His Dark Materials
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A powerful movie that left me bewildered in the good sense of the word; its strong themes of confronting the dark and shadowy past full of guilt, sins, remorse and unsolved mysteries are alluring and challenging. It is shot in a very stark and contrasting black-and-white which greatly helps the story and manages to better convey the unspoken thoughts of the characters. My only critique would be the fact, that in some scenes the overly sexual Claudia Cardinale diverts your attention from the matter to be pondered upon.
"Sandra" promises greatness with the presence of luscious Claudia Cardinale and director Luchino Visconti, but this sluggish tale unfortunately fails to deliver. Cardinale plays a jet-set beauty who returns to the lavish family mansion with her new husband, only to find some dark secrets re-emerge during the reunion. There's not much more to say about the story, which should tell you something about its thin development -- mostly, the action is just a lot of indoor talking and implied tension. There's also a remarkably grating piano piece recurring in the score. And while I rarely complain about old films not being in color, this is one case where I will -- the black-and-white cinematography poorly serves the home's opulent decor.
The gradual revelation of the forbidden past cannot overwhelm Visconti's gay theme.
Even some arty camerawork and decent direction couldn't save what was inherently a long-winded and unpleasant story. 6.5/10
With the party now over in Geneva, Sandra(Claudia Cardinale) is currently free to return to her home village in Italy with Andrew(Michael Craig), her American husband of a year, to put the family affairs in order. Frustratingly enough, they have to wait for her brother Gianni(Jean Sorel) to put in an apperance. Otherwise, he has been busy selling off the family heirlooms to support his lifestyle and writing of a book. On the other hand, he is happy to give Andrew a tour of the sights that includes an introduction to Dr. Pietro Formari(Fred Williams) who used to have a crush on Sandra while she stays behind to look through the family documents.
"Sandra" is a beguilingly gothic tale consisting of all the necessary ingredients such as family, madness and sex. In introducing the movie, Gavin Smith remarked on the triangle at its heart while I would respectfully point out that the geometry is much more complex, with Sandra throwing off the orbits of the men around her with her ample charms. Politically, the movie is also about identity(Gianni and Sandra prominently wear Star of David's mostly to honor their father who died in Auschwitz) and how some of the characters have a problem adjusting to the new world order which is not necessarily due to provincialism as stated. This all happens in a country that is in ruins but what beautiful ruins.
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This infrequently screened Visconti effort is a serious contender for the title of "most entertaining" in his filmography. This is more or less a Sirkian ghost story or an extended, melodramaticized version of the hide and seek scene in "The Leopard". It's gorgeously shot, full of borderline to full-on camp and unquestionably gorgeous people. It also recalls the twisted relationship between the siblings in Meville/Cocteau's "L'Enfants Terrible".
The postdubbing destroys one potentially interesting aspect. A key character is American, but in the version I saw (full Italian), his lines were done by a natural Italian speaker, so his fish out of water stumbling was lost. Oh well.
The print is in good shape. Someone needs to license it for DVD!
Claudia Cardinale never looked more seductive that in this Golden Lion-winning Visconti-classic. Watch out for veteran actress Marie Bell (Un Carnet de Bal) among the supporting players. Stunning cinematography.
My favorite Visconti.