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domenica 29 maggio 2011

Split personality and psychotic behaviour of a Twisted Nerve, a classic chiller from the Boulting Brothers.






Martin (Hywel Bennett) has a mongoloid brother and his mother worry is that even Martin could be affected by some kind of disease. Martin has a very rich stepfather, who is completely despised by the young boy. One day Martin while in a toy store, shoplifts a plastic duck to get the attention of a beautiful young girl, Susan (Hayley Mills). The two are caught by the owner who thinks they are together. Martin hides his identity under the name of Georgie and make them believe is mentally retarded. Susan moved by this tender, cute boy, buys the duck for him.
She doesn’t know that Martin has been planned this meeting since he saw her working at the public library. Back home, Martin is confronted by his stepfather who announces that he’s sending the boy away for a while on a forced vacation. Martin leaves the following day, but while waiting at an hotel for his departure, he accurately plans his stay in the city to go deeper on with his new obsession: Susan. Martin shows up at night at Susan’s home, with a fake note from his father, who asks the girl and her family to take the boy with them for a week, since he has known she has been so kind to him. Susan and her mother feel pity for this endearing, problematic child and decide to give him shelter in their home, where they rent rooms to cover the expenses. A perverse role play starts, with Martin seducing people with his innocence and young beauty; an act that hides a dangerous and devilish plan: to take revenge of his stepfather and seduce Susan.
Directed by Roy Boulting and produced by his brother John from a screen story by Roger Marshall, penned by Leo Marks and Roy Boulting; the movie was released in 1968 to mixed reviews, and was in trouble with Censorship since the first press screening. Medical Associations of Handicapped  Children complained about a possible link between mental disease and mongolism as depicted in the film. The brothers decided, just before the general release, to add a voice over before main titles, stating that the creators of the film thought mongolism and mental deviance were in any way connected. This didn’t resolve all the problems, that from a today  perspective sound very much preposterous, as the assertion of a mental predisposition to crime due to a mutated chromosome is a possibility still explored by scientists around the world. Maybe because the Boultings were still under the storm created by their previous film The Family Way, a huge scandal in changing puritan England, facing the theme of impotence, in a young newly married couple, with an irreverent tone of comedy lent from Free Cinema and showing that the Brothers, even if coming from the golden age of British movies were always keeping pace with the times and have touched a noteworthy topic again; as they did with TN.
Twisted nerve was probably an attempt to cash in on a genre that was very successful in the 60’s, the exploration of madness and psychotic behaviours through the thriller/horror. Due to the worldwide success of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, but anticipated by Michael Powell’s less known and highly criticized The Peeping Tom (the film almost put an end to Powell’s career); the psycho thrillers were in vogue and popular during the 60’s with some excellent examples like: Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, Bunny Lake Is Missing and some Hammer minor vehicles like The Nanny, Paranoiac and Never Take Candies From A Stranger (one of the first films to deal with the problem of paedophilia and child molestation).
Clearly inspired by Hitchcock’s film, as Roy asserted in an interview (“...I wanted to make my silent tribute to Hitchcock, and prove that human beings could be absolutely real and not just charmers like Cary Grant and Grace Kelly” – The Family Way: The Boulting Brothers and British Film Culture, edited by Burton, O’Sullivan and Wells. Flicks Books, UK 2000) TN is scored by the same composer Bernard Herrman whose famous “whistle” theme for the movie has been recently reused and brought back to fame by Quentin Tarantino in his Kill Bill saga.
The film is a minor classic on his own. It is more a dramatic Freudian exploration of the mind, than a clockwork thriller with twists and turns. The story follows the actions of Martin all the time, with no guessing, as the audience is more an accomplice than an inert user. It’s a way to dig inside him and the unresolved problems with his own mother, the real object of his desire, and his needs of affection that make him regress to a childish stage. More than relying on scaring scenes, the Boultings prefer to deliver subtle sexual innuendos, like in a scene in which Martin/Georgie pretending to be scared enters the bed of Susan’s mother at night. The woman, upset with her lover since he got drunk and came home late, is almost seduced by the younger boy showing an attraction that is motherly and sexual at the same time; the unresolved Oedipian complex again this time reversed.
So TN can’t be defined as a thriller only, but it’s more a Psycho Drama: we are not interested in who done it? But in how far Martin could go with his deviation game. The audience is not fascinated by the fear of the unknown, but to understand how the mind of this young boy works. Martin is a border line split personality that can’t cope with his own self: we see him twice in the film reflected in a broken mirror as he was trying to terminate his image, a symbol for one of his inner two. The first time, after he has talked with his mother, at the beginning of the movie, and have learned that she’s in favour of his departure, a shocking image of the guy naked reflected in the broken glass with the cracks just there to cover his lower parts; a metaphor: his broken genitalia as the “coitus interruptus”, the incest that never took place, but also the umbilical cord cut forever. The second time at the end of the movie, when he shoots his reflected image in the mirror as he was trying to stop his second self from hurting Susan. Susan is only a perpetuation of his own mother, the one that refused him and wanted him to leave. What Martin/Georgie is looking for, is another mom, that could take care of him as a child and even as a lover.
But TN is also a twisted coming of the age tale, mirror of its times: the end of the 60’s. As one of Martin personalities refuses to grow up and find a mother that could take care of him forever, the other has a push to rebel and destroy the establishment he hates so much: Martin’s stepfather, the allegory for the older wealthy generations that incarnate the source of repression of the younger ones and that are unable to rule a country with their conservative point of view. TN is no IF…Lindsay Anderson’s boys rebel and start a possible revolution, here the Boultings, probably more conservative, sees the rebellion as a deviation, but what it’s important is that they are aware of the uneasiness of the younger people and their need to express themselves in a less strictly ruled society; the very same one they were always criticizing with their movies.
Part of the Boulting Brothers The Collection the film is available on DVD in UK by Optimum Releasing a Studio Canal company (owner of the rights). The image is crisp and well detailed, flawless, and has been restored with no sign of dirts, specks, vertical lines of any kind. The movie has been probably re-mastered in HD and looks gorgeous with saturated colours that reflect the vibrant cinematography by Harry Waxman and his unusual approach to the story, with all the characters and situations well lighted in counter apposition to the dark soul of the story told.  I strongly recommend most of the Boulting Brothers movies, they deserve a complete re discovery of their works. The collection is a mixed bag, for instance the materials used to re-master Seven Days To Noon (one of their best films) are in terrible shape and have not been restored. There are no extras of any kind not even the trailers in most of the discs.
Not with this standing, I suggest the mentioned, The Family way, Brighton Rock and of course the whistling shivers of Twisted Nerve. I’ll be probably coming back again to their cinema as I consider it a mile stone of the British one and second to nothing else.

Film mass is ended you may go in peace
The Vikar



SEQUENCE FROM THE FILM


domenica 22 maggio 2011

Disability and family disaggregation in Peter Medak’s A day in the death of Joe Egg





Brian (Alan Bates) is a schoolteacher married with Sheila (Janet Suzman). Their happy marriage has been devastated by the illness of their only child Jo, a beautiful young girl with cerebral palsy. Unable to move, speak or do anything by herself, Jo needs constant care and her disability has affected the daily life of the young couple who fights constantly with many problems, renouncing to every moment of happiness or diversion. The complicity between Sheila and Brian is fading after few years; while the woman loves deeply and without any doubts her daughter, the man asks himself some relevant questions, like if it’s right or wrong to persist in therapies and to take Joe shelter every time she gets sick, so many, so often. Brian loves his daughter but he realizes that her vegetable life is more like a non existence, and she’s tearing apart even her parents’ one and their marriage. Sheila can’t accept to let the child just die, she’s “her life” and can’t live without her. The situation is worsened by some family friends, Freddie and Pam, and by Brian’s mother Grace, a selfish, punctual woman that has always the right thing to say or suggest. One night, overwhelmed by the situation, Brian brings unnoticed the girl in the garden and leaves her there exposed to the chilly air for a while; hoping for a final remedy: a cold could get her life for good. But Jo brought to the hospital in time, survives. Once back home with Jo recovered, Sheila promises Brian a week vacation every year, just the two of them. But it’s too late, even to make love to him. With the excuse to be late for work, Brian flees away leaving them forever.
Adapted by Peter Nichols from his award winning play, A day in the death of Jo Egg is a shocking actors’ tour de force and shows  Medak’s skilful ability to direct them. A play could become a stagey and talky film, but Medak brilliantly avoids these problems with his surreal touch and few external set ups to make this a true cinematic experience. Even if heavy relying on dialogues, the film is never boring, due to Nichols smart characters and their darkly humorous remarks. The approach to this bleak tale is original, innovative and provocative at the same time. It’s easy to fail and deliver the usual tearjerker when such matter is faced, but Nichols and Medak avoid this with an unusual employ of comedy with which Brian and Sheila seem to have found the right balance to go on and live. It’s a trick to mask all their problems and mutual dissatisfaction: a way to keep a marriage together when a terrible event occurs, one that could wreck even the most satisfying and well managed union. These darkly funny situations don’t make things easier for the viewers, on the contrary the counter opposition between the sight of the salivating, inarticulate mumbling girl and the parents’ joking with her, as if she was perfectly normal,  render a feel of discomfort and the whole experience unbearable. This is a very sad story in which to take side with one part or another is almost impossible. The balance between the parents’ reasons is perfectly achieved and executed; we can comprehend Sheila’s affection and love for her own child, and we can sympathize with Brian and his needs to have a better life for all of them; for Jo first of all, because she can’t even understand which is the meaning of it.
The movie asks so many questions very hard to answer, and it is nowadays as relevant as it was at the time of its release in 1972. According to some sources the film was produced and filmed in 1970 (copyright at the end credits 1970), but shelved for two years, because the producers wanted to wait the launch of Suzman’s career since she was starring in the big budgeted Nicholas and Alexandra. I believe they really didn’t know what to do with the movie and how to market it, this was a tough sale for sure. Bates and Suzman are both excellent making the audience part of their drama and involving it with complicity and a sexy chemistry that make the couple likeable and close to everybody’s daily life. The feelings towards them grow stronger in the film as we realize that even love sometimes can’t overcame struggles and different point of view. Brian’s escape at the end is a supreme act of love, maybe pushed by a selfish desire of freedom, but first of all done because he understands that their way of life can only lead to mutual self destruction.
Available now in US as part of Columbia Classics By Request (DVD-R), and UK in a properly pressed edition in the collection Classic British, the one reviewed here. The movie has been re-mastered from the original materials and looks excellent, with the cinematography not being one of the strongest aspect of the film, serving the story without to embellish it. Mono audio in English is strong. No extras of any kind. AR 1.33 4/3 (note: on the Columbia site in US, the US edition is stated to be 1.66:1); I didn’t notice any missing part in the composition of the frame, I suspect the movie to have been shot full frame and then matted for theatrical release.
Peter Medak is an interesting artist whose work includes excellent movies like: The ruling class, The Changeling, The Krays, Romeo is bleeding. Recently he has worked mostly shooting TV series episodes (The Wire, Masters of horror, Law and Order etc) as he always did even during his most successful years (Space 1999, Hart to Hart) .
I strongly recommend to watch the above mentioned titles as well as the one reviewed here; an exceptional career stained only by one misfire work the unwatchable Species II, probably done for commercial reasons and because for classy directors is more and more difficult to work in Hollywood at the present day.



Film mass is ended you may go in peace
The Vikar


domenica 15 maggio 2011

Life sucks! Feminist vampires in Dennis Gansel’s latest film Wir sind die nacht (We are the night).





An airplane is approaching the Berlin airport. On board everybody has been killed in a bloodbath. Only three beautiful women: leader of the pack Louise, elegant classy Charlotte and trendy fashion addicted Nora, are alive. They killed crew and passengers and drank their blood. As the plane gets closer to the final destination, they jump from it into the night.
Lena a twenty years old semi punk pickpocket, is pursued by a young cop after a hit. Hidden on a platform of a bridge she changes her clothes. The cop arrives and ask her if she saw anybody. After few minutes, he realizes this girl to be the very same one he was pursuing, but when he tries to arrest her, she hits him hardly with expert moves and jumps on a boat cruising under the bridge. The guy is astonished by this beautiful ruthless girl, and starts to laugh hard more fascinated by her, than angry. Lena’s life is miserable, she’s a juvenile delinquent, her mother doesn’t care about her and she really doesn’t know what to do. One night she follows some people going in a shut down funhouse, where a rave party is hosted by the female vampire trio. Louise chooses the people to be let in at the door, as she sees Lena, she is immediately spellbind by her wild beauty. After a dance in which she tries to seduce Lena, Louise brings her in the bathroom and bites her, without killing her. Back home, Lena feels sick as soon realizes Louise has turned her into a vampire. Reluctant at first, Lena joins the trio, and his high octane life style made of sport cars, fashion clothes, drugs and parties; they are definitely the night. But Lena will soon learn that to survive most of the times the vampires have to kill somebody, even innocent people, and that she has to renounce to everything normal, like the love of the young cop that in the meantime has been able to track her down.
A Constantine production in association with Rat Pack Films and international sales powerhouse Celluloid Dreams, We are the night marks the return of director Dennis Gansel behind the camera, after its phenomenal sensation Die Welle (The Wave). Shot in a lavish widescreen format, the film is slick and astonishing from a technical point of view. The action sequences are top notch, but Gansel shows a great ability directing even the young cast as he did in his previous movies, the mentioned The Wave and Napola. Gansel’s style is modern, without to be confusing, fast paced when necessary and accomplished in every department. Source of inspiration is the 80’s classic Lost Boys to whom We are the night would be a perfect double bill under the title Lost Girls. These vampires are sexy and full of lust, and reminds us more of Ann Rice’s ones (Interview with the vampire) than the anaemic teenagers depicted in the Twilight saga. It’s not easy nowadays to say something new about the old dear fanged friend, but even working with all the stereotypes and commonplaces Gansel manages to deliver some fresh ideas and visuals. The scene in which Lena finally becomes a vampire is both sexy and innovative. She has drunk blood for the first time, and taking a bath she transforms: her hair grows longer, she becomes more beautiful, her tattoos fade in the water leaving her with a brand new white skin without marks. The whole female approach to the vampire myth it’s interesting as well. Most of the times the vampire has been depicted as a male predator; Gansel brings back seducing lesbian blood suckers inspired by some Hammer cult films like Countess Dracula and Vampire lovers  and by the Jean Rollin’s classics Les frissons des vampires and La vampire nue. Since the vampire has always been not only a cold blooded killer, but a seducer, using his sex appeal and his victims' desire to impose his will over them, Gansel approaches this matter creating strong female characters, as beautiful as dangerous,that, as we are told in the film, got rid once and for all of all the males. The male vampires have been killed by humans or by Louise’s gang. As she states in a scene, she wants her life to be ruled by any man, be human or vampire it doesn’t matter.
It is unfortunate that most of the original elements in the film, like this one, are not fully exploited by the script and just barely mentioned. And while the first two acts of the story are powerful and interesting, this interest lowers in the last act that, even with some amazing action scenes, works on a more commercial and common ground reducing the potential of the movie to a mere entertaining vehicle. In the last fifteen minutes the story goes on a routine mode, with Lena’s love affair being predictable and failing to have the emphasis and romance of Bigelow’s Near Dark for instance. Not fully exploited, in its message, is also Louise beautiful speech about solitude and lack of love, thrown away before final showdown.
Not with this standing, the film is entertaining, and technically so competent that rivals his bigger Hollywood counterparts and beats them on many levels with skills and ideas. Production values are all on the screen, locations and sets are wonderful as well as costumes and Torsten Breuer’s lavish cinematography that well captures the swarming nightlife depicted in most of the scenes. SPFXs are few but very good and used functional to tell the story, without being “the only story”. One clever idea is to illustrate for instance Charlotte's past life, showing the audience she was an actress in Lang’s masterpiece Dr. Mabuse der spieler. It’s a nice homage from Gansel that sows citations all around the film and displays sometimes a touch of classy black humour, as when Charlotte before to kill an innocent guard of a place in which she broke in with the others, is reading the book For whom the bell tolls. Funny and original even the location used for this sequence, one of the girls has complained that she misses sun too much, so Louise brings them to a close winter structure with artificial sun and beach. I recommend this film even with all its flaws, because is fun, with a cast of well amalgamated and talented actresses: Karoline Herfurth, Nina Hoss, Jennifer Ulrich and Anna Fisher.
Released last November in Germany, his native country, the film had tepid BO, I believe due to a poster campaign that made the film look more like a Sex and the city kind of product. That was indeed another source of inspiration but  some poeple may have been misled by these artworks. Since then, the film has been a market sensation at both AFM and Berlin. I predict strong international sales with nice  results in key markets specially with strong video and VOD revenues. The movie would deserve a theatrical run, and I suggest a platform, limited one to be expanded if results pay off.
The film is now available on BRD and DVD in Germany (German only) and France. The BRD examined here is the French one and the one I suggest to go for, distributed by Metropolitan Film & Video. It is region B locked, but the movie is available also in an English dubbed version (5.1 DTS HD). I went for the German track (5.1 DTS HD) with French subs. The audio is strong and powerful and well reproduce the excellent sound of the film as well as its wonderful score, a mix of  rock and tecno that well serves the mood of the whole story.
French dubbed track available as well (5.1 DTS HD), plus a ton of extras, in German with French subtitles only. These include: 2 alternate ending (that are no better than the factual one), 9 deleted scenes, Charlotte in Dr. Mabuse: a SPFX essay that shows the process used to erase one actress, from the original Lang’s film,  to replace her with Charlotte. Director’s diary, Crew interviews trailers and making of clips.  The HD master is crisp and well detailed, a little too soft at times, but maybe it was the glossy theatrical presentation that looked this way. Colours are warm  strong and saturated with an intended tendency to orange. OAR 2.35:1, 16X9, 1920X1080p.

Film mass is ended you may go in peace
The Vikar

ORIGINAL TRAILER

domenica 8 maggio 2011

Conservative revenge: a sadistic class struggle in the French cult thriller Mort un Dimanche de pluie (Death on a rainy Sunday)



David Briant (Jean-Pierre Bacri) lives with his wife Elaine (Nicole Garcia) and his daughter in a fancy glass house he built in the countryside. David is a very successful architect, while his wife is a music producer. One day driving out from his mansion, David is stopped by a man who hits his car with a trailer. The guy looks familiar, and suddenly David realizes the man to be Bronsky, an employee he had at a construction site in which he worked and where a terrible accident happened. Bronsky lost his arm during the occurence, and there’s nothing he can do anymore due to its disability. David feels guilty because of it, since it was probably his fault and the whole thing has been covered up to save his career. David is under pressure and decides to hire Bronsky as a gardener and his wife as a baby sitter for his daughter, not to spread around rumours about the misfortunate event, that could affect his achievements in life. The duo have a daughter as well, almost same age of David’s, and they could spend some time together playing. Elaine can go back to work without worries, and David has his conscience cleaner, even if he’s convinced that it wasn’t really his fault. But things are not what they seem to be, Bronsky and his wife don’t want only to be helped, they want revenge, and once insinuated in David’s existence, they start to work toward their only goal: to tear the man’s life apart.
Shot in 1986 by Joel Santoni, one of the few movies for the big screen he directed and probably his best, the film is an excellent exercise in suspense and it’s a precursor of such later US hits like The glass house and The hand who rocks the cradle. Bacri and Garcia are very good in their roles while Dominique Levanant and Jean Pierre Bisson shine in the parts of the creepy deranged couple, with a twisted mind. Santoni makes a perfect use of his location, using the hugely windowed villa to create tension out of something that should instead be of comfort. While being inside is possible to see Bronsky’s sinister figure moving around, often in the rain, wearing his shiny black raincoat (quoting a topic of the Italian Giallos of the 70’s), unwatched by David and his wife, spying on them, with only the audience being aware of his presence.
The tension in the story, based on a novel by Joan Aiken author of the script as well as Santoni, is build up slowly in the tradition of a classic thriller, to explode in the third act of the film with the violence and fast pace typical of modern slashers. The violence in the movie is more psychological than graphic, but when it comes to this point, Santoni delivers a couple of scenes that are as unforgettable as disturbing, specially when he shows David’s little daughter naked tight with steel wire in a bathroom; a scene that would be impossible to shoot nowadays as it would be considered outrageous due to the involvement of a minor.
The deranged working class getting its revenge, would probably let the viewer think of a right wing approach to the story; but things will change forever for everybody at least, and without to spoil the ending I could only say that both of the families will be transformed in the process and will melt together. At the very last, this is an entertaining film, very well made, whose only limit is the 80’s music score that today is so frankly dated since it contextualizes the work too much in that era.
Its political message is as interesting as anarchic and its heroes: unusual. Bronsky and David are respectively one mad, the other dishonest, even if we don’t really know what happened before it is clear enough he feels guilty, because something he did was a mistake, but nobody since he’s successful and powerful would admit it. On the other hand Bronsky, the apparently weaker one, it’s not justified in his horrible acts by the fact he was done a wrong. His wife is crazy as well, while Elaine is too self absorbed in a job that looks very much the fancy pretence of a real one, specially those rich bored women usually do.
Only the two girls are likeable, David’s one fragile and weak, left alone often from her parents looking for affection and warmth. Bronsky’s apparently silent and weird is as resolute as daring when it’ll come in the end to take drastic decisions. Even her is looking for a real family and could find tenderness and respect only with  one of her very own age. Deconstructed the families, destroyed the barriers between left and right, what remains is the future generations that have to overcome class differences and build themselves a better future based on comprehension and common ground if they want to fight the evil that lays apolitically in both sides.
The DVD examined here is the one L.C.J. Editions et Productions released in the film native country. There are no extras, but the movie has been painstakingly restored from its original negative and the image is sharp, crystal-clear and clean from any damage. OAR 2.35:1 16X9 enhanced. Sound French original stereo. No subtitles, but I checked on line and it’s very easy to find English subs for the film.
The movie has been forgotten, but has acquired a cult status during the years, and has been quoted by the directors of A l’interieur as a primary source of inspiration for the use of the locations and the mood of the story. Check this out, on a rainy Sunday, possibly.


Film mass is ended you may go in peace
The Vikar

 sequences from the film
video

domenica 1 maggio 2011

Five witches for one star: Silvana Mangano in Le Streghe (The Witches)



Five segments put together with Silvana Mangano recurring in the lead role; every short on a different female character. Produced by her husband Dino De Laurentiis, who assembled a package of first class directors and stars.

La strega buciata viva (The witch burned alive).
A famous movie star, Gloria, secretly reaches a mountain cottage to attend a friend’s party celebrating the tenth anniversary of her marriage. While there, she’s under close examination by the other women, whose envy for the beautiful actress is as high as the peak of the surroundings mountains, and the men whose only interest is to try to sleep with her. Gloria doesn’t feel good, and she soon realizes to be pregnant. A shocking phone call, with her husband and patron in NY, who doesn’t want even to talk about any pregnancy that could ruin her career forever, plunges her into a great anguish. But the following morning the woman, reprising her role of a real movie star,  leaves the place, surrounded by fans and photographers who in the meantime have discovered her arrive.
Written by Giuseppe Patroni Griffi (Metti una sera a cena, Identikit), and directed by Luchino Visconti (Il gattopardo, Senso, Rocco e i suoi fratelli just to name few of his masterpieces), this excellent episode displays all the favourite themes of both writer and director, the expose of high society environment and his members with a very low moral code. A theme to which Visconti will return later for another contemporary piece Gruppo di famiglia in un interno. While the director has always favoured period pieces to comment the contemporary way of life, this is an exception of great relevance.
The film business is shown at his worst, with its false façade; a world of “homo homini lupus” and in which who is famous has to pay the higher price for his success, renouncing to any kind of private life, showing no frailty or emotional feelings. The upper class around it, is as decadent as eager to be part of the showbiz, but it’s not any better. Marriages are kept alive only for a formal appearance, favourite sport for both men an women to complain of each other.
The episode is masterfully shot, with beautiful camera angles, and acted by a whole group of Visconti’s regulars: Annie Girardot, Massimo Girotti.

Senso civico (Civic virtue)
A man is severely wounded in a car accident. A very fancy young lady, get him in her car declaring she’s going to bring him to the hospital. To avoid the wait for the ambulance could be crucial, and her initiative is highly praised by the surrounding crowd.
She is an hell of a driver as she goes faster than light with her small town car. She avoids other vehicles, she doesn’t stop to traffic lights, she’ll do everything to get in time: at an appointment with her boyfriend! When the man realizes she’s not going to stop to any Emergency Room, it’s too late. The poor guy, left in the middle of a street again, since she achieved to arrive in time at her meeting, will die ignored.
A funny and sardonic little short with Alberto Sordi, as the injured man, performing his usual routine of a simple Roman guy. Directed by Mauro Bolognini (Il bell’Antonio, Gran Bollito) the short is amusing and technically interesting, having been filmed mostly in a small car. Bolognini, while delivering the comic pieces, has the opportunity to shoot well made camera car that increase the sense of speed and the rhythm of the story. He creates tension in the viewer cutting from the fast running vehicle, to the interior of the car where the situation is as funny as discomforting. While this kind of situation looked grotesque and excessive at that time; it is not nowadays when news more often report of people left dying in the streets with nobody paying attention. A premonition of how unfortunately worse our society was going to be. 

La Terra vista dalla Luna (Earth as seen from the Moon)
Ciancicato Miao (Crumpled Meow) has lost his wife. She died because instead to eat sprouts she ate poisoned mushrooms. Miao is sad, he wants to find a new bride as soon as possible, to give a mother again to his only son. After one year of researches, and have been beaten by a young window offended by the proposition, and avoided a prostitute; Miao meets in a middle of the street a beautiful woman with green hair Assurdina Caì (Absurdine Caì).
She’s deaf and hear impaired, but she agrees to marry him. Not only looking gorgeous, the new bride is sweet like a candy and mostly a perfect housewife transforming, like  if she had magical power, the stinky damp of an house in which Miao brought her, into a nice cabin with a decent look. But men and women are never satisfied. When they realize their neighbour put his house for sale, the trio, mother, father and son decide to raise some money to buy it. Climbed on the Colosseo, Assurdina menaces to jump and kill herself, declaring to the hurried crowd she can’t stand anymore poverty. It’s a trick of course, but an incident as abrupt as unforeseeable occurs: she slips on a banana peel, thrown away from some noisy American tourists, and falls to death. Left alone again, Miao and his son are mourning at the cemetery. But when back home again they unexpectedly find Assurdina waiting for them. At first the two run away scared, but then they realize that she is dead indeed, but still can cook, clean and make love to Miao as she did before. The trio reunites for the happiest of the celebrations. Moral: to be dead or alive is the same thing.
Directed by poet, writer, helmer Pier Paolo Pasolini (Decameron, Mamma Roma, Accatone, Salò) the episode is visually outstanding and masterfully told. A tender, sad, fairy tale, with typical Pasolini’s heroes from the suburbs. The great Totò in the role of Miao, and Pasolini’s regular Ninetto Davoli, shine in the depiction of this duo of bumps who are as good as simple minded. Mangano as the fairy is excellent as well, as beautifully plays along with the others, all of them delivering a performance that goes back to the origin of Italian ancient theatre. These tragic masks, whose Pasolini always sung the praise in his poems, novels and films, are immersed in a lyric concept of a story that works in contraposition to the desolated milieu of their own lives. But simplicity is the key role of their miserable existence; and only when they will try to advance their social status, wishing to buy a bigger house, they will be corrupted and led to a tragic fate. Being a fairy tale, the story has an happy ending, but the final declaration: to be dead or alive it’s the same; could be the saddest conclusion ever. Their lives are so poor and wretched that would make no difference for them, they would be hopeless if they hadn’t each other. Pasolini suggests that if they’ll be together and will continue to live their simple life not even death will tear them apart, only consumism could do that.

La Siciliana (The Sicilian woman)
A young Sicilian woman has been offended by a man that dared to look at her, and then he didn’t anymore. She confesses her father and without thinking about the consequences, she gives the start to a vengeance in which both families, hers and the offender will be killed. Shot by Franco Rossi, this is a very short episode, whose pace and chain of events is shown following sketches sequences well edited together. It makes fun of some stereotypes about Sicilians to be very jealous people, accustomed to solve honour troubles with a bloodshed. It’s grotesque and darkly funny.

Una sera come le altre (An evening like many others)
Carlo (Clint Eastwood) is an American living in Italy with his wife of ten years. An evening like many others, Carlo while Giovanna is complaining they never get out, falls asleep as always. His wife as talking to him, fantasize in her mind to be loved by a huge crowd of men and to strip in front of a stadium audience while her husband pitifully screams to stop. The complaints end only when even her falls asleep. The evening like many others will leave soon room to another day like many others.
Director Vittorio De Sica depicts all the bore of a middle class marriage full of complaints and daily crisis. The small vengeances are consumed only in the mind of the woman, unable to take any radical decision and drastically change her life. Marriage is the tomb of love seems to suggest the authors. The bond and the affection between the weds is overwhelmed by the daily routine and by the small tiresome things that after a whole day work appear to be insurmountable. Clint Eastwood in the role of Carlo was casted probably to give the film and International appeal, and while his performance is just fine, the whole episode suffers for the use of too many stereotypes, recycling an approach to the matter already seen before, dozens of times. De Sica follows a “Fellinisque”  visual path to film the story, using an ironic surrealism for the woman’s fantasies. Even with all its flows the piece is still enjoyable specially for the gorgeous costumes and the amazing on stage constructions.

Le streghe makes his digital debut on DVD-R part of the MGM Limited Edition Collection. The film retains its OAR 1.85:1 and its 16X9. This US edition is the only one on the market at the moment of this writing, being the movie unavailable even in its own native countries: Italy and France (it was a co-production). Audio it’s ok, but not that much effort was put on it; the film is in Italian with optional English subtitles, but a nice touch was to include the original audio (it was shot in English and then dubbed to Italian) in Clint Eastwood’s episode, this way it’s possible to enjoy his performance listening his real voice. A disclaimer at the beginning advise the viewer the film has been sourced from the best available materials. It has been probably re mastered from an interpositive, and it’s a mixed bag from one episode to another, it very much depends from the lighting and the cinematographer’s approach to the story. I spotted  large use of DVNR, instead of a frame by frame digital restoration. The result is an image lacking definition and edge enhancement, to avoid this softness combined to the one of the original materials, has been applied as well. This creates  video noise specially in the backgrounds with visible macro blockings, not helped by the low bit rate encoding (DVD-R 5, movie RT 105 mins.); while projecting the film I had to reset the video processor to reduce both noise and edge. It’s probably going to look fine on large TV sets even when upscaled, but on large screens looks problematic (VP used: ABT DVDO 50pro THX). Still I recommend to watch it, waiting for a better edition that at the moment seems far to be released.
This is a fine movie with some outstanding episodes. It was made at a time in which short stories compilations were highly popular and acclaimed. 
Together with Boccaccio 70 and Capriccio all’Italiana, this is one of the finest examples. 



 Film mass is ended you may go in peace
The Vikar