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'Tis Pity She's a Whore' is the story of a passionate and romantic love
between brother and sister Giovanni (Oliver Tobias) and Annabella
(Charlotte Rampling), and the ensuing havoc when, pregnant, she marries
an arrogant nobleman (Fabio Testi). Writer/director Giuseppe Patroni
Griffi freely adapted his screenplay from John Ford's Jacobean tragedy.
His film is highly personal and exquisitely conceived, with a radiant
cast. Released in 1971, it has been available here only in a
frustratingly truncated, coarsely edited, 91-minute, full-screen VHS
version dubbed in English.
With some effort it can now be found in a 100-minute, wide-screen DVD version in Italian, with optional Japanese subtitles but no English. If you know and love this film as I do, you won't care. You will revel in the sheer beauty of its design, photography, and cast (including Antonio Falsi as Giovanni's friend and confessor). Illustrative of writer/director Griffi's vision and eye is his creation of such a ravishing ensemble. All simply exude youthful animal magnetism and appeal.
The violence is typical of a tragedy of this period with subjects like incest, blasphemy, obsession, and revenge. Suffice it to say, the 17th Century was not a time when such things were taken lightly! But there are many moments of great poetry as well. Allegory and symbolism abound and, as Oliver Tobias (a major British sex symbol) never looked so extraordinary, Maestro Griffi unabashedly exploits the actor's resemblance to a suffering Christ throughout his gorgeous, breathtaking film.
Family drama concerning the love of a brother, Giovani, for his sister,
Annabella. At first Giovanni tries to reject his feelings but through the
efforts of Annabella he soon finds himself in her arms and her in his bed.
Unfortunately Annabella is promised to wed Soranzo by her father, and as
with all great sagas of love and lust, revenge soon raises its ugly head
the sordid saga heads towards its bloody finale.
This is one of the great unknown treasures of cult cinema. I'm looking forward to when an appreciating audience finds this challenging Italian costume drama and it is given the DVD SE treatment it deserves. This fabulous movie, based upon the stage play by John Ford, is directed with an eye for the beautiful, bizarre and tragic by director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, stunningly photographed by Vitorrio Storaro, beautifully scored by the great Ennio Morricone, and contains ravishing costumes, authentic locations and stunning sets, not forgetting muscle bound men, buxom women and Charlotte Rampling looking absolutely gorgeous.
This is the kind of film Jess Franco would have made if he had any talent. Indeed, for anyone who enjoys cult movies and/or Italian/European trash cinema of the late sixties/seventies this film offers it all. The ending is a corker, one that the makers of Caligula would be envious of.
NB: Tis Pity She's a Whore was released to video by Redemption in the UK in the mid nineties. Wisely they chose to release it in widescreen and used a nice print. No longer available.
'Tis Pity She's A Whore' is a lavishly produced and strongly acted movie which raises a lot of fascinating questions about where to draw the line between art and exploitation, and indeed, if there is any need to. Based on the play by Shakespeare's contemporary John Ford, it manages to work as an engrossing historical drama, and captivate as a passionate, albeit unconventional, romance, while still being sensationalistic enough to entertain any fan of AIP-style Seventies sleaze. The central relationship between Charlotte Rampling ('The Damned', 'Zardoz', 'Angel Heart') and long forgotten 70s sex symbol Oliver Tobias (who I grew up watching on several UK TV shows popular at the time, but now too obscure to bother listing) is incestuous, and the movie ends up with a surprisingly bloody climax that will please splatter buffs. Like the recent controversial adaption of 'Titus' it reminds the modern viewer that sex, violence and extreme imagery are are nothing new and have long been the subject of great literature. (Or if you prefer so-called "great literature") 'Tis Pity She's A Whore' is one of the great lost European movies of the early Seventies, and deserves a much larger audience. Knowing nothing about it before viewing, and not being familiar with the original text, I expected it to be a lighweight erotic romp worth a giggle or two, but was very impressed at just how powerful a movie experience it was. After watching it I immediately watched it again. Highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
TIS PITY, SHE'S A WHORE presents a seamy tale of incestuous love between a brother and sister from an affluent family. The resulting pregnancy becomes grounds for church intervention, and the girl is appointed a husband to become the child's name father. When these truths are ultimately revealed within the marriage, the sordid situation gives rise to a calamitous "Thyestian Feast".
Lavish production of Ford's classic is a visual dream, every shot is absolutely stunning. The sets and costumes are beautifully appointed, endowing a willowy softness to the film which belies the tawdry goings-on and punctuates the bloody final curtain. This Elizabethan-era penned love tragedy could very easily have been given a literate, button-down presentation, yet the film is quite lurid, replete with unexpectedly graphic violence. Despite being a (somewhat)faithful adaption, some litterateurs may find the dissident stagecrafting a calumny of sorts against the classical source material. I suspect viewer reaction to be polarized, though it could have surprising appeal to those generally adverse to historical romance films due to its schismatic/semi-exploitive handling.
7/10...a curiously divergent, though not entirely successful European offering, with earnest performances from Charlotte Rampling and Oliver Tobias in the beauty of their youth.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cinematically beautiful but utterly confusing in plot, the film version
of Ford's revenge tragedy was a tad disappointing. As a Drama and
English Literature student, the text was a gripping and dramatic piece
to read- but the film is to be avoided if you want to retain any
knowledge of narrative and character.
This said, the epic 'Tis Pity deals with the central themes of incest, religion and revenge in a stunning manner, with unforgettable images of Giovanni seemingly stuck in a well (a metaphorical purgatory, perhaps) and a bizarre shot of horses weaving around unexplained white flagpoles. Dialogue, and any kind of linear narrative is missing; replaced with close ups of Rampling and Tobias' pensive expressions and hair blowing in the breeze, and a sequence that is almost pornographic in nature (incestuous pornography at that.) If you are familiar with the play, you will be disappointed to find that half the characters are missing, which leaves the screen empty at the best of times.
Even the bloodbath climax of the play seems contrived, but after all but five minutes of the film watching expressionless faces, it's a relief to see some action. Expect dramatic speeches and hearts on daggers...not for the faint hearted.
Overall, 'Tis Pity is visually impressive, but not suitable for anyone studying the play or hoping to see a decent interpretation.
Well, I have to say that 'Tis a Pity She's a Whore wasn't exactly what
I was expecting. Given the title, and the fact that it was made in
Italy during the 1970's, I was expecting something a lot more sleazy
and bloody than this! The film is based on a stage play by John Ford,
and this is always obvious as it's all very stagy and the focus seems
to be on the performances. This might be a good thing if you were going
into the film looking for something 'great' - but I just wanted sleaze!
The plot line, however, is about as sleazy as it gets and puts most of
its focus on the sick idea of incest. There's a bit of the standard
'arranged marriage' theme thrown in for good measure, and the plot
focuses on Annabella; a woman who marries Soranzo after it was decided
she would. However, this isn't good news for her brother - a man named
Giovanni, as he's also in love with Annabella, and has managed to get
her pregnant, despite the fact that she's his sister.
The plot is actually rather good, in that the central theme is interesting. It's the way that its portrayed that was the problem for me, however, as the plot pace isn't very exciting and it seems to take an eternity to get to the point. There's a fair amount of sex in the movie, but it isn't very graphic; so fans of the rough stuff are likely to be disappointed. One of my main reasons for seeing this film was because of the fact that it stars Charlotte Rampling. She might not be as beautiful as some of the other women making trash films around the same time (e.g. Edwige Fenech, Rosalba Neri, Barbara Bouchet), but Rampling is a classy lady who doesn't seem to mind starring in unsavoury movies, which is OK with me. She is joined by Fabio Testi and Oliver Tobias, who apparently was some sort of sex symbol around the time. The film does get more interesting towards the end, when the story opens up and we finally get to see some blood. I'm not saying this is an overall bad film - but the story and the way it's portrayed didn't work very well.
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