targeted customers. So just because it's not a discovery for Italians (duh), doesn't rule it out as one for many of us. Indeed, that's kind of the point of releasing them! Not sure why a 60 year old Italian film being available in Italy should make it any more known in America.

I'm with Domino here, I think this is a fantastic release and a promising departure from using the line solely for "lesser" titles from masters. This is more what I envisioned when it began, and I'm excited as hell to give it a go - and NEVER would have known about any fairly priced Italian releases.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 11:19 pm 
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HistoryProf wrote:
I'm with Domino here, I think this is a fantastic release and a promising departure from using the line solely for "lesser" titles from masters.

I think that's a hurdle they passed a while ago- Nikkatsu Noir, Larisa Shepitko, Allan King, etc- but yeah, I think the claim that this set isn't something new to its intended audience because it was released in Italy (when even the person making the complaint hadn't been aware of these movies before this set's release) is fairly ridiculous. Unless Criterion starts digging up movies from time capsules, I think most anything they put out will have been viewable somewhere- the point is that Eclipse raises its profile dramatically, and introduces it to a new audience.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2011 5:16 pm 
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I agree completely....and that was all I was trying to say. Even with Allan King and Basil Dearden though, I knew about some of the films. This is really the first out of nowhere feeling since the Shepitko set for me. And I like it. Don't get me wrong, the Dearden set in particular was a great surprise and I adore it....but this one promises something those others can't: a complete revelation of something NEW to me. That's exciting, and I care not the least that Italians already own them. I'm not Italian.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 11:38 am 
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I buy stuff from Czech and Polish retailers all the time (I came back from Kraków last week with thirty DVDs somehow crammed into my suitcase without bursting it open), but I'm not under any illusion that I'm representing more than the most minuscule minority of English-speaking purchasers.

Even people who regularly import from other English-speaking territories often baulk at handing over credit card details to sites that aren't in English and aren't affiliated to majors like Amazon. In fact, I know some pretty heavy-duty film buffs who are so paranoid over the credit card issue that they won't import at all.


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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2011 8:35 am 
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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!...


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