Gianni, Nicola and Antonio become close friends in 1944 while fighting the Nazis. After the end of the war, full of illusions, they settle down. The movie is a the story of the life of ... See full summary »
April 1974. The Federal Councellor, annoyed by the anti-establishment tone of The French speaking Swiss radio channel, imposes "safer" subjects on Philippe de Roulet, the programs director.... See full summary »
A very long, beginning-to-end life story of an eighteenth century womanizer that is arrested, not so much for his crimes, but because he is viewed as an undesirable by the husbands and ... See full summary »
"Vigili di tutto il mondo unitevi" è il motto che sovrasta il luogo di raduno del corpo volontario dei pompieri di Viggiù. Il comandante è preoccupato: la figlia Fiamma è scomparsa da due ... See full summary »
James Bond in the 18th Century - And It's a Masterpiece!
If you can imagine a James Bond movie dolled up in sumptuous 18th-century garb - with moody black-and-white camerawork, Baroque direction and a witty script - you may get some idea of what a rich and rare treat awaits anyone who can track down this long-neglected Riccardo Freda gem. In the years after World War II - while most of the Italian film industry was drowning in dreary, no-budget Neo-Realist misery - Freda continued to whip up the sexy and stylish souffles that were his stock-in-trade for the best part of four decades. So why do critics write endless books about tedious Philistines like Rossellini and de Sica, but ignore the fact that Freda even existed? It just shows you what a deeply subjective business 'film history' can be.
In this particular epic, that dashing Venetian nobleman Giacomo Casanova (played with great brio by Vittorio Gassman) swings into action to track down an incriminating letter, which threatens to ruin the Doge's wife and sink the whole of the Serene Republic along with it. His quest takes him all the way across Europe, to the deliciously decadent court of Catherine the Great of Russia (Yvonne Sanson). On the way, he tangles with a sinister underground brotherhood, an alluring transvestite lady spy (Gianna Maria Canale) and the notorious nymphomaniac Empress herself. Throw in a few sword-fights, a lavish Imperial ball or two, a spectacular bear-hunt in the snow, a breakneck chase for the border on sleighs. There's even a grisly torture scene, to remind us that Freda finally left the swashbuckling genre to become (with films like I Vampiri and The Horrible Doctor Hichcock) the first great pioneer of Italian horror.
However trivial - or downright ridiculous - the plot may become, Freda shows a mastery of sheer cinematic style that puts most of the more highly-touted Italian directors to shame. Like Minnelli or Sirk, Mizoguchi or Ophuls, Visconti or Fellini, he is in love with the visual and sensuous possibilities of the camera itself. The breathtaking decor and costumes (by Vittorio Nino Novarese, who went on to dress the most elephantine of Hollywood epics) are as strong a dramatic presence as the actors themselves. That's no slight against the cast: Gassman was as great an actor as Marcello Mastroianni; Sanson and Canale are as strong as they are sensual, as gutsy as they are glamorous - a world away from the insipid sex objects that decorate most action movies!
Despite working in the most 'mindless' and populist of genres, Freda still managed to be one of the great aesthetes of cinema. A man - in the words of Gautier - 'for whom the visible world exists.' So WHY is his work not more 'visible'? Why is it not seen and studied in every repertory cinema and film faculty on earth? Objectively speaking, there is no single answer. Personally, I blame the Neo-Realists.
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