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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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