Angelo, a glass-blower from Murano, and Georgia Maglia, the pretty daughter of a fallen fascist magistrate, are chosen to be the stand-ins for the stars of a film version of "Romeo and ... See full summary »
Angelo, a glass-blower from Murano, and Georgia Maglia, the pretty daughter of a fallen fascist magistrate, are chosen to be the stand-ins for the stars of a film version of "Romeo and Juliet" being shot on location in Venice and Verona. It is not long before they fall in love and their romance parallels that of Shakespeare's timeless heroes. Indeed their union is threatened by the schemings of Raffaele, the Maglia family's dubious tout... Written by
Yet another unjustly neglected "Old Wave" French film
A film version of "Romeo and Juliet" is being shot in Venice and Verona, two people involved in the production fall in love, and their actual romance parallels the fictional one. But it's not all as you'd expect. It's not the actors playing Romeo and Juliet who fall in love, but their non-professional stand-ins: he's a glass-blower, she's the daughter of a well-to-do family fallen on hard times (the father was a Fascist, and is now paying the price). The two are led to the studio separately more or less by chance by Bettina Verdi, the star of the production (there's an irony here I won't mention); neither has ever acted before, and there's no evidence that either one knows anything at all about the play before filming starts.
Georgia, the Juliet, has led a life of stifling confinement and falls in love with the somewhat more experienced Romeo because he's almost the first man she's seen; their love is all youthful passion, and is ultimately destroyed by the corrupt worldliness that surrounds them on all sides. But beyond that the real-world tragedy takes a life of its own and doesn't ape (at some times it scarcely resembles) Shakespeare's plot. It would be giving too much away to even say what form the tragedy ultimately takes. The screenplay is Jacques Prévert alluding to Shakespeare, not Jacques Prévert based on Shakespeare. (I don't speak French, and had to rely on subtitles; while the subtitles aren't particularly poetic, something of the originality of the dialogue survives translation.)
It's an attractive film with an attractive cast. They almost all overact, but that's because they're playing people who themselves overact, so the effect is natural. (The French can get away with this easily; English speakers who were this impassioned would be accused, in many cases unjustly, of being melodramatic.) Cayatte draws all he can out of the shooting locations (remember that Verona had been heavily bombed just four years earlier); the ruins and antiques and so on make the film look rich without making it oppressive or glutinous. Instead, it sparkles.
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