Jean Valjean, pursued through the years for a minor infraction by the implacable policeman Javert, attempts to create a life for himself and for his adopted daughter Cosette amid the ... See full summary »
Sean Kane is forced to resign from the San Francisco Police Department's Narcotics Division when he goes berserk after his partner is murdered. He decides to fight alone and follows a trail... See full summary »
Teodora, a Roman courtesan and former slave girl, marries the Roman emperor Justinian and assumes the throne as Empress of Rome. But the divide between nobility and slave is too great. ... See full summary »
Gianna Maria Canale,
Pietro, an honest businessman, is wrongly accused of the murder of his business associate and jailed. Actually the man is alive and has set him up to avoid bankruptcy. Pietro's life is ... See full summary »
Gianna Maria Canale
Keitaro (Obinata Den) is a law student and Yaeko (Aizome Yumeko) is a high school girl. They are neighbors, and their friendship is starting to develop into something more romantic. Then, ... See full summary »
The year is 1885, and necrophiliac Dr. Hitchcock likes to drug his wife for sexual funeral games. One day he accidentally administers an overdose and kills her. He leaves his home shattered... 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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