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Napoli Napoli Napoli (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Abel Ferrara’s “Napoli Napoli Napoli” is a hybrid documentary that goes far to show the negative aspects of life in Naples and how several people were affected with the problems of their municipality.  But also featuring fictional storylines of crime and survival.  An audacious film  that strays from having any blaance and gives viewers an unforgiving look at Naples.

Images courtesy of © Rarovideo 2016. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Napoli Napoli Napoli (Naples Naples Naples)

FILM RELEASE: 2009

DURATION: 106 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (1:85:1), Italian 2.0 DTS, Subtitles in English

COMPANY: Raro Video

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2016


Directed by Anbel Ferrara

Written by Peppe Lanzetta, Maurizio Braucci, Gatano di Vaio, Abel Ferrara

Collaboration on Screenplay by Maria Grazia Capaldo

Produced by Pier Francesco Aiello, Massimo Cortesi, Gianluca Curti, Gaetano di Vaio, Luca Liguori

Associate Producer: Fabio Gargano, Pietro Pizzimento

Cinematography by Alessandro Abate

Edited by Fabio Nunziata

Production Design by Frank DeCurtis

Art Direction by Peppe Cerillo


Starring:

Lucy Lionello as Sebastiano

Salvatore Ruocco as Franco

Benedito Sicca as Carmine

Salvatore Striano as Gennaro

Ernesto Mahieux as Celestino

Shanyn Leigh as Lucia

Peppe Lanzetta as Padre di Lucia

Anita Pallenberg as Madre di Lucia

Giovanni Capalbo as Tic Tac, secondino


With his crooked face and rough demeanor Abel Ferrara looks and acts like he could have been born in Naples, Italy, the subject and location of his raw and hyperreality film Naples Naples Naples. Inspired by real events, this docudrama, narrated by the director, depicts a young woman metaphysically lost in the passionate and vibrant streets of Naples. Ferarra takes the viewer through the neighborhoods and parks of Naples while starkly showing the division between the classes. The undercurrent of characters associated with a women s prison penetrate the narrative with a message of injustice and despair. though criticized by some for its harsh representation of the city, the outcome is a portrayal of a city that no one has yet figured out, and that so many love, but also criticize; a city that has much to discover, but can never be known well enough. Ferarra depicts Naples through the words of the excluded and marginalized, portraying the chaotic mosaic of the Neapolitan universe with lucidity and love, characteristics that only he knows how to express with such intensity and immediacy.


Naples, the capital of the Italian region of Campania and the third largest municipality in Italy after Rome and Milan.

While historically, Naples is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and was once a cultural center for the Roman Republic long ago.  Despite having the fourth-largest urban economy in Italy after Milan, Rome and Turin and also is the birthplace of the original Neopolitan pizza, the city suffers from political and economic corruption and high unemployment.

Aside from the city being controlled by the stronghold of the Camorra – the local mafia, the city has been a dumping ground for toxic waste, garbage litters the streets, the main highway in the Mezzogiorno region is in horrible shape, a lot of fights and robberies happen in the city and it’s also one of the poorest cities in Europe.

But how bad is it?

In 2009, filmmaker Abel Ferrara’s (“The Funeral”, “Body Snatchers”, “King of New York”, “Bad Lieutenant”) documentary, “Napoli Napoli Napoli” would examine how bad things are within the cities in Naples.

And the documentary was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Raro Video.

Abel Ferrara’s “Napoli Napoli Napoli” is a documentary that interviews female and youth inmates about how they got in trouble and are serving time and how their city and living conditions led them to a life of crime.

The documentary interviews community leaders, journalists, lawyers and others who discuss the problems in Naples and various areas, the poor living conditions and lack of employment and how life is in the area.

Meanwhile, to add to the documentary are fictional storylines which were co-written by Abel Ferrara, Peppe Lanzetta (“Spectre”, “Take Five”), Maurizio Braucci (“Gomorrah”, “The Interval”, “Reality”) and Gaetano di Vaio (“Take Five”, “Scampia”, “Deep in the Wood”).

The fictional portions star Peppe Lanzetta, Luca Lionello (“The Passion of Christ”, “Sangue”), Salvatore Ruocco (“Gomorrah”, “Take Five”), Benedito Sicca (“Romanzo Criminale”), Salvatore Striano (“Caesar Must Die”, “Gomorrah”, “Take Five”), Ernesto Mahieux (“The Embalmer”, “Golden Door”, “Don’t Waste Your Time, Johnny!”), Shanyn Leigh (“Public Enemies”, “4:44 Last Day on Earth”, “Welcome to New York”), Anita Pallenberg (“Barbarella”, “Dillinger is Dead”, “Performance”) and Giovanni Capalbo (“The Passion of Christ”, “The Seventh Room”, “Colpo d’occhio”).

One story line revolves around the mafia and Sebastiano (portrayed by Luca Lionello) and Franco (portrayed by Salvatore Ruocco) are told by their boss that they must kill one of their own, Carmine (portrayed by Benedito Sicca) and must dispose of the body.

Another storyline revolves around a family, Padre di Lucia (portrayed by Peppe Lanzetta) is a drunkard and gambler and often yelling at his kids.  His daughter Lucia (portrayed by Shanyn Leigh) earns money for the family as a prostitute but when she gets home, her life is even more unfortunate.

And the other fictional storyline are men who are locked up in prison and all trying to co-exist in crowded prison settings.

A scathing hybrid documentary by filmmaker Abel Ferrara about the corruption of Naples.


VIDEO:

“Napoli Napoli Napoli” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1).  The documentary, while made in 2009, features a variety of archived sources, so as one can expect, picture quality is much better than other scenes through the film.  Fictional portions feature much better picture quality, while interviews and other footage, sometimes looks a bit aged or on a cheaper film stock.  But for the most part, picture quality is good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Napoli Napoli Napoli” is presented in Italian linear PCM 2.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear via center channel. I didn’t notice any hiss, crackling or pops during my viewing of the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Napoli Napoli Napoli” comes with the following special features:

  • Backstage – (33:53) Behind-the-scenes of the making of “Napoli Napoli Napoli”.
  • Trailer – Theatrical Trailer for “Napoli Napoli Napoli”

EXTRAS:

“Napoli Napoli Napoli” comes with a 16-page booklet featuring essays such as “Naples, daughter of the Bronx”, “Abel, the Cain of Cinema”, “Naples Naples Naples in Progress”, “Naples, the Capital of Cinema” and “Gaetano, the Neapolitan, Neapolitan, Neapolitan” plus “Little Big Stories of Prodution” and “Galactic Guide for Naples Naples Naples”.


Abel Ferrara’s “Napoli Napoli Napoli” is an unforgiving film on its portrait of the seedy, corrupted areas of Napoli.

No, you won’t find any positive things about the city when it comes to its museums, pizza or anything that would attract tourism to the location, considering the film is financed by the Regional Tourist Bureau, if anything, the documentary is a cautionary story of how government neglect, high unemployment and corruption has turned the once cultural center of Western Europe to a crime-filled city with drugs, murder, dilapidated buildings, people who have ended up in prison because they have no way for survival and some involvement in crime is there only way to survive.

For some viewers, they must be asking why Ferrara would create such a film?

His previous film, “Chelsea on the Rocks” (2008) focused on the famous tennants of the popular Hotel Chesea in New York, while his 2010 drama “Mulberry St.” focused on where Ferrara would start his film career in New York and events leading to the the celebration of Little Italy’s San Gennaro.

But “Napoli Napoli Napoli” is the most scathing of the three documentaries.  There is no doubt that Ferrara was trying to show viewers of how much of the mafia stronghold there is over the city and region but he tries to show a correlation of how many of these young men and women were introduced to a life of crime because of the mafia and the circumstances of why Napoli is the way it is, is because of the corruption in which the mafia is involved.

With government corruption and also corruption in law enforcement, with the already corrupted city, the film tries to show how a few residents feel that their choices are limited and there is nothing else out there for them but crime.

Apartments created in the ’60s which many residents are living in are now in bad shape and because of the way they were designed, they now resemble prisons and to make things worse, many people who are not financially stable, many who are unemployed are losing their homes.

While the documentary provides testimonies of various people, many who got involved in crime due to family or spouse involvement with the mafia, to others having to support their siblings after their parents have passed, these few who have turned to drugs and prostitution and were incarcerated.

But as journalists, lawmakers and community leaders give their two cents on the problems afflicting their area, there is a lot of talk and not enough being done.

Meanwhile, Ferrara blends fictional drama with one story featuring men from the mafia trying to off one of their own, another featuring a dysfunctional family that no doubt gets darker when you see what happens towards the end of the film and the tensions in prison due to overcrowding.

While documentaries try to keep some sort of balance of showing the bad and the good, “Napoli Napoli Napoli” doesn’t really show any signs of positive movement from the government or any way to solve the issue, because it has been going on for so long with no resolve.

Many who treasure Naples should feel badly for the way the film doesn’t show any shining light or glimmer of hope and had every reason to critique Abel Ferrara for his documentary showing Naples in a negative light.

The fact is that other countries or cities, may it be in Detroit, Rio de Janeiro, Manila, etc., there is crime in major cities, especially where there is high unemployment.  There are bad areas, there are bad people but a city and its people should not be generalized into this percentage of those who have committed a crime or live in poor areas.

But I will give filmmaker Abel Ferrara some respect in taking on a film and wiling to show an honest portrayal of those who were incarcerated and why.

As for the Blu-ray release, while the film is made in 2009, it may not have a digital feel to it, when compared to other recent films but footage does look slightly aged.  Just slightly.  And of course, as a documentary, you have a mix of present to archived historic footage of Naples in the past.

Overall, Abel Ferrara’s “Napoli Napoli Napoli” is a hybrid documentary that goes far to show the negative aspects of life in Naples and how several people were affected with the problems of their municipality.  But also featuring fictional storylines of crime and survival.  An audacious film  that strays from having any blaance and gives viewers an unforgiving look at Naples.

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Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

adua

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is among the most memorable films from filmmaker Antonio Pietrangeli. Featuring a fine cast of actresses and an entertaining and enjoyable storyline, if you are a fan of ’60s Italian cinema, you owe it yourself to own this wonderful Blu-ray release! “Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © Rarovideo 2014. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)

FILM RELEASE: 1960

DURATION: 129 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (1:65:1 aspect ratio), Original Italian, PCM Linear Dual Mono, Subtitles in English

COMPANY: Raro Video

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2015

Directed by Antonio Pietrangeli

Story by Ruggero Maccari, Antoni Pietrangeli, Ettore Scola

Screenplay by Ruggero Maccari, Antonio Pietrangeli, Tullio Pinelli

Produced by Moris Ergas

Music by Piero Piccioni

Cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo

Edited by Eraldo Da Roma

Production Design by Luigi Scaccianoce

Starring:

Simone Signoret as Adua Giovanetti

Sandra Milo as Lolita

Emmanuelle Riva as Marilina

Gina Rovere as Caterina Zellero, detta Milly

Claudia Gora as Ercoli

Gianrico Tedeschi as Stefano

Antonio Rais as Emilio

Marcello Mastroiani as Piero Salvagni

A rare masterpiece and a wonderful example of Italian Cinema starring two European film icons, Simone Signoret and Marcello Mastroianni, Adua and her Friends tells the story of four prostitutes forced to fend for themselves when a new law closes the bordellos of Rome. They pool their savings to open a trattoria, but find they cannot get a license. A prominent fixer with connections obtains the license for them, on the condition that they conduct their old business upstairs and pay him an exorbitant monthly fee. The works of Pietrangeli, one of the most talented members of the Italian neo-realism movement and capable of delivering gems such as Adua and her Friends and The Visitor definitely deserves to be revisited and to be exposed to a larger international audience.

A filmmaker who was known for his films and working with female talent in the commedia all’italian genre, Antonio Pietrangeli will be known as a director with so much potential, but also as a filmmaker who died while working on a film.

In his 15-years as a filmmaker, among his highlights in his oeuvre is his 1960 film “Adua e le compagne” (also known as “Adua and her Friends”).  A film co-written with filmmaker Ruggero Maccari, Ettore Scola and revered screenwriter and Federico Fellini collaborator, Tullio Pinelli.

The film would star well-known talents such as French actress Simone Signoret (“Casque d’or”, “The Crucible”, “Room at the Top”, “Ship of Fools”), Italian actress Sandra Milo (“8 1/2”, “Juliet of the Spirits”), French actress Emmanuelle Riva (“Hiroshima mon amour”, “Amour”), Italian actress Gina Rovere (“Big Deal on Madonna Street”, “Life is Beautiful”) and actor Marcello Mastroianni (“8 1/2”, “La Dolce Vitta”, “Divorce Italian Style”).

And now Pietrangeli classic “Adua e le compagne” will be released on Blu-ray in North America courtesy of Raro Video.

The film begins with a brothel shutting down and prostitute Adua Giovannetti (portrayed by Simone Signoret) coming up with a business plan to create a brothel but in order to get clients, for her and her business partners to start off by creating a restaurant.

But in order to make this plan work, she needs business partners and she enlists the sexy and bubbly Lolita (portrayed by Sandra Milo), the often stressed out single mother Marilina (portrayed by Emmanuelle Riva) and the quiet, yet fiery Milly (portrayed by Gina Rovere).

The four pool in their money and purchase a run down building but yet rebuild it to become a beautiful restaurant.

But as the four of them want to escape their former lives as prostitutes, the more they miss the life of making money by sleeping with men.

And as the plan is to create the atmosphere of starting their own restaurant and bringing patrons through their door, their goal is to slowly attract the male visitors for their brothel.  But will their plan work?

VIDEO:

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is presented in 1080p High Definition (black and white, 1:66:1).

The film is well-contrast as black levels are nice and deep, whites and grays are presented also with very good clarity.  I didn’t notice any glaring problems with prominent artifacts, nor did I see any major film damage such as scratches or stains.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is presented in Italian linear PCM 2.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear via center channel. I didn’t notice any hiss, crackling or pops during my viewing of the film.  Piero Piccioni’s score sounds crisp and clear, as well as the dialogue.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” comes with the following special features:

  • Introduction by Maurizio Porro – (6:57) Featuring an introduction by cinema journalist Maurizio Porro.
  • Short film: “Girandola 1910” – (10:31) A short by director Antonio Pietrangeli.

EXTRAS:

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” comes with a slipcover and a 12-page booklet featuring essays such as “Prospectus” by Bruno di Marino and also an introduction by Lara Nicoli which was for the original VHS release of “Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” from Minerva Classic.

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is an Antonio Pietrangeli film that has captivated Italian cinema fans for decades.

Often called a feminist film as four women try to become independent and run a professional business was against the norm of what was released in Italian cinema during the ’50s and ’60s, but to also show a sign of desperation as four of the women are prostitutes who want nothing more but to live a different life but can they?

The film features two well-known actresses from French cinema, Simone Signoret and Emmanuel Riva who give a wonderful performance along with Sandra Milo and Gina Rovere as four women who must take their lives into a new direction as their brothel was closed due to the Merlin Law of 1959.

While the Italian Cineaste may remember Federico Fellini’s “Nights of Cabiria” of 1957 as a film that showed audiences about the challenging life of a prostitute, but yet feels liberated because of the independence the job brings to her.  The emotional discontent of the prostitute is further more captured in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film “Accattone” which showed that Italian society must conform to modern consumerist culture.  Pasolini called it “cultural genocide”.

And the same can be seen with Antonio Pietrangeli’s film “Adua e le compagne” (also known as”Adua and her Friends”) as four prostitutes, forced out of their job due to the Merlin Law band together, pool their money to rent a flat and in order to avoid the law, create a restaurant.

And it’s through the restaurant that these women start to see a sign of their own success but also a place of safety.

Their restaurant allows them to befriend a monk from the nearby Catholic monastery, the restaurant allows the women to meet men who respect them, the restaurant allows a single mother to reunite with her son that she never sees.

But as the restaurant brings them to peace, safety and success, not all is good as the women start to miss their old life and making money through sex.

The goal of having a restaurant to entice men and to have a hidden brothel becomes problematic when their old customers start arriving to the restaurant with their families.  Their guilty conscience starts to get the best of them when they meet well-mannered, loving men but to not know how a man would react to their past life.

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is a film that is not as deep or dark as a Fellini or Passolini film about prostitution but it ranks high up there because it is a film that presented hope, but similar in the fact that to these women, there is no escape.  And Pietrangeli is able to bring out human emotion, the anguish of a life that one wanted, what one hoped for, but to see it destroyed.

There is no doubt that “Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” will be seen as one of Antonio Pietrangeli’s finest films from his oeuvre, next to his Berlin International Film Festival award winning 1964 film “La Visita” and his 1965 Silver Ribbon award winning film “Io la conoscevo bene”.  While he directed 14 films and wrote screenplays for many, unfortunately, the Pietrangeli would die in a drowning while filming “Come, quando, perche” in 1969.

As mentioned earlier, the film does star quite a bit of talent including Marcello Mastroianni who plays a seedy salesman/playboy.  But the film entices you with its four female talent.  Simone Signoret plays a strong character, Adua Giovannetti, who tries to keep the business together and making sure the women don’t stray far from what they agreed upon.  But her final scene is heartbreaking considering you want to root for Adua because she was able to create a major business but unfortunate situations happen.

Sandra Milo is the film’s bombshell with her flirty, bubbly attitude.  Emmanuelle Riva plays the single mother who has her own personal issues, part of her wants to be a mother to her son, while part of her misses the life of a being a prostitute.  And you have Gina Rovere, the person who has the opportunity to live a normal life with a man, but feels to guilty because of her past.

You want to root for these women to be successful but like other Italian films about prostitution, unlike America’s “Pretty Woman”, there is not always a happy ending or a fairy tale… just reality.

The film looks very good on Blu-ray as I didn’t see any major film damage during my viewing.  The soundtrack was also crisp and clear with no signs of popping or crackling.  And you also get a few special features and a 12-page booklet which are included.

Overall, “Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is among the most memorable films from filmmaker Antonio Pietrangeli.  Featuring a fine cast of actresses and an entertaining and enjoyable storyline, if you are a fan of ’60s Italian cinema, you owe it yourself to own this wonderful Blu-ray release!

“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is recommended!

 

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L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

loveinthecity

Fans of Italian cinema or Italian Neo-Realism will enjoy “L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)”.  While only one film from this project was created, “L’Amore in Citta” is a fascinating time stamp of Italian culture in the 1950’s and one of the more enjoyable “love” anthologies to feature multiple filmmakers.  Entertaining and recommended!

Images courtesy of © Rarovideo 2014. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)

FILM RELEASE: 1953

DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 4:3 Letterbox, Italian Linear PCM Dual Mono, Subtitles in English

COMPANY: Raro Video

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2014

Directed by

Michelangelo Antonioni (segment “Tentato suicido”)

Federico Fellini (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Alberto Lattuada (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Carlo Lizzani (segment “Amore che si paga, L'”)

Francesco Maselli (segment “Storia di Caterina”)

Dino Risi (segment “Paradiso per 3 ore”)

Cesare Zavattini (segment “Storia di Caterina”)

Written by

Michelangelo Antonioni (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Aldo Buzzi (segments “Tentato suicidio”, “Gli Italiani si voltano”, “Amore che si paga, L'”, “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Luigi Chiarini (segments “Tentato suicidio”, “Gli Italiani si voltano”, “Amore che si paga, L'”)

Federico Fellini (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Marco Ferreri (segment “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Alberto Lattuada (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Luigi Malerba (segments “Tentato suicidio”, “Gli Italiani si voltano”, “Amore che si paga, L'”, “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Tullio Pinelli (segments “Tentato suicidio”, “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”, “Italiani si voltano, Gli”, “Amore che si paga, L'”, “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Dino Risi (segment “Amore che si paga, L'”), (story) (segment “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Vittorio Veltroni (segments “Tentato suicidio”, “Gli Italiani si voltano”, “Amore che si paga, L'”, “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Cesare Zavattini (segments “Tentato suicidio”, “Gli Italiani si voltano”, “Storia di Caterina”, “Amore che si paga, L'”, “Paradiso per 4 ore”)

Produced by Marco Ferreri, Riccardo Ghione

Associate Producer: Cesare Zavattini

Music by Mario Nascimbene

Cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo

Edited by Eraldo Da Roma

Production Design by Gianni Polidori

Starring:

Rita Josa (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Rosanna Carta (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Enrico Pelliccia (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Donatella Marrosu (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Paolo Pacetti (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Nella Bertuccioni (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Lilia Nardi (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Lena Rossi (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Maria Nobili (segment “Tentato suicidio”)

Antonio Cifariello – Giornalista (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Livia Venturini (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Maresa Gallo (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Angela Pierro (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Rita Andreana (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Lia Natali (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Cristina Grado (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Ilario Malaschini (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Sue Ellen Blake (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Silvio Lillo (segment “Agenzia matrimoniale, Un'”)

Caterina Rigoglioso (segment “Storia di Caterina”)

Mara Berni (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Valeria Moriconi (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Giovanna Ralli (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Ugo Tognazzi (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Patrizia Lari (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Raimondo Vianello (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Edda Evangelista (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Liana Poggiali (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Marisa Valenti (segment “Gli Italiani si voltano”)

Maria Pia Trepaoli (segment “Italiani si voltano, Gli”)

Marco Ferreri (segment “Gli Italiani si voltano”)

Mario Bonotti (segment “Gli Italiani si voltano”)

Seven top Italian filmmakers pooled their talents on the omnibus “reality” feature Amore in Citta Love in the City. The film is divided into six separate episodes; the first of these, “Paid Love,” is a straightforward study of prostitution written and directed by Carlo Lizzani. In the second, Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Attempted Suicide,” several would-be suicides discuss the reasons for their despair. Dino Risi’s “Paradise for Four Hours” is a humorous glance at a provincial dance hall. Federico Fellini’s “Marriage Agency” finds an investigative reporter posing as a husband-to-be. Cesara Zavattini and Umberto Maselli’s “Story of Caterina” dramatizes the true story of a young unwed mother. And “Italians Stare,” written and directed by Alberto Lattuada, illustrates the various “girl-watching” techniques of Italian males. Among the actors participating in the six vignettes are Ugo Tognazzi, Maressa Gallo, and Caterina Riogoglioso. Originally intended as the first installment in a “movie magazine” titled “The Spectator,” Amore in Citta was released at 110 minutes; most American prints are bereft of the opening “Paid Love” segment.

In 1953, filmmaker Cesare Zavattini wanted to create a film project to capture reality.

The original plan was to create a six-monthly film journal titled “Lo Spettatore” (The Spector) and kick off with the first project titled “L’Amore in Citta” (Love in the City).

Produced by Zavattini, Riccardo Ghione and Marco Ferreri, the film did poorly and Zavattini’s project ended.

But decades later, for cinema fans, “L’Amore in Citta” is one of those rare Italian neo-realism films that would bring together various filmmakers for six short vignettes on various aspects of love and sex.  What Zavattini wanted to accomplish was to get different (young) filmmakers at the time, who brought different perspectives for his project.

The film would feature the work of Carlo Lizzani, Michelangelo Antonioni, Dino Risi, Federico Fellini, Francesco Maselli and Cesare Zavattini and Alberto Lattuada.

And now, “L’Amore in Citta” (Love in the City) has been released on Blu-ray courtesy of Raro Video.

“L’Amore in Citta” kicks off with an eleven minute short film by director Carlo Lizzani showcasing different types of love in Italian society.  The following 22-minute short film titled “Attempted Suicide” is directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and revolves around various women who fell in love and had their hearts broken and thus, tried to kill themselves.

The 12-minute short film titled “Paradise for Three Hours” and is directed by Dino Risi about men and women who meet at the dance halls and members of both opposite sex wanting to have fun with each other by dancing and possibly having a relationship and seeing how the various sexes respond during those three hours.

“Marriage Agency” directed by Federico Fellini is a 16-minute film revolves around a journalist trying to find an underground marriage agency and wants to know why people would use such a service.  So, he invents a story in order to meet one of the women who wants to get married with someone anonymous and find out why.

The longest film in “L’Amore in Citta” goes to Francesco Maselli and Cesare Zavattini’s film titled “Story of Caterina” and revolves around a single mother and her child.  The mother is doing all she can to make money by becoming a prostitute or whatever she can to take care of her young son.  But how far will this mother go, when she decides that taking care of her son is too difficult.

The final film titled “Italians Turn Their Heads” is a 14-minute film that requires no dialogue but showcasing beautiful actresses: Valeria Moriconi, Giovanna Ralli, Patrizia Ralli and various women walking through crowds and seeing many men turning their heads to see their legs or derriere.

VIDEO:

“L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)” is presented in 1080p High Definition (black and white, 4:3). While there are traces of some white specks, the film looks great.

According to Raro Video, “the scene negatives and inflammable soundtrack conserved at Studio Cine where they were processed in 2001 were made avaialble for restoration by the owners, Studio Canal Image and Minerva International Group, while the project was funded with a contribution from the Municipality of Rome.  As well as problems deriving from breakage and interpolations which interrupt the narrative, a whole section of the scene negatives – the final part of Antonioni’s episode – was also damaged, probably erased by the censors.  Nevertheless, a check-print and a lavender were printed and thus a dupe negative was created, while a vintage lavender, made available by Minerva International Group, was used to reintegrate the gaps in the original.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)” is presented in Italian linear PCM dual mono with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear via center channel. I didn’t notice any hiss, crackling or pops during my viewing of the film.

According to Raro Video, “the sound was transcribed onto a digital support from a safety dupe soundtrack conserved at the National Film Library and then re-transcribed onto a new photographic negative at Cinecitta Studios.  Two positive copies were thus printed from the new negative soundtrack and the restored dupe”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by: Gabrielle Lucantonio (introduction), Carlo Lizzani (Love for Money), Guido Chiesa (Attempted Suicide), Mimmo Calopresti (Paradise for Three Hours), Silvano Agosti (Marriage Agency), Francesco Maselli (Story of Caterina) and Mario Brenta (Italian Turns Their Heads).
  • Interview with Paolo Mereghetti – (13:12) Film critic Paolo Mereghetti discusses “L’Amore in Citta”.
  • Interview with Luca Bandirale – (23:39) Film critic Luca Bandirale talks about the music compositions of “L’Amore in Citta”.
  • Interview with Angelo Pasquini – (15:04) Screenwriter Angelo Pasquini discusses “L’Amore in Citta”.
  • Trailer – (3:10) Theatrical trailer for “L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)”.

EXTRAS:

“L’Amore in Citta” comes with an 20-page booklet featuring “Young Directors Mature” by Gabrielle Lucantonio, “Notes on the Restoration of the Film” and “According to Cesare Zavattini”. A slip cover is also included.

As a cinema fan of Italian Neo-Realism, “L’Amore in Citta” was a fascinating and bold project for Cesare Zavattini and his fellow filmmakers.

To create a cinematic “issue” and giving free reign to the filmmakers to create whatever they want, but in the grounds that there is no pay but they would be responsible for their own expenses.  In some ways, some may cringe at the idea of doing pro bono type work and incurring expenses but the fact is these men were friends, they were filmmakers and they banded together to create such a film.

“L’Amore in Citta” unfortunately was not a success but what we have is a collaborative film project, a staple of time from older Italy and a film that cineaste can observe the various cinematic styles, the different perspectives of Italian society in the early 1950’s and enjoy or be nostalgic of the past.

As the film focuses on various types of “love”, as we have seen in recent films such as “Paris, Je T’aime” or “Heroes in Love” which also featured various filmmakers create short films about love, “L’Amore in Citta” is a film that captures early ’50s Italian society with efficacy.

A look at prostitution post-war in “Love for Money” by Carlo Lizzani, people who claim they tried to kill themselves due to love or failed love in Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Attempted Suicide” or where everyone goes to hook up – the dance hall as featured in “Paradise for Three Hours” by Dino Risi.

According to Risi, at the time of the filming, he focused on young housemaids who only had a few hours on Sunday off and for fun and entertainment, all they had were the dance houses.

But it’s the next three films that captivated me.

Federico Fellini’s “Marriage Agency” about a journalist trying to uncover why men and women are getting hitched through an underground marriage agency, which has been since superseded in cinema about people marrying under the table for citizenship, the next film “Story of Caterine” by Francesco Maselli and Cesare Zavattini is the heaviest of the three films in terms of plot as it deals with a poor woman, a single mother with a young boy who is unable to raise him like she wants to and is torn by keeping him or leaving him to ensure a better life for him.  And of course, the storyline of a love between a mother and her child is a fitting storyline for the film.

But what’s interesting is the final story of the film, which is the most lighthearted of them all, is “Italians Turn Their Heads” by filmmaker Alberto Lattuada.  While Lattuada filmed behind a minibus with black curtains, he captured the real reactions of people walking by beautiful women as they checked out the women’s rear and their legs.  While it’s a combination of real footage mixed with footage that was planned, both are able to co-exist in a natural and amusing manner.

But these are all stories that I found quite effective, while others worked much better than others, all were rather fascinating pieces of Italian life.  I have to admit that the one that I was most disappointed in was Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Attempted Suicides”.  Even Antonioni felt that two cases were real, while others seemed contrived and fake.  I have to agree.  Some of the individuals do not seem genuine and in turn, made his portion of the film seemed unnatural.

The most surprising is the “Story of Caterine”.  Granted, Francesco Maselli and Cesare Zavattini used a real actress in Caterina Rigoglioso but still, the point was capturing a mother’s connection to her child and the desperation of the character, it’s an emotional scene that anyone watching the film can understand and sympathize with.    It does go against the Neo-Realism of utilizing professional actors vs. non professional actors but he needed emotion, he needed desperation and Caterina Rigoglioso delivered.

As for the Blu-ray release, “L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)” is a magnificent release.  The restored film looks fantastic on Blu-ray and the soundtrack is clear with no significant hissing or crackling.  You also get audio commentary along with interviews.

Overall, fans of Italian cinema or Italian Neo-Realism will enjoy “L’Amore in Citta (Love in the City)”.  While only one film from this project was created, “L’Amore in Citta” is a fascinating time stamp of Italian culture in the 1950’s and one of the more enjoyable “love” anthologies to feature multiple filmmakers.  Entertaining and recommended!

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The Vanquished (I vinti) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray disc Review)

July 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

thevanquished

“I vinti” is wonderful Blu-ray release containing Michelangelo Antonioni’s earlier film but its inclusion of the original Italian episode and the inclusion of “Attempted Suicide” makes this release quite appealing for the cineaste.   “I vinti” (The Vanquished” from Raro Video is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Rarovideo 2014. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Vanquished (IVinti)

FILM RELEASE: 1953

DURATION: 112 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 35 mm, B&w, Italian, English and French linear PCM dual mono

COMPANY: Raro Video

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: July 8, 2014

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

Written by Michelangelo Antonioni, Giorgio Bassani, Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Diego Fabbri, Roger Nimier, Turi Vasile

Produced by Mario Gabrielli

Music by Giovanni Fusco

Cinematography by Enzo Serafin

Edited by Eraldo Da Roma

Production Design by Roland Berthon, Gianni Polidori

Starring:

Franco Interlenghi as Claudio

Anna Maria Ferrero as Marina

Eduardo Ciannelli as Claudio’s Father

Evi Maltagliati as Claudio’s Mother

Peter Reynolds as Aubrey

Patrick Barr as Ken Wharton

Fay Compton as Mrs. Pinkerton

Etchika Choureau as Simone

Challenging the linear narrative by weaving multiple story lines and exploring a directorial style way ahead of his time, Director Michelangelo Antonioni’s unique triptych film, features three murders, one taking place in Paris, another in Rome, and another in London. All of the perpetrators are affluent youths, each killing for dubious motives. In the France segment, a group of adolescents kill for money, even though they don’t need it; in the London segment, a poet uncovers a woman’s body and tries to profit from the discovery; and in the Italian segment, a student becomes caught up in a smuggling ring, with deadly results.

With elements that serve as a precursor to Blowup, Antonioni explores how modern society can produce nihilistic tendencies in the least likely characters.

Before filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni created masterpieces such as “L’Avventura”, “L’Eclisse”, “Red Desert”, “Blow Up” to name a few, and before he would earn the monicker of the “Master of Alienation”, even Michelangelo had a to endure many earlier years to become the legendary director which he is well-regarded today.

From his early documentary years which began in 1947, it has not always been an easy road for Antonioni.

1953 were years that he found most difficult with “The Lady Without Camelias” and “I vinti” (The Vanquished).  Two films that were created but were changed from its original idea and changes which even Antonioni said in his book “The Architecture of Vision: Writings and Interviews on Cinema” as being “bitter”.

But bare in mind, these are words from an Antonioni looking at things in hindsight.  A seasoned filmmaker, like all veterans, who probably can say they would do things differently than their less experienced selves from long ago.

But with “I vinti”, the film was controversial at the get go.  A film with three stories based in France, Italy and England and focuses on juvenile delinquents, who were people that grew up on the threat of war.  They were a generation that was born of violence in the media.

Based on actual stories that did happen, suffice to say, relatives of those involved in the stories fought hard to block the film.  Countries went as far as to block the film and in order to get them shown in theaters, Michelangelo Antonioni had to reshoot and re-edit the film to please censors.

While many have seen the edited version of the Italian portion of “I vinti”, Raro Video is giving cineaste a chance to watch these films in its original presentation but also including the rare original Italian edit.

For its remastering, many sources were used to bring this film onto Blu-ray but for any Michelangelo Antonioni fan, seeing any of his earlier works is a treat as we can see the beginnings of a filmmaker who would captivate viewers several years later with his documentary approach, his appreciation of shooting in different countries but giving the cineaste a chance to see Antonioni prior to “L’Avventura” and his masterpiece films, before “Il Grido” but to see a glimpse of his cinematic genius in his earlier years, despite the restraints of censorship.

“I vinti” begins with the French episode based on the true story of “Affaire J3” (a young man named Allan Guyader who was killed by his friends during a picnic near the woods).

The French episode begins with two brothers and female friends who have come good families wanting to murder one of their friends for his money.  Not knowing that their bragging friend who they think is wealthy, is actually a counterfeiter and is not rich at all.

These teenagers have no guilty conscience about what they are going to do and they plan their murder by dragging their so-called friend to the woods for a picnic.

The Italian episode is based on Achille Billi, a fascist supporter found dead on the River Tiber in Rome.  Because of censorship, this storyline has changed dramatically to a young man named Claudio (portrayed by Franco Interlenghi) from a wealthy and proud family.

But despite the great upbringing and having a girlfriend from a wealthy family, all Claudio wants is a carefree life in which he could live the way he wants and make his own money.  And that is by contraband.

One day, after trying to secure a delivery of cigarettes, custom agents come to arrest those involved, while Claudio runs away in panic.  While trying to escape to the dock, he runs into a sailor who tries to prevent him from going towards the dock and kills him with his gun.

While trying to escape, Claudio jumps from a high distance and is injured to the point he feels sickened.  But what happens when Claudio contacts his girlfriend to confess his crimes and the secret life of crime that he has lived?

The Blu-ray of “I vinti” (The Vanquished) also includes the original Italian episode (which was lost but found in the ’90s) that was shown in ITalian cinemas before being censored and reshot.

The English episode is based on Herbert Mills, a 19-year-old young man who murdered an aging prostitute for no reason.

In this story, Aubrey (portrayed by Peter Reynolds) reports finding a body of a dead woman and sells his story to journalist Ken Wharton (portrayed by Patrick Barr).  Aubrey is in the newspapers and there is no doubt that being on the newspapers is something he loves and craves for.

Despite making money and spending it all, Aubrey contacts Ken Wharton about a possible news lead in hopes he could be on the newspaper again.  Ken thinks that Aubrey is just wanting money but is unable to figure out why, since he c0mes from a good home.  But Aubrey then tells the journalist…what if he was responsible for killing the prostitute?

VIDEO:

“I vinti” is presented in 1080p High Definition (black and white, 1:37:1 aspect ratio).  Before the film, you are given a text about how the remastered version of the film came from different sources.  With that being said, considering the age of the film, this was the best I have seen of “I vinti” considering previous versions I have seen were faded and nearly warped on VHS.  Contrast levels are good and for the most part, I did not see any excessive film damage or any problems with picture quality during my viewing of this film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“I vinti” is presented in Italian linear PCM dual mono with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear via center channel. I didn’t notice any hiss, crackling or pops during my viewing of the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“I vinti” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Franco Interleghi – (10:23) Interview with the man who played Claudio in the Italian episode.
  • Interview with Turi Vasille – (12:53) Interview with writer/producer Turi Vasille about the state of Italian cinema and how Antonioni had to work with what was common to see on newspaper media at the time.
  • Short Film: Attempted Suicide (Tentato Suicido) – (22:47) A short film about people who discuss why they tried to kill themselves.  The short film was an episode for the 1953 film “Love in the City”.
  • Uncut Version of the Italian episode – (30:07) The following is the uncut version of the Italian episode shown in Venice back in 1953.

EXTRAS:

“I vinti” comes with an 8-page booklet featuring “The Story of the Vanquished” by Stefania Parigi.  A slip cover is also included.

thevanquished-b

As a fan of Michelangelo Antonioni’s work, there is no doubt that his oeuvre features masterpiece films well-regarded by cineaste for its artistic composition, the use of characters and the sense of alienation.

From “Il Grido”, “L’Avventura”, “La Notte”, “L’Eclisse”, “Red Desert”, “Blowup” being the prominent films which he is known for, what great of a time to now have the opportunity to watch Antonioni’s earlier work.

Of course, his earlier work from 1953 is not the greatest of times in Antonioni’s cinematic career, as he was often critical of his film “The Lady Without Camelias”, he also had a lot to say about the censorship that his film “I vinti” had endured.

“I vinti” was a film that was funded by Catholic priests that was to portray how children of the bourgeoisie, would become criminals.

There was no hiding of it, it was in the media and people knew about it.  Except the fact that certain countries did not want the world to know about it and fought hard to make sure that “I vinti” was not screened.

“I vinti” featured an original Italian episode about a political assassination created by antifascists and Christian Democrats and producers rejected this version of the film.  Meanwhile, the French government did not want the story of the J3 to become known worldwide.  The parents/relatives of those involved in the J3 incident did their best to block the film from being screened.  And they succeeded as the film was banned in France for a decade.

If there was another tidbit of “I vinti” that many are not aware about, in Antonioni’s book, “The Architecture of Vision”, the filmmaker revealed that for the English episode, the girl he chose for the role was Audrey Hepburn.  For the French episode, he interviewed Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau for the role.

But despite how badly “I vinti” fared due to its controversy, it was better received by the public than film critics.  In his book, “The Architecture of Vision”, Antonioni writes, “I have attentively read almost all of the articles written up to this point, and I can say that in all of them there is a common misunderstanding of the film.”

Antonioni goes on to write, “They started with the premise that the first sequence, in its way of bringing out wide-ranging ethical and social intentions, indicated and at the same time limited the meaning of the work.  In this way  it was easy to consider the film as not completely successful – if not out right wrong – because those problems were not sufficiently confronted and even less resolved”.

I can understand where Antonioni is coming from.  People wanted to see a resolution but “I vinti” was not about coming with a resolution, it was coming up with a film about “wasted youth” and the increased coverage in the media of juvenile delinquency.

The first sequence as it shows newspapers of young men involved in gangs and the mafia to as one as old as the age of 8.  Why are these children involved in crime?  And of course, maybe not so straightforward to people living during that era, for those of us today, we know how long it took the world to heal after the war.

These children were the product of the war, seeing crime on newspapers, reading about pain and sorrow in media.  This was constant negative news on top of the economic hardships that there country was facing, their parents were facing and these children, no matter what kind of upbringing they wanted to have, a few of them wanted to make money the wrong way.  A few of them wanted to be recognized for the wrong reasons.

The English episode shows a man who wanted to be in the newspapers, wanted the stardom, and to do that…he killed a woman.

The French episode features a group of teenagers who were not from bad families but yet they wanted to rob one of their classmates and kill him for his money.

And the sad thing about this is that these stories were inspired from true stories and what was seen in this movie back in 1953, things have not changed all that much in 2014.

Juvenile crime has evolved, still covered by the media and while certain individuals can be treated, when you look at it as a whole, how can one filmmaker come up with a resolution.

Antonioni shouldn’t be expected to come up with a resolution, nor should any filmmaker be expected to do the same, today.

It’s important to note that the introduction of “I vinti” was imposed on Antonioni by the producers of the film on the advice of censors.  And of course, at the time, the film was not well-accepted nor is it a film that showcases Antonioni’s brilliance of a filmmaker.

But every filmmaker has their beginning and for Antonioni, “I vinti” is relevant today as it was back in 1953 and it also contains the qualities of Antonioni that we see in his well-known films made years later.  But alas, it was a film that Antonioni spent too much trying to explain himself to film critics, to the public and a film that he had to defend due to criticism.

But each of these three episodes featured in “I vinti” are entertaining and well-unified.  The structure of the cinematography and the staging of the actors, from the French episode of the group walking into the woods, the Italian episode of actress Anna-Maria Ferrero trying to find a doctor or the way the court was structure for the English episode, there is harmonious unity in each of the three episodes.

As for the Blu-ray release of “I vinti” (The Vanquished), this is a fantastic release from Raro Video.  Not only do you get the film, but you also get the original Italian episode before it was reshot.  You also get the episode of “Attempted Suicide” (Tentato Suicide) which was featured in “Love in the City” (1953), an anthology featuring various directors such as Antonioni, Fellini, Risi, Masselli, etc.  While we can only wish that “Love in the City” will be released on Blu-ray in the near future, how fortunate we are to have “Attempted Suicide” as a special feature on this Blu-ray release of “I vinti”.

Picture quality of the film on Blu-ray is very good, audio is also very good.  No aging or blurry video, no severe degradation of the film, no muffled voices nor noise with severe crackles or pops.  If anything, this is an awesome release for Antonioni fans who have waited for his earlier work!

Overall, “I vinti” is wonderful Blu-ray release containing Michelangelo Antonioni’s earlier film but its inclusion of the original Italian episode and the inclusion of “Attempted Suicide” makes this release quite appealing for the cineaste.   “I vinti” (The Vanquished” from Raro Video is highly recommended!

 

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Uomini Contro (Many Wars Ago) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

uominicontro

Considered as a cult-favorite and even an Italian cinematic masterpiece by Francesco Rosi fans, if you are into anti-war films, “Uomini Contro” is one of the most audacious war films to be made in early ’70s but still retains its powerful message on how corrupt war truly is.  “Uomini Contro” (Many Wars Ago) is  recommended!

Images courtesy of © Rarovideo 2013. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Many Wars Ago (Uomini Contro)

FILM RELEASE: 1970

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 35 mm, 1:33:1, color, Italian Monaural DTS-HD MA

COMPANY: Raro Video

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: January 7, 2014

Directed by Francesco Rosi

Based on the Novel by Emilio Lussu

Written by Tonino Guerra, Raffaele La Capria, Francesco Rosi

Produced by Marina Cicogna, Luciano Perugia, Francesco Rosi

Executive Produced by Giuliano Simonetti

Music by Piero Piccioni

Cinematography by Pasqualino De Santis

Edited by Ruggero Mastroianni

Production Design by Andrea Crisanti

Set Decoration by Ezio Di Monte

Costume Design by Franco Carretti, Gabriella Pescucci

Starring:

Mark Frechette as Lt. Sassu

Alain Cuny as Gen. Leone

Gian Maria Volonte as Lt. Ottolenghi

Giampiero Albertini as Capt. Abbati

Pier Paolo Capponi as Lt. Santini

Franco Graziosi as Maj. Malchiodi

Mario Feliciani as Colonel Doctor

Alberto Mastino as Marrasi

Brunetto Del Vita Col. Stringari

In Northern Italy, WWI has turned into a bloody stalemate. Bogged down in their trenches on a barren highland, the men of an Italian infantry division have been given one objective: retake a commanding height from the enemy. Unfortunately, the tactical ingenuity of general Leone, the unpopular division commander, consists of supplementing frontal attacks against machine-guns with medieval fighting schemes. His dispirited troops must be prodded with ever harsher measures into storming the Austrian positions. As casualties mount, indignation spreads amongst the rank and file. Disturbed by the decisions of his superiors, lieutenant Sassu is progressively led to question the purpose of the war and to reconsider where his real duties lie.

One of the most controversial anti-war films to come out of Italy, Francesco Rosi’s “Uomini Contro” (Many Wars Ago) 1970 Italo-Yugoslav anti-war drama will be released in the U.S. courtesy of Raro Video featuring a new, digitally restored version in collaboration with the National Cinematheque and the Turin National Film Museum under the supervision of Francesco Rosi.

Based on Emilio Lussu’s 1938 novel “Un anno sull’altopiano”, Lussu was an Italian officer of the Sassari Infantry Brigade in 1916 and stationed on the Asiago Plateau.  His experience in trench warfare was about how the common man would join the military but realize that joining the military was not going to make a difference because under the current military leaders, they were just enemy fodder.

An anti-fascist who was very active, he was sentenced for five years for shooting a squadristi in self-defense and eventually would escape to Paris where he would write his controversial book.

When filmmaker Francesco Rosi (“Carmen”, “Hands Over the City”, “La Sfida”) wanted to create a film adaptation on Lussu’s book, but go beyond it and try to make an anti-war film, especially with the Vietnam War still looming over the world.

Upon its screening at the Venice Film Festival in 1970, the reactions tot he film were violent by political groups who felt the film was a “public defamation of the army” and the film didn’t do well when it was released in theaters.

But for those who follow Rosi’s oeuvre, his films have resonated with cineaste long after they were released in theaters and for many of his fans, “Uomini Contro” is a Rosi masterpiece.

“Uomini Contro” is an audacious film which revolves around a group of Italian army officers during World War One on the Isonzo front (1916-1017).  Instead of strategic planning, they are ordered by General Leone (portrayed by Alain Cuny)  to follow his orders and die as a hero.  In their role of trying to retake a commanding height from an enemy.

Anyone who is captured by the enemy twice, anyone who shows cowardice in the Italian army will be killed by their own.

And despite General Leone being a hero, he is an unpopular division commander that uses archaic schemes to take on the enemy ready to shoot with their machine guns.

From one scene of one of the heads of military asking someone to go to enemy territory with wire cutters and everyone not wanting to do it, he orders one of the men to go to the enemies front lines and with wire cutters.  The two soldiers see no use of hiding from enemy fire, so they walk regularly to cut the wires and get mowed down in the process.

Another order is for a soldier to stand up to the enemy instead of staying down low to avoid the shots and if he gets shot, then he dies a hero.

But as the men realize what they signed up for is only going to lead them to their deaths, General Leone has the soldiers killing their own. Anyone who shows any dissent or wanting to show any sign of weakness are executed by their own people.

Suffice to say, if things are going to go along with Leone’s military ideals, no one is going to be left of the Italian army.  And for vice corporal Sassu (portrayed by Mark Frechette), he begins to question the decisions of his superiors and the purpose of the war.

To fight for a war that will lead to genuine peace or to fight a war according to superiors who have treat their soldiers as enemy fodder.

VIDEO:

“Uomini Contro” is presented in 1:33:1 aspect ratio and 1080p High Definition and features a new, digitally restored version in collaboration with the National Cinematheque and the Turin National Film Museum under the supervision of Francesco Rosi.

According to Sergio Toffetti, curator of Italian National Film Archive, the copy was “from a reversal belonging to the Italian National Film Archive.  As the original negative has been lost, a duplicate negative was made according to an obsolete technical process which allows the original negative to be printed directly onto reversal film.  The resulting film – the reversal – has a reasonably high level of definition, although some fluctuations of colour and dominant doubles tend to alter the original chromatics.  The original tone and density of the colour may eventually be recovered using digital modern techniques.”

Picture quality for the film is very good considering the film is over 40-years-old.  Certain scenes show natural skintones, great detail on close-ups, especially during outdoor scenes.  While some areas may looked a bit aged (as the film does have slight color fluctuations due to the use of reversal restoration techniques), for the most part, “Uomini Contro” looks very good in HD with much better clarity and detail than older VHS and DVD versions of the film.  And considering the original negative was lost, what the Cinecitta laboratories was able to come up with is fantastic.

I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues with the film and although the film is not featured in its original tone or colors, for now, considering the cost of restoration of this film, the film still looks very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Uomini Contro” is presented in Italian monaural via DTS-HD MA with English subtitles.  Dialogue is clear via center channel.  I didn’t notice any hiss, crackling or pops during my viewing of the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Uomini Contro” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with the Director – (28:21) Featuring an interview with director Francesco Rosi about the film adaptation of “Uomini Contro”.
  • Before and After Restoration

EXTRAS:

“Uomini Contro” comes with an 20-page booklet featuring “Many Wars Ago” by Lorenzo Codelli, “Pros and Contros” by Francesco Rosi and excerpts from interviews with staff on the making of the film.

During the Vietnam War, there were quite a few audacious films that are anti-war.  From John Lennon’s role in Richard Lester’s 1967 anti-war film “How I Won the War”, Brian G. Hutton’s “Kelly’s Heroes” and also Robert Altman’s “MASH” to name a few.

But for Italian filmmaker Francesco Rosi, the goal was to stand up against any kind of war, to show that soldiers are treated as fodder by leaders and there only way out is death, because their leaders treat them as fodder with and are not interested in the pursuit of genuine peace.

We can see the unease of all soldiers when General Leone shows up and tries to tell them how to fight in war.  From ordering the soldiers to kill one of their own men who tried to halt and warn his fellow soldiers from shooting their own.  General Leone sees friendly fire as expendable and that those who die, will die as heroes for their country.

General Leone asks one of his commanding officers about how knives are used in his infantry division and the commanding officer tells him that they use it for cutting vegetables, for food, etc.  But what the general wants to hear is knives being used as weapons of killing a person, not by using it as a tool for food.

And there are those who follow the beat of General Leone’s drum of using illogical methods.  One leader asks his division leader to find someone who can go and cut a wired fence of the enemy in broad daylight.  And that they were sending one soldier alongside with him.

The main soldier tries to fight against it and said he won’t do it until an order is given and when he does, at first he tries to hide and try not to get hit.  But then realizes, there is no escape from cutting a wired fence in enemy territory with only two people and many machine guns in front of him.  He realizes that he is being sent to his death but can’t fight against it because those are his orders and those who disobey orders will face an execution squad.

As these soldiers fight their enemies, their moral is now depleted, knowing that they are just experiments of war for the general.

One such absurd act was when General Leone sends a dozen or so soldiers wearing tin helmets as a form of protection.  General Leone tries to use archaic logic of steel outfits in warfare to defeat the enemy and as the soldiers wear these lunky medieval helmets, they are all mowed down by machine gun.

In many ways, this bold and very balsy film is rather fascinating for how it shows military generals as elitist and in their own world.  Thinking of their past accomplishments as people not interested in fighting are forced to fight and often forced to do something that will lead to their own deaths.  Of course, in General Leone’s perspective, as long as soldiers die as heroes, that is all that matters.

As we see fear in the eyes of the soldiers, we see their leaders wanting to protect them but knowing that with a General so cold and have no sensitivity towards the soldiers but sees them as people who will die as heroes, it’s no wonder the infantry division looks so disheveled

As for the Blu-ray release of “Uomini Contro”, viewers are getting the best version of the film for now.  Having undergone restoration, the film looks better than it has ever been.  Could it look better with color repairs? Possibly using modern restration techniques but restoration is expensive and I think for now, “Uomini Contro is probably the best this film will ever look for now.  Featuring a lossless monaural soundtrack and an interview with director Francesco Rosi, a before and after restoration comparison, plus a 20-page booklet.

Overall, Uomini Contro may be one of the most audacious anti-war films you will come across but its message can easily reach out to fighting soldiers or people who are tired of war, no matter how old this film can be.

Considered as a cult-favorite and even an Italian cinematic masterpiece by Francesco Rosi fans, if you are into anti-war films, “Uomini Contro” is one of the most audacious war films to be made in early ’70s but still retains its powerful message on how corrupt war truly is

 

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Hanging for Django (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

While “Hanging for Django” is not the best Spaghetti western film, it’s definitely one of the better looking ones to arrive on Blu-ray thanks to Raro Video.  Also, with the release of this enjoyable film, one can hope for more of Sergio Garrone’s films to be released on Blu-ray.  For fans of the Spaghetti western genre, “Hanging for Django” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © Rarovideo 2013. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Hanging for Django (Una lunga fila di croci)

FILM RELEASE: 1969

DURATION: 97 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1, Italian and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Raro Video

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: October 29, 2013

Directed by Sergio Garrone

Written by Sergio Garrone

Produced by Gabriele Crisanti

Executive Produced by Giuliano Simonetti

Music by Vasili Kojucharov, Elsio Mancuso

Cinematography by Franco Villa

Edited by Cesare Bianchini, Marcello Malvestito

Art Direction by Pietro Liberati

Set Decoration by Emilio Zago

Starring:

Anthony Steffen as Johnny Brandon

William Berger as Everett Murdock

Mario Brega as Brandon’s Partner

Riccardo Garrone as Mr. Fargo

Nicoletta Machiavelli as Maya

Mariangela Giordano as Jose’s Wife

Giancarlo Sisti as Buck Sullivan

Franco Ukmar as Cpt. Stofer

In this classic spaghetti western from Sergio Garrone (Django the Bastard, Three Crosses Not To Die) making its home video debut, an evangelical bounty hunter teams up with another to bring an outlaw gang that has been sneaking illegal immigrants over the border to sell as slaves to justice. In Italian with English Subtitles.

In the 1960’s, Spaghetti westerns made in Italy were a box office success internationally.

Primarily popular due to the films of Sergio Leone, many other filmmakers began making Spaghetti westerns and one character that would be featured in quite a number of films is Django.  The first which starred in the 1966 film “Django” by Sergio Corbucci.  And the character has long since appeared in films, most recently in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” film in 2012.

In 2013, Raro Video will be releasing the film “Hanging for Django” (Una Lunga Fila di Croci) in Oct. 2013 on Blu-ray. The film features a new transfer from a 35 mm negative and was digitally restored.

The film is directed by Sergio Garrone, probably better known today for his horror or Nazi exploitation films such as “SS Experiment Camp”, “The Hand That Feeds the Dead”, “Lover of the Monster”.

But from 1968-1971, Garrone had directed several Spaghetti westerns and films featuring the character of Django.

For “Hanging for Django” revolves around a bounty hunter named Johnny Brandon (portrayed by Anthony Steffen).  A man known for his quick use of a gun and so far, he has done well in capturing the wanted criminals.

But the same can be said for bounty hunter, Everett “Preacherman” Murdock (portrayed by William Berger).  A preacher who carries along a bible and a seven barrel shotgun and several pistols.

With news that wanted criminals are near the Texan border smuggling poor Mexicans for a crime boss, Mr. Fargo (portrayed by Riccardo Garrone). A person who takes their money and have them killed by pushing them over a cliff as they fall into a ravine.  And while, Mr. Fargo can have anything he want, he is unable to get the woman… Maya (portrayed by Nicoletta Machiavelli).  A strong-willed individual who is helpful towards the immigrants.

With news reaching to Johnny Brandon, he knows he may need some help, so he tries to entice Everett Murdock to join him in taking out the outlaws for a major split on the cash reward.

But both men are different.  As Johnny is in it to help the immigrants, Murdock is in it for the money.

What happens when both bounty hunters arrive in area and what kind of hospitality will Mr. Fargo give them?

VIDEO:

“Hanging for Django” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  While I was watching this film, the first thing that came into my mind was how clean it was and had to do a double-take on the case to make sure the film was a 1969 film because it looked like a film that was not made long ago.  The new HD transfer from a 35 mm negative print and the digital restoration has given this film amazing new life.  The details are amazing, especially the closeup of Anthony Steffen’s glance.

But I was quite pleased with the way the film looked on Blu-ray.  It looked clean and for a film that is over 40-years-old, it doesn’t have that look of an aged film.   I was impressed!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Hanging for Django” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo.  I admit that I had to boost the volume quite a bit as some of the dialogue was not easy to hear at my usual normal setting on my receiver.  I actually had to experiment on settings to get audio that I was comfortable with and loud enough.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Hanging for Django” comes with the following special features:

  • Bounty Killer for a Massacre – (14:33) A documentary on the work of Sergio Garrone.

EXTRAS:

“Hanging for Django” comes with an 8-page booklet on Sergio Garrone and his biography.  Also, a slipcover case is included.

For fans of Spaghetti westerns, the release of “Hanging for Django” should make fans of the genre happy because the film is among the best looking transfers I have seen for a Spaghetti western on Blu-ray so far, next to the Sergio Leone Blu-ray releases.

As for Sergio Garrone’s film, I found it to be exciting and fascinating because of the use of two bounty hunters and its twist towards the end of the film.

One must remember that these films were made with a low-budget, acting was never a strongsuit for some of these Spaghetti westerns and while created in Italian and English, the films are usually post-dubbed.  So, those new to the genre that questions why the voices don’t match the mouth movements, should know.

But what I enjoyed about “Hanging for Django” is what one typically enjoys in a western.  A vile antagonist and a protagonist with quick shooting skills and gets the job done.  Anthony Steffen does a great job of playing the stoic Johnny Brandon and even his side glance from the corner of his eye is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood in the “Dollars Trilogy”.

But add in another bounty hunter with William Berger as Everett Murdock, who unlike the character of Johnny Brandon, is decked out in a preacher’s outfit, carries a bible and a seven barrel rifle.  Granted, I always was intrigued by this because I thought that Nock volley guns and tremendous kick and were hard to control, but of course, this is not a film about trying to achieve real accuracy but in the case of Murdock, his precision with the rifle was uncanny.

But the storyline of these two men are quite fascinating and throw in the unusual twist at the end and you got yourself one heck of an enjoyable western!

As for the Blu-ray release, the new transfer from the original 35 mm negative and the digital restoration made this film look recent rather than aged.  I was impressed.  While the lossless audio track was a bit low and hand to turn it up quite a bit, that was no problem for my receiver.  And you also get a 14-minute documentary titled “Bounty Killer for  a Massacre” on the career of Sergio Garrone.

While “Hanging for Django” is not the best Spaghetti western film, it’s definitely one of the better looking ones to arrive on Blu-ray thanks to Raro Video.  Also, with the release of this enjoyable film, one can hope for more of Sergio Garrone’s films to be released on Blu-ray.  For fans of the Spaghetti western genre, “Hanging for Django” is recommended!

 

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Liberi armati pericolosi (Young, Violent, Dangerous) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 7, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Amoral, violent and a crime action thriller with a high body count! “Romolo Guerrier’s “Liberi armati pericolosi” (Young, Violent, Dangerous) is ’70s Italian crime cinema that incorporate pointless crimes, car chases, sleazy prostitutes, blood thirsty characters and machine guns!

Images courtesy of ©RAROVIDEO 2012. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Liberi armati pericolosi (Young, Violent, Dangerous)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1976

DURATION: 96 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: B&W, 1:85:1, 4:3 Letterboxed, Italian and English, Dolby Digital Mono 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: RaroVideo

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: February 28, 2012

Directed by Romolo Guerrieri

Based on the novel by Giorgio Scerbanenco

Story by Fernando Di Leo

Screenplay by Fernando Di Leo, Nico Ducci

Produced by Ermanno Curti, Marcello Partini

Executive Producer: Armando Novelli

Music by Enrico Pieranunzi, Gianfranco Plenizo

Cinematography by Erico Menczer

Edited by Antonio Siciliano

Production Design by Francesco Cuppini

Costume Design by Giulia Mafai

Starring:

Eleonora Giorgi as Lea

Tomas Milian as Commissario

Stefano Patrizi as Mario Farra

Benjamin ev as Giovanni Etrusco

Max Delys as Luigi “Luis” Morandi

Venantino Venantini as Sign. Morandi

Diego Abatantuono as Lucio

Paul, Joe and Louie are three young men from good families who decide to go on a bloodthirsty and pointless crime spree, much to the dismay of paul’s girlfriend (Eleonora Giorgi) and the local police commissioner (Tomas Milian). the group starts by robbing a gas station where paul guns down three innocent bystanders. When they later decide to rob a bank and a grocery store, paul ends up killing more people. It isn’t long before the entire police force is looking for the three criminals, who pick up the girl and hightail it to the Swiss border, killing everyone in their path.

In the late ’60s through the 1970’s, during and after the Vietnam War and a time where political corruption and crime were hot topics.  Emerging from cinema and also low-budget indie films were films that featured people going against the establishment using violent means.

Some films had a message such as the Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 film “If…” and Peter Watkins 1971 film “Punishment Park” to films that were meant to be absurd such as the Bertrand Blier 1974 French dark comedy “Going Places” (Les Vasiseuses) but there was no doubt a flood of films that tried to be absurd and violent but ultimately kitschy and became a mainstay of B-movie cinema not just in America but also in other countries.

In Italy, Romolo Guerrieri was a filmmaker known for spaghetti westerns such as “$10,000 for a massacre” (1967) and mystery films such as “A Detective” (1969) but in 1976, Guerreri had the opportunity to direct a violent Eurocrime film based on a novel by popular writer Giorgio Scerbanenco (“Caliber 9”, “The Italian Connection”, “Naked Violence”) and feature a screenplay by well-known screenwriter/director Fernando Di Leo (“Caliber 9”, “Naked Violence”, “The Italian Connection”) and Nico Ducci (“Keoma”, “The Master Touch”).

The film “Liberti armati pericolosi” (which translates to “Armed, Dangerous and Free” but known as “Young, Violent, Dangerous) would star renown Italian actor Tomas Milian (“Amisad”, “Traffic”, “Fools Rush In”), Stefano Patrizi (“Conversation Piece”, “Murder Syndrome”) and actress Eleonora Giorgi (“Inferno”, “Velvet Hands”, “To Forget Venice”).

The film begins with Lea (played by Eleonora Giorgi) going to the police and telling Commissario (played by Tomas Milian) that she is afraid for her boyfriend Luigi “Luis” Morandi (played by Max Delys).  She tells the Commissario that he hangs out with a bad group of  people, Mario “Blondie” Farra (played by Stefano Patrizi) and Giovanni Trusco (played by Benjamin Lev).   Blondie gives the orders and they plan to rob a gas station.

At first the Commissario doesn’t believe her but as a precaution, he sets up a few undercover police officers at the gas station to catch them if they do commit the burglary.  The Italian police also visit the family of the three young men, their parents have no idea where there children are.

As for the three young men, Luis is the driver and is the person that tries to talk his friends out of doing anything criminal, but Blondie calls the shots and Giovanni, he’s more like the laughing hyena who can’t wait to get into trouble.

When the group arrives at the gas station, police are ready to nab them.  But to their surprise, Blondie and Giovanni shoot down the gas attendant and the police officers with no remorse and the three escape.

Luis can’t believe what his friends have done.  What was meant to be a burglary, has now become multiple murders.  But Blondie and Giovanni are loving every minute of it and the next place they decide to hit is a bank.

The three men end up killing the bank manager and stealing a large amount of the bank and as they make their escape, both Blondie and Giovanni are upset that no cops are chasing them down.  So, the group drive by a market and start throwing the money out to anyone they see.

With multiple murders, now the Commissario knows he must catch them before anyone is harmed.  As he meets with the parents of the young men, he realizes that the parents have no communication with their children.  Especially one who cares more about being wealthy than caring for his child.  This disgusts the Commissario who tells the parent that he wishes that bad parents should take responsibility for the actions of their children and wishes they could be charged as well.

As the three young men are now wanted by the police for their crimes and will be treated as armed and dangerous, Blondie and the group continue to escalate their crimes as well as the number of murders they commit.  Will the Commissario be able to stop them?

 

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Liberi armati pericolosi” is presented in 1:85:1, color and in Digital Mono 2.0 Italian and English with optional English subtitles.

The following DVD features a new digitally restored transfer from the original 35mm negative print. While the picture quality is pretty good considering it’s a 36-year-old film.  I didn’t notice any major problems with the video nor does it look its age.

Audio was clear and I detected no hiss, crackle or any audio problems.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Liberi armati pericolosi (Young, Violent, Dangerous)” comes with the following special features:

  • Documentary Ragazzi fuori – (16:51) Filmmaker Romolo Guerrieri talks about his career, “La Visita” and today’s cinema.
  • Director’s Biography – Text-based biography for director Romolo Guerrieri
  • Director’s Filmography  – Text-based filmography

 

Amoral, violent and a crime action thriller with a high body count! “Romolo Guerrier’s “Liberi armati pericolosi” (Young, Violent, Dangerous) is ’70s Italian crime cinema that has everything that one expects from a crime action film from car chases, sleazy prostitutes, blood thirsty characters and machine guns!

“Liberi armati pericolosi” is a Eurocrime film that featured the banal pointless crime sprees that were common-place in ’70s films.  One can consider it your typical juvenile delinquent film with a high body count and unlike other films that have a reason of  why the violence is committed, this film doesn’t have an answer.

May it be bad parenting or wealthy kids wanting attention, whatever the reason…these young men steal and kill…and it’s not like they need the money.  It’s more of craving attention and thus, “”Liberi armati pericolosi” features a rather simplistic storyline, but what separates this film from kitschy B crime action films is how far these young men will go and the situations that take place.

Typically these films are dark, violent and depressing but the three characters are rather interesting.  Luis is constantly scared and doesn’t want to be involved (and even more afraid that Blondie may get his girlfriend Lea involved), Giovanni is a psychopath who just keeps laughing at all the violence they create and Mario is a man with an emotionless experience.  He does things because wants to and there is no explanation of why.

I have to admit that at first, I was expecting to see actor Tomas Milian playing a Dirty Harry-esque police commissioner wanting to take down these young men who killed his fellow officers and innocent civilians, but he’s more of cat trying to catch the mouse.

While actor Stefano Patrizi is known for his role on Luchino Visconti’s 1973 film “Conversation Piece”, he’s just an amoral character taking on pointless crimes.

If anyone does shine in this entire film it’s actress Eleonora Giorgi.  A Playboy playmate and known for playing erotic roles, her role as Luis’ caring and emotional girlfriend Lea showcased her acting skill and also showing audiences that she was not just a an average pretty face.  In fact, her career would blossom even further in the ’80s as she would win various awards including a David di Donatello Award for “Best Actress” in “Borotalco of Carlo Verdone” (1982).

As for the DVD, fans of the film will definitely want to pick this version up for its new digital transfer from the original 35mm print.  There is a short featurette with director Romlo Guerrieri and there is mention of a PDF booklet (which many RaroVideo releases have), but the DVD I reviewed did not have one.  Also, there is an English dub included with this Italian film.  I prefer to stay away from English dubs, but for those who do not like to read subtitles, you do have the English dub track as an option.

“Liberi armati pericolosi” was an amoral, violent film that probably would not shock anyone today who are probably desensitized by pointless crime sprees, as one can easily play the role of these type of characters in a video game (“Grand Theft Auto” games come to mind), I can understand how Romolo Guerrieri had talked about the context of the film and how in today’s cinema, these shocking, violent films of back then are nothing today.

But as I tend to put myself in the shoes of someone living in that era and having watched my fair share of violent and amoral ’70s films, I will say that “Liberi armati pericolosi” is among the more entertaining crime action films.   I did enjoy it but for those seeking for answers, there was no real message delivered from the film of why these young men are committing pointless crimes, they just do it as a form of entertainment I suppose.

And as far as the police is concerned and how they were utilized in the film, today’s films would have the police taking out these criminals, but they were used more or less as chase scene fodder.   Even Tomas Milian’s role as police commissioner never really takes off.  For those who have seen Milian in other films, his presence is usually felt…in the case of “Liberi armati pericolosi”, I felt his character was just there to use the actor’s name and entice people to watch the film.

But still, there are some intriguing moments of the film that captured my attention and for a ’70s Italian action crime thriller, this film has it all…sleazy prostitutes, car chases, machine guns, bloodthirsty characters and even gratuitous sex nudity.

And if you are craving for more Italian crime cinema, I highly recommend checking out the “Fernando De Leo Crime Collection” from RaroVideo which will be available on Blu-ray and DVD and includes four films in the set: “Miano Calibro 9” (1972), “The Italian Connection” (1972), “The Boss” (1973) and “Rulers of the City” (1976).  The set will be released on March 15, 2012.

Overall, “Liberi armati pericolosi” may not be for everyone, but if you do enjoy mindless, amoral ’70s violent crime action films that isn’t kitsch, then you’ll definitely want to give this film a chance!


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Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno (Conversation Piece) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Considered as Luchino Visconti’s “last will & testament”, “Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” (also known as “Conversation Piece”) is another magnificent Visconti film and a personal film that I appreciated in so many levels.  “Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” has always been one of my favorite Visconti films and it’s definitely a film that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of ©RAROVIDEO 2012. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno (Conversation Piece)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1974

DURATION: 125 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 2:35:1 (16×9), Monaural

COMPANY: RaroVideo

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: March 13, 2012

Directed by Luchino Visconti

Story by Enrico Medioli

Screenplay by Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Enrico Medioli, Luchino Visconti

Produced by Giovanni Bertolucci

Music by Franco Mannino

Cinematography by Pasqualino De Santis

Edited by Ruggero Mastroianni

Production Design by Mario Garbuglia

Set Decoration by Carlo Gervasi, Dario Simoni

Starring:

Burt Lancaster as Il Professore

Helmut Berger as Konrad Huebel

Silvana Mangano as Marchesa Bianca Brumonti

Claudia Marsani as Lietta Brumonti

Stefano Patrizi as Stefano

Elvira Cortese as Erminia

Philippe Hersent as Portiere

Guy Trejan as Venditore di quadri

Jean-Pierre Zola as Blanchard

Romol Valli as Micheli

The setting for Conversation Piece is a handsome old Roman palazzo owned by a Professor (Burt Lancaster), an aging, American-born, Roman bred art historian who devotes his life to his books, his paintings, and his stereo recordings of Mozart. His life is turned upside down when his house and his intellectual life is invaded by a rich, pushy, overdressed marquesa, played by Silvana Mangano, the wife of a Fascist industrialist, and her teen-age daughter (Claudia Marsani), her young German lover (Helmut Berger) and her daughter’s lover (Stefano Patrizi). These four characters are able to persuade the Professor to lease them his upstairs apartment for a year and what unfolds is a truly revealing exploration of the idle rich, their kinky side, and what the stuffy old professor can learn from them.

For Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti, although his oeuvre may not be as lengthy compared to Roberto Rossellini or Federico Fellini, he is among the few that have crew created films that not only were beloved in his country, but have remained cinema classics worldwide.

Visconti was also involved with filmmakers Rossellini, Fellini, Puccini, Pietrangeli and De Santis in collaboration in creating the first Italian neorealist movie “Obsession” in 1943.  Breaking away from neorealism in the ’50s, Visconti pursued realism and romanticism and set his own path of creating films that were personal.

Well-known for directing theatre and opera but for cinema, he is best known for creating masterpiece after masterpiece such as “The Leopard” (1963), “Sandra” (1965), “The Damned” (1969), “Death in Venice” (1971), and for many, his films such as “La terra trema”, “Bellissima”, “Senso”, “Le notte bianche”, “Rocco and His Brothers” and “The Stranger” would also rank high on the list for many cineaste.

But one film would also rank high among cineaste, some may consider it another masterpiece and that was his 1974 film “Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno”, also known as “Conversation Piece”.  Winner for “Best Film” at the David di Donatello Awards”, “Blue Ribbon Awards”, “Fotogramas de Plata”, “Kinema Junpo Awards” and the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists”, the film would receive recognition worldwide.

But also, the film would be known as Visconti’s “Last Will & Testament”.  In an interview with actor Burt Lancaster, Lancaster said that Visconti told Lancaster that the character he was playing was him.  Lancaster said, “I knew that the old man I was playing was him.  He told me another time, ‘This is my life.  I am very much alone.  I never knew how to love.  I never had a family.'”

And now this classic Visconti masterpiece has arrived on DVD (March 2012) and a Blu-ray release (scheduled for April 2012) courtesy of RaroVideo.  As the film has had its fair share of being censored (due to the political dialogue and profanity in the film), the version featured on DVD is the uncut version.

“Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” is also a personal film for Visconti.  The film would be critical of the Jet Set high society lifestyle, the film would star Visconti’s partner Helmut Berger but the film also was a comeback for Visconti who was incapacitated due to health reasons.

This comeback for cinema would be the second-to-last film that Visconti would write and direct before his death due to a stroke two years later.

While the film’s titled “Gruppo di famiglia in Un Interno” describes the internal situation of a family, the English title “Conversation Piece” refers to artwork of 18th Century English paintings, typically of a group engaged in conversation but also a reference to the protagonist’s observance of a wealthy family and their way of engaging in conversation.

“Gruppo di famiglia in Un Interno” revolves around a recluse professor (played by Burt Lancaster, “From Here to Eternity”, “Airport”, “Atlantic City”) who lives in a luxurious palazzo in Rome.

The professor invests his money in collecting conversation piece artwork and displaying it around his home and is passionate about learning of the conversations behind the painting and the characters depicted in the paintings as well.

But he lives his life in peace with no disturbance.

The film begins with the Professor deciding if he wants to purchase a conversation piece artwork but unsure if he wants to pay the high price for it.  As he considers purchasing the painting, another woman who he assumes is the owner of the painting is waiting in his home.

The wealthy woman, Marquise Bianca Brumonti (played by Silvana Mangano, “Death in Venice”, “Teorema”, “Dune”), her daughter Lietta (played by Claudia Marsani) and her boyfriend Stefano (played by Stefano Patrizi) tell the Professor that they want to rent out the room above the professor’s palazzo for an entire year.  She has seen the statues and the room from high above and since she has the money to pay for renting the room, she hopes the professor will say yes.

The professor is adamant that he has no desire to do that as his plan was to use the room to display some of the art and antiques he has collected over the years.  So, his answer is “no”.

The following day, as the Professor has decided to purchase the painting he was deciding on, he finds out that someone has purchased it.  Next thing you know, Lietta and Stefano come to the Professor’s room and informs him that the Brumonti family has purchased the painting and will gladly give him the painting if he allows them to live in the room above.

Seeing how far this family would go to get the room and since it’s only for a year, the Professor gives in.

And as the Professor goes on to his normal business, all of a sudden his peaceful moments are disturbed by sounds from the room above.  It appears that work is being done in the room and a man named Konrad Huebel has taken residence inside the room.

The Professor quickly finds out that the room he will be renting out to the Brumonti is actually for her daughter, her boyfriend and Konrad Huebel (played by Helmut Berger, “Ludwig”, “The Godfather Part III”), the paid lover of Marquise Bianca Brumonti.

The Professor could care less about the people who live there but he just wants his silence.  Konrad informs him that the room is his and he can do what he wants but he was not told by the Marquise that the room was just rented for only a year.  The Professor then witnesses the volatile communication between both Konrad and the Marquise.

As Konrad apologizes to the Professor, the two talk to each other and they begin to share a commonality.   As they continue to talk, the Professor is surprised to see how much of an intellect Konrad is.  Despite being young and brash, Konrand has an appreciation of  classical music but also, surprised that Konrad is showing some knowledge and appreciation of the conversation pieces around the Professor’s library and sure enough, the two have a pleasant conversation.

But the reclusive Professor starts to be bothered by the family above as they are noisy and intrusive, while the Marquise’s presence always leads to an argument between her and her paid lover Konrad, Lietta Brumonti starts to enjoy spending time with the Professor (which he finds bothersome) and immediately, these new tenants start to change the life of the reclusive professor.  And he finds himself bringing dragged into their lifestyle.

As we see flashbacks of the Professor’s old life when he had a woman at his side, we start to learn that his life changes because he begins to see this new family now becoming part of his family, because the young adults are spending more and more time with him.

As the Professor starts to help Konrad in various situations, Lietta starts to joke with him that because Konrad respects the Professor so much and she can see that he cares about him, he could be like the son that he never has.  Jokingly saying that the Professor should adopt him.  As ridiculous as it may sound, the Professor has always wanted to pass on his knowledge to someone who would listen to him.

Being a lonely man for so long, this is the first time in a long time in his life where he feels that he almost has a family and that he has been developing a father-and-son bond with Konrad.

But the more he spends time with this family, things begin to unravel and will change the lives of the Professor and the tenants forever.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” (Conversation Piece) is presented in 2:35:1 (16×9) and in English monaural.  It’s important to note that for those who want the best version of this film to date, RaroVideo will be releasing a Blu-ray version in April 2012.

With that being said, “”Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” (Conversation Piece) has been digitally restored.   The picture quality of this DVD is amazingly good for a near 40-year-old film.  Considering how much we have seen in terms of restoration of Visconti films in the last two years for DVD and Blu-ray release, I have watched this film before and the film looked its age.

Because this film rarely takes place outside of the professor’s home, you really can’t tell this is a 1974 film.  The colors look very good and I detected no major defects with picture quality.  Granted, in HD, I would expect to see much more detail and noticeable light and warmer colors.  But for DVD, picture quality is good as one can expect.

As for audio, audio is presented in monaural, English dialogue is clear and understandable.  As with the music and noises emanating from the tenant’s room.  But it’s a clear soundtrack that had no hissing, crackling, pops or any issues.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno (Conversation Piece)” comes with the following special feature:

  • Interview with Alessandro Benccivenni – (9:33) Film critic and screenwriter Alessandro Benccivenni talks about Luchino Visconti and the making of “Grippo Di Famiglia in Un Interno”.
  • Original Trailer – (3:46) The original theatrical trailer for “Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno (Conversation Piece)”.

EXTRAS:

“La Visita” comes with a slipcover case and an 18-page booklet featuring critical analysis by Mark Rappaport and a Luchino Visconti biography.

“Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” is a film that has always hit me in so many levels.  As I appreciate its humorous take on high society, it’s almost dreamlike surreal situations that often take place,  I enjoy how the film was cleverly written and his ability to allow his obsession of politics especially sexuality be displayed in his films.

And like so many other Luchino Visconti films that I adore, this film was also intriguing for me in the fact that it was a personal Visconti film.

If a filmmaker could predict his own demise, what kind of film would you make?   I look towards Andrei Tarkovsky’s “The Sacrifice” as an example.  As a fan of Luchino Visconti films, “Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” was a film that I had looked differently at compared to any other films in Visconti’s oeuvre.

Mainly for the reason as the more you research Visconti’s work, you begin to research him not only as Visconti the filmmaker but also as an individual.  As a man who is an aesthete, his films can depict an acerbic tone, some may be towards the society, politics or even sexuality and while “Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” is no different, especially when compared to his film “Death in Venice”, but this film, it appears that he is also directing this scathing tone towards himself.

I have read that this legendary Italian filmmaker felt lonely.  Never had a family.  May it be depression or something that happened within his life that gave him that state of mind, the fact is that in this film, he has created a character based on himself and asks the question, if you have art.  If you have music.  If you have these expensive possessions that many people acquire with wealth, is it still enough to fill the void in life, if you don’t have love or family?

We often read about many classic Hollywood celebrities who lived the final days of their life as recluse and for the character of the Professor, he chose his passion over love and family.  And when that opportunity came to have people in his home, he begins to realize how much it meant to him, despite having wealth and all the possessions that he desired.

Visconti’s “Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” is a film that has a message that life is short and one should be able to live life to its fullest.

The film parallels the life of the Professor and Visconti not only in life but also in the manner of death.  Not to say that Visconti could have predicted how his last years of his life would be on this planet but somehow he knew that his life would not last that long while making this film.  Premonition, intuition?  Who knows.

But in the film, the Professor felt a new synergy in his life when he starts to consider the new tenants almost like a part of his family, moreso for the Professor and Konrad.  In real life, Visconti and Helmut Berger (who plays the character of Konrad) were a real life couple and in the film, the relationship between Konrad and Konrad Huebel) was like father-and-son.  A father wanting to take care of someone.  But when you look at the context of life and cinema, was there more to it?  Was there an underlying message between the Professor and Konrad and the real life Visconti and Helmut Berger.

This is my take and my personal opinion but when I first watched this film and knowing a little about Visconti’s life, it was my feeling that Visconti knew he wouldn’t have a long life and discovered the love and passions in his life quite late.  Would he have a much more fulfilling life if he pursued love and family earlier on.

In the film, we see how the character Lietta tells the Professor how she turns him on and if he asked her to marry him, she would.  But he tells her that he doesn’t have much time and the characters then get into a discussion about his life and family.  With the professor wanting to share that passion of art and music with someone but as much as he thought that the enjoyment of life was embodied in the art that he has collected, it’s been far too long since the Professor was able to care for someone.

The great artist Salvador Dali once ridiculed Visconti’s lifestyle by saying that “he was a communist who only liked luxury” and Visconti’s character of the Professor was similar but perhaps it was a wakeup call for Visconti that he needed to change his life, not place so much into luxury but towards love but his discovery of that was possibly a little too late.

Visconti may have felt that because of his older age and ill health (it is said that Visconti smoked up to 120 cigarettes a day), he didn’t have much time to live and so, thus “Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” became known as the director’s last will & testament.

And for me, that is why I appreciate this film on a different level compared to Visconti’s other films.  This is a man near death, putting his heart and soul to this film with a character about himself but yet, in Visconti-fashion, he is able to create this idiosyncratic film.

And while this film is enjoyable, one of its most controversial moments is when we realize who Konrad really is and when “Conversation Piece” was screened at the 1975 New York Film Festival, it was not well received.  Possibly the most problematic part of this film that I have read over time is the casting of Helmut Berger to play Konrad.  A plaything for a woman possibly in her ’50s and his involvement in a movement which I don’t want to spoil but yet it was hard for others to take in because Helmut Berg looked very young for his age.  This has always been a sore point for certain viewers who felt his character looked “too good” and “too young” to play the part.

But for those who have watched a Visconti film, there has always been an underlying premise of silliness. Does everything have to be right?  One should know from a Visconti film by now that things, especially with characters are imperfect.  For me, I was never bothered by the casting of Berg and it was no surprise that he was in the film as well.  This is a story by Visconti, about Visconti and as the Professor has discovered a new meaning to life with Konrad, Visconti in real life found love with Helmut Berger and both Visconti/Professor knew the one thing they did not have was time.

As for the DVD release, RaroVideo has continued to impress me release after release.  Picture quality is good on DVD and considering this is a new digital restored film, I was quite impressed of how good this film looks compared to an older release in which the film did show its age.  But “Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” doesn’t look like a 1974 film because the quality of the video is pretty good.  But with that being said, it’s also important to remind those wanting to purchase this film is that a Blu-ray version of this film will be released a month later.  So, if you want the best picture and audio quality, you may want to wait for the Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” is a Visconti idiosyncratic film that I have enjoyed over the years.  Yes, “The Leopard”, “Death in Venice”, “Senso” and many other Visconti films can be considered as magnificent, but I have to put this film high on my list of favorite Visconti films because of its grandeur, its beauty, its humor, its absurdity, its acerbic tone and message.

“Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” may be known as Visconti’s last will & testament but it’s also a film that everyone can relate too.  Life is short, enjoy it while you can.

“Gruppo Di Famiglia In Un Interno” (Conversation Piece) is highly recommended!


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La Visita (The Visitor) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Among the Italian filmmakers of the ’50s-’60s that were forgotten and have now been rediscovered by today’s cineaste, Antonio Pietrangeli’s “La Visita” is true commedia all’italiana. Featuring a wonderful performance by Sandra Milo and Francois Perier, “La Visita” is an enjoyable comedy that takes on a disillusioned point of view of life between two lonely individuals who meet each other after corresponding by mail.  Captivating, fun and highly recommended!

Images courtesy of ©RAROVIDEO 2012. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: La Visita (The Visitor)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1963

DURATION: 111 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: B&W, 1:85:1, 4:3 Letterboxed, Italian Digital mono 2.0 with English subtitles

COMPANY: RaroVideo

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: March 13, 2012

Directed by Antonio Pietrangeli

Story by Gino De Santis, Ettore Scola, Ruggero Maccari

Written by Ruggero Maccari, Antonio Pietrangeli

Produced by Moris Ergas

Music by Armando Trovajoli

Cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi

Edited by Eraldo Da Roma

Production Design by Luigi Scaccianoce

Set Decoration by Sergio Dona

Costume Design by Margherita Ferrone, Piero Tosi

Starring:

Sandra Milo as Pina

Francois Perier as Adolfo Di Palma

Mario Adorf as Cucaracha

Gastone Moschin as Renato Gusso

Angela Minervini as Chiaretta

Didi Perego as Nella

Thirty-something stunning beauty Pina (Sandra Milo) takes out an ad in the personal column hoping to find a man to take her away from the tiny Italian village where she lives. For months now she has been trying to find the right one – a man with a solid career, a family in mind, and plenty of stamina. Adolfo (Francois Perier) lives in Rome running a profitable business. Looking to share his life with that special person willing to raise a family Adolfo replies to Pina’s ad. The couple arrange to meet in the village where Pina lives. Incorporating flashbacks that highlight Pina’s and Adolfo’s lives, the complexity of the characters are slowly revelaed and when the two finally meet Pina quickly concludes that Adolfo is the one. He appears noble, cultured, and ready for a serious commitment – Pina can hardly believe her luck!

I spoke with a friend on the phone the other day and a friend who is absolutely passionate about cinema.  I told him about a film that I watched recently, “La Visita” directed by Antonio Pietrangeli.

My friend replied with, “Who is Antonio Pietrangeli?”.

And I’m sure that within the last few decades, many have replied similarly when hearing about this director for the first time.

But it’s not surprising.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s, there were Italian filmmakers who were known for their post-war Italian neorealism films or sexual comedies.  Similar to other countries in Europe, there was a huge growth of filmmakers and writers who worked on cinema and very few were known for their work in the genre.

Others were forgotten until now.  Among those filmmakers who were forgotten was Antonio Pietrangeli (“March’s Child”, “I Knew Her Well”, “Empty Eyes”), a filmmaker known for Commedia all’italiana (Italian style comedy) and worked in the Italian neorealism movement.

While Pietrangeli is also known in Italy for his cinema articles for “Bianco e Nero” and “Cinema” magazines, his films didn’t garner too much attention as his other associates were creating films with deep storylines and films that had the best actors or actresses of that era in time.

But in 1963, Pietrangeli would go on to create a film known as “La Visita” (The Visitor) that was truly Commedia all’italiana and have not only captured the attention of today’s cineaste but also for many to recognize Antonio Pietrangeli as one of Italy’s finest filmmakers.  The film would also go against other Commedia all’italiana films in terms of structure and instead of focusing on a male character, “La Visita” would feature a strong female character who was independent and also self-sufficient, which was rare to see in Italian cinema.

The film would star Sandra Milo (“Il generale della Rovere”,  “8 1/2”, “Juliet of the Spirits”, “Classe Tous Risques”) and French actor Francois Perier (“Nights of Cabiria”, “Le Samourai”, “Z”, “Orpheus”).

“La Visita” would be nominated for a Golden Bear Award at the 1964 Berlin International Film Festival and would win the FIPRESCI Prize.

And now, “La Visita” will be released on DVD in March 2012 courtesy of RaroVideo.

“La Visita” is a film that focuses on two individuals: Pina (played by Sandra Milo) and Adolfo Di Palma (played by Francois Perier).

Pina is a 36-year-old woman who lives in a small town.  She lives alone with her parrot, a dog and a turtle and put an ad in a personal column hoping to correspond with a man who is wanting to raise a family, has a career and is healthy.

And sure enough, the man that responds to her ad is Francois, who lives in the city of Rome and the two begin corresponding with each other via letters.

And now, it’s the big day as Pina has invited Francois to her village to stay with her at her home for a few days.  Hoping that he will be “Mr. Right”.

As the two meet each other, Adolfo is taken by Pina’s beauty (and big derriere, which he likes).  But immediately when he goes to her home, he starts to impress her with his city knowledge and how much things cost.  And as the two try to become acquainted with each other, we start to see flashbacks of their lives prior to the two meeting with each other.

For Pina, she is a lonely woman and she has been having an affair with a truck driver named Renato Gusso (played by Gastone Moschin).  He is happily married with two children but he looks at Pina as a woman he can have sex with during his truck stops in her village.  But for Pina, she wants a relationship, a man that she can love, have a family with and if needed, take her away from her small village if needed.

While Renato does know this, he wishes her the best in finding a man that will treat her right.  Even though he knows that Pina would love to be with him.

As for Francois, we find out that he works for a book store and is not well-appreciated by his boss.  In fact, his boss enjoys him more when he’s not working.  Unlike the kind man that he portrays himself, he is rude, a chauvinist and a racist.  He is also living alone and lonely.  Even though he has sexual experience with a woman who cleans his clothes.

And whenever Pina leaves the room, his thoughts are more of how he can move his antique furniture to her home and getting rid of her pets (which is like family to Pina).

As Pina tries to get him used to her small village, Francois runs into a few people such as the town lunatic named Cucaracha (played by Mario Adorf).  Cucaracha loves to dance and he also likes Pina and hates Francois.

Another person that Francois meets is the beautiful teenager Chiaretta (played by Angela Minervini) who likes to use her sexuality to get Francois’ attention.  And for Francois, being the man that is constantly thinking about sex, he even is allured by her.

And as Pina and Francois talk about their life together, both start to wonder if its impossible for them to find true love.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“La Visita” is presented in 1:85:1 black and white and in Digital Mono 2.0 Italian with English subtitles.

The following DVD features a new digitally restored transfer from the original 35mm negative print.  I was pretty amazed by how beautiful the film looks, considering it is 50-years-old.  There is no sign of aging, contrast is amazing as black levels are deep, whites and grays are well-done.  There is some scratches and a scene with a few damage but it’s only a few seconds long but the entire film looked magnificent.  In fact, I was hoping this was one title that would receive a Blu-ray release from RaroVideo, but for the most part, this film looks fantastic on DVD.

As for audio, dialogue is clear and understandable.  I didn’t hear any hiss or clicks or any crackle during my viewing of the film.  Subtitles are easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“La Visita” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Ettore Scola – (18:37) Director writer Ettore Scola talks about perceptions of Antonio Pietrangeli than and how people are discovering his work now.
  • Interview with Armando Trovajoli – (9:49) Interview with composer Armando Trovajoli who talks about working with Pietrangeli.
  • Interview with Paolo Pietrangeli – (14:45) Interview with director and musician Paolo Pietrangeli about his relationship with his father and how he has been forgotten in Italy but probably be remembered if he directed in other countries.
  • PDF Booklet – Featuring a wonderful 16-page booklet which includes a film analysis by Gabrielle Lucantonio, “Comments of the Director” by director Antonio Pietrangeli (“Bianco e Nero, 1967) and “Comments of the Leading Actress: Sandra Milo” by Patrizia Pistagnesi, “Hommage a Anna” (1989).

EXTRAS:

“La Visita” comes with a slipcover case.

Among the Italian filmmakers of the ’50s-’60s that were forgotten and have now been rediscovered by today’s cineaste, Antonio Pietrangeli’s “La Visita” is true commedia all’italiana. Featuring a wonderful performance by Sandra Milo and Francois Perier, “La Visita” is an enjoyable comedy that takes on a disillusioned point of view of life between two lonely individuals who meet each other after corresponding by mail.

But I have to admit, even I have not heard of Antonio Pietrangeli and this is rare considering he has made films that were nominated for awards, he was a film critic for major Italian magazines, he helped jumpstart the career of Sandra Milo and for a filmmaker and screenwriter of this caliber, how is it that his name has been forgotten?

The fact is that with Italian cinema, there was always a focus on Italian neorealism and commedia all’italiana and very few filmmakers were remembered because their work played worldwide.  They were written about in cinema magazines all over the world but access to films, especially during that era in time when so many were being released and only the films by notable filmmakers were being focused on, a number of Italian filmmakers fell through the cracks to never be remembered.

But that was then, this is now.

Like in America who many had forgotten actor Harold Lloyd, who is one of the three kings of comedy of silent film, Lloyd started to receive recognition nearly 50-years after his films were released.  While Lloyd’s awareness was low because he had control over his films, in Italy, Pietrangeli was forgotten because his films were unlike Fellini, Mastroianni, De Sica, Rossellini.  In fact, unlike France where many film critics for Caheres went on to write and direct their own films, it was not really appreciated in Italy.

And thus, many people ask, who is Antonio Pietrangeli?  And now, here we are with RaroVideo’s release of a digitally restored “La Visita”, one of the cinema highlights in the career of Pietrangeli but also talents such as Sandra Milo and Francois Perier.

For some, the whole storyline may seem banal.  Two lonely people who have corresponded with each other and are perhaps destined to fall in love.  But this is not an Ersnt Lubitsch “The Shop Arround the Corner” type of film.  These characters are flawed, disillusioned and total opposites and there is no “opposites attract” and trying to sugarcoat it.

Sandra Milo does a fantastic job playing Pina, a woman that is well-known for her posterior that she puts Kim Kardashian to shame.  Pietrangeli was especially hard on the actress in order to get her character right, especially having to wear so much butt padding that she eventually realized that the reason why the director was tough on her is because he wanted to get that sense of delusion, that sense of loneliness and she succeeds.  She is 36-years-old, absolutely beautiful but perhaps her standards are too high?  Or perhaps she needs to travel and find herself elsewhere.  But instead, she tries her chances on a newspaper ad.

But unlike female characters in Italian cinema, this woman doesn’t rely on her man.  She is self-sufficient, she is independent, has her own house, servant and vehicle.  So, her character was quite different than what was usually seen in Italian cinema during that era.

Francois Perier is equally wonderful as the disillusioned Francois.  A man who lives a ho-hum life, no excitement and because he is treated like a nobody, he has a negative outlook on his life and when he arrives to meet Pina, immediately he looks at her as a plaything, her home as his place to do what he wants.  An arrogant man who thinks he can spank any woman’s behind whenever he wants, speaks what he wants and eventually the more we get to know him, we are turned off by his attitude.

Which leads us to the director Antonio Pietrangeli.  We know that filmmakers Michelangelo Antonioni who take on relationships focus on alienation.  Pietrangeli doesn’t go for alienation but he does share his disillusion of society with his two characters, two total opposites that don’t deserve each other.   As Hollywood was about total opposites finding love, this was not going to follow that banality of regurgitating storylines.  Nor was this film going to have the same supporting characters.  Who would imagine that you would have a character named Cucaracha who is a buffoon that is constantly dancing or tries to wash Pina’s car in the rain, who would expect to see a teenager named Chiaretta trying to use her sexuality and see if she can get Francois all hot and bothered.

You just don’t come across films like “La Visita” that often and for me, it was refreshing to watch a film and really enjoying it, despite knowing that these two characters are flawed.

As for the DVD release, RaroVideo has done cineaste a great service in releasing this digitally remastered version of the film.  For a film that is 50-years-0ld, it looks fantastic on DVD but with that being said, having gone through digital restoration, I really do feel that this film should be released on Blu-ray.  It’s too beautiful of a film to be only on DVD, so I hope RaroVideo considers an HD release in the near future.

As for special features, you get three interviews that try to focus on how can a filmmaker such as Antonio Pietrangeli be forgotten.  Interesting and intriguing interviews and also a wonderful booklet via PDF.

Overall, “La Visita” is captivating, fun and highly entertaining! “La Visita” is true commedia all’italiana, a rare gem that you rarely come across and should be recognized as a masterpiece by Italian filmmaker/writer Antonio Pietrangeli.

Highly recommended!


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L’Automobile (The Automobile) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

One of the final films featuring one of the greatest actresses of cinema, Anna Magnani.  “L’Automobile” (The Automobile) showcases the actresses in another amazing performance, but it’s also a ’70s film that makes a statement to Italian society of its dependence on the automobile.  A televised film that was a sign of the times, but still a film demonstrating Magnani’s brilliance as an actress.

Images courtesy of ©RAROVIDEO 2011. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: L’Automobile (The Automobile)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1971

DURATION: 93 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Italian with English Subtitles, Monaural

COMPANY: RaroVideo

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: February 28, 2012

Directed by Alfredo Gianetti

Written by Alfredo Gianetti

Produced by Giovanni Bertolucci

Music by Ennio Morricone

Cinematography by Pasqualino De Santis

Edited by Renato Cinquini

Production Design by Francesco Bronzi

Set Decoration by Osvaldo Desideri

Costume Design by Maria Baroni

Starring:

Anna Magnani as Anna

Vittorio Caprioli as Giggetto

Christian Hay as Lou

Donato Castellaneta as Guidino

Renato Malavasi as Matteo

Pupo De Luca as Istruttore di guida

Ettore Geri as Un tedesco

From the 1962 Oscar winner writer of Divorce – Italian Style and available for the first time on DVD, The Automobile, an episode from the TV mini series The “Three Women”, featuring Italian movie icon Anna Magnani with music composed by the genius Ennio Morricone, comes this classic 70s Italian story of Anna, an experienced prostitute who has become an institution in the Roman nightlife. In reality she is lonely and aimless, and decides to buy a car in order to satisfy her need to feel like a normal woman. On an outing to the beach to celebrate her new sense of freedom she meets two men who convince her to let them drive her new car, and things deteriorate from there.

In 1971, a three film mini-series (“L’Automobile, “1943: Un incontro” and “La Sciantosa”) which aired on Italian television and would feature the work of filmmaker/writer Alfredo Giannetti (“Divorce Italian Style”, “Il ferroviere”, “A Man of Straw”), the music of Ennio Morricone (“The Untouchables”, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, “Once Upon a Time in the West”) and most notably the final year of acting for renown actress Anna Magnani.

For many cineaste and those who have watched many Italian Neo-Realism films, Anna Magnani is an actress who was important to cinema as she was known for her roles such as Roberto Rossellini’s “Rome, Open City” (1945), Luchino Visconti’s “Bellissima” (1951), Daniel Mann’s “The Rose Tattoo” (1955),  Sidney Lumet’s “The Fugitive Kind” (1959) and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Mamma Roma” (1962) to name a few.

So, for many cinema fans, 1971 was the final year to watch Anna Magnani and suffice to say, many fans tuned in.

“L’Automobile” (The Automobile) is a film that features a role that Anna Magnani has played before, a prostitute in post-war Italy, a sign of the time.  But in the case of this film, Anna Magnani is Anna, the prostitute who has been in the business for far too long.

And while observing the younger prostitutes having fun as part of the Roman nightlife, she also notices that the days of women and men meeting indoors have changed to women now leaning in cars waiting for a man.

For Anna, she doesn’t own a car, she rides a bus to the Pines Hotel where she lives and is best known by many men as “The Countess”.

But now Anna wants to experience something different in her life and possibly get out of the career as a prostitute.  What about buying a car?  She has saved up all her hard-earned money, why not buying something she can love, take care of and travel anywhere she wants to go.

Problem is, she doesn’t know how to drive.  So, Anna calls her good friend Giggetto (played by Vittorio Caprioli, “Il Generale della Rovere”, “Tout va bien”, “Le magnifique”), who happens to own a vehicle, that tends to not run all that well.  But hopes he will teach her the basics for riding a car and so it will prepare her for taking a test to obtain her driver’s license.

Eventually, Anna passes her test and buys her dream car, a yellow convertible Fiat.  And for Anna, it’s the first major purchase she has made with her life.  She uses all her savings as a down payment, she purchases the best car insurance possible and she worries about her car as if it was like a child.

But when Anna decides to venture outside of the city with her new automobile, life for Anna will change forever.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“L’Automobile” is presented in 1:33:1, color and and monaural Italian with English subtitles.

Picture quality for a 1971 film is actually very good, as the film doesn’t look like an early ’70s film in the fact that it’s not that aged.  In fact, the film looks a lot better than some ’90s films that I have watched on video, so the overall picture quality is pretty good for its age, considering the film is 40-years-old and is a TV film.

Audio is monaural, Italian dialogue was clear as with Ennio Morricone’s score.  English subtitles are white and easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“L’Automobile” comes with the following special features:

  • Original Trailer – (1:44) The original theatrical trailer for “L’Automobile”.
  • Video Introduction – (16:34) Featuring a video introduction by Mario Sesti (film critic and curator of the International Rome Film Festival).
  • PDF Booklet – Featuring a wonderful 12-page booklet which includes a film analysis by Bruno Di Marino, “Cinema according to Anna Magnani” from “Arianna” (1963) and “L’Europe” (1973) and “Two or Three Things about ‘Nannarella'” by Patrizia Pistagnesi, “Hommage a Anna” (1989).

Anna Magnani has had a long career of impressive films and working with the best directors and writers in the business.  Beloved in Italy, adored by cineaste and even winning an Oscar for “Best Actress” for the 1955 film “The Rose Tattoo”.  She was an amazing actress who was compared to Greta Garbo because of her acting and came to the United States and won various awards.

But by the early ’70s, Magnani health would be at a decline and 1971 would be the final year of the actress who would die of pancreatic cancer in 1973.

While those who have never watched a Magnani film would probably look at “L’Automobile” as standard ’70s cinema and a slice-of-life tale about an older woman buying her first automobile and venturing outside of the city with it.

But Anna Magnani as an actress who had worked in post-war Italian neorealism films, she comes from the old Italy who saw how her beloved city has changed.  From the automobile was a sign of economic prosperity of the ’60s and by the ’70s, everyone has one and the city has become nothing but a 24/7 traffic jam.

And in 1971, French filmmaker Jacques Tati also depicted this in his 1971 film “Trafic” featuring his character Monsieur Hulot who came from the old country of France and had to get used to the modernizing of society and its dependence on the automobile.

But watching the film, actress Magnani is able to capture this disenchantment of life and society through her career with remarkable efficacy and perhaps this film of an older Magnani was evident that the actress still has it.  She demonstrates genuine emotions and expressions that make you believe in the character.

Sure, “L’Automobile” is a televised movie and part of a trilogy.  It is comedy but also statement to Italian society from a generation who saw the city of Rome transformed into a near immobile parking lot.  And while there are more impressive Anna Magnani films out there, her 1971 films including “L’Automobile” would show that no matter if she was succumbing to pancreatic cancer, no matter if it was an older Anna on film, because it was on television, a large audience would get to experience Anna Magnani, actress extraordinaire that was able to play a character and become it.

As for the DVD from RaroVideo, the picture quality is in very good shape considering it’s a ’70s film and has no signs of the usual aging film.  As mentioned, I have seen ’90s films that look its age and for “L’Automobile”, aside from clothing and the music played by a live band at the beginning of the film, the film doesn’t look terrible as you would expect from a ’70s TV film.  So, this new digitally restored “L’Automobile” looks very good on DVD.

And as far as special features go, you get a verbose video introduction from film critic Mario Sesti and a PDF booklet of Bruno Di Mariono’s critical analysis of the film and more.

With that being said, I enjoyed “L’Automobile” and felt that Anna Magnani gave an amazing performance.  There are magnificent films that she starred in from the past which overshadows this 1973 film and while her performance was great, including her interaction with actor Vittorio Caprioli, the scenes leading up to the finale felt a bit rushed and made me wonder if that was because they had to create TV films in a set amount of time.

Nevertheless, because it is a televised film, I’m grateful to RaroVideo for bringing it out on DVD.  But I do hope that the the other two films in the trilogy “1943: Un incontro” and “La Sciantosa” will be released on DVD in the near future.

Overall, “L’Automobile” is still a must purchase for cineaste who adore actress Anna Magnani.  It’s one thing to watch the films from her past, especially films that she was best known for but to have the opportunity watch her later, final work for me, for a cineaste who have watched many films that she has starred in, having the opportunity to watch Anna Magnani in “L’Automobile” as one of her final films, on DVD in the U.S., I am grateful to RaroVideo for making it possible.

One of the final films featuring one of the greatest actresses of cinema, Anna Magnani.  “L’Automobile” (The Automobile) showcases the actresses in another amazing performance, but it’s also a ’70s film that makes a statement to Italian society of its dependence on the automobile.  A televised film that was a sign of the times, but still a film demonstrating Magnani’s brilliance as an actress.


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