Napoli, gli inizi del secolo. Assunta Spina è una bella stiratrice ed ha per amante Michele, ma Raffaele continua a girarle attorno. Un giorno, durante il pranzo di onomastico a Marechiaro,... See full summary »
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Napoli, gli inizi del secolo. Assunta Spina è una bella stiratrice ed ha per amante Michele, ma Raffaele continua a girarle attorno. Un giorno, durante il pranzo di onomastico a Marechiaro, la donna invita Raffaele a ballare : per Michele è troppo, prende il coltello e la sfregia. Viene arrestato e condannato a due anni, da scontare nel carcere di Avellino. In tribunale, la donna viene avvicinata da Federigo Funelli, un cancelliere che si offre di aiutarla per far restare Michele a Napoli. La donna accetta l'aiuto dell'uomo e ne diviene l'amante, fino ad innamorarsene. La sera dell'antivigilia di Natale Assunta aspetta Federigo a casa, ma arriva Michele, scarcerato in anticipo. La donna confessa tutto, e l'uomo, pazzo di gelosia, affronta il rivale e lo uccide con un coltello, dileguandosi. Quando arrivano gli agenti, Assunta dichiara di esser stata lei ad uccidere Federigo e viene portata in prigione. Written by
Akin to a Puccini or Mascagni opera without the music, Assunta Spina is a work of dazzling dramatic intensity - with a heroine who is striking in her sensuality and modernity. Unlike the languid paper dolls who populate silent films by Griffith and others, Francesca Bertini plays a fully sexual woman. A vulnerable but hard-headed child of the slums, she's not above flirting with a man who's not her fiance, or - once the fiance goes to jail for attacking her in a jealous rage - prostituting herself to an official in order to save him. Not a Madonna, not a whore, but a woman. Perhaps the first real woman in screen history.
The gap between Image and Truth - between the sanctified image of 'woman' handed down from Roman Catholicism and 19th century melodrama, and the unvarnished truth of a real woman fighting to survive - is made explicit in the design and staging of Assunta Spina. An altar to an idealised Virgin Mary dominates the heroine's home; her less-than-ideal actions are seen and judged against it. A rare bit of calculated 'design' in a film that was shot almost entirely in the streets and slums of Naples. A style that anticipates Neo-Realism and cinema verite.
However, Assunta Spina lives in a much higher realm of art than either of those later trends. What lifts it up to the pinnacle is the acting of Francesca Bertini. One of those rare performers who goes beyond mere 'film acting'- fusing the physical grace of Margot Fonteyn with the operatic intensity of Maria Callas. Her vast liquid eyes seem to contain the whole film, and director Gustavo Serena (who co-directed, or so rumour has it, with the lady herself) manages to convey whole episodes solely through the body of his star. In the final duel between her two lovers, we never see a knife pass into flesh. All we see is a shudder pass through Bertini as she watches, and her hands clasp the air in mute agony.
In a word, DIVINA!
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