Mexican beauty Camilla hopes to rise above her station by marrying a wealthy American. That is complicated by meeting Arturo Bandini, a first-generation Italian hoping to land a writing career and a blue-eyed blonde on his arm.
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L.A. in the early 1930's: racism, poverty, and disease color the Bunker Hill neighborhood where Arturo Bandini, a lover of men and beasts alike, has arrived from Colorado to write the great Los Angeles novel. After six months and down to his last nickel, he orders a cup of coffee, served by Camilla Lopez, beautiful, self-possessed, and Mexican. Arturo gets advice, encouragement, and an occasional check from H.L. Mencken, so he keeps writing and he keeps seeing Camilla. But, he's mean to her for no apparent reason, so the relationship sputters. A housekeeper from back East suggests a way out of his jealously and fears. "Camilla Bandini": is it in the cards? Written by
This is a movie that demonstrates that mood and music and texture aren't enough to make a good film. Sure, the viewer is treated to numerous fine scenes of Los Angeles in the thirties--I especially liked the view of the trolley approaching the tunnel, and the tram rising up the hillside--but in a sense this fine cinematography is self-defeating, because it creates a mood that "something's going to happen"--and nothing does. The script too keeps feinting toward some plot or action or trauma--and time after time not delivering. Not even delivering the (I assume) theme of the movie, the characters' essential misfit. The lead actors, both too pretty for their roles, didn't convey any repression or agony, and the script didn't expose us to any.
Now, Donald Sutherland? That's another story. His character was so well fashioned, so perfectly played, that I wanted the camera to follow him.
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