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Rapsodia Satanica (1915) was the last film directed by Nino Oxilia and is undoubtedly one of the finest achievements of the early Italian cinema. In it, Oxilia spins a variation on the Faust myth, embodied here by the diva Lyda Borelli. Typical of extravagant D'Annunzian aestheticism at its height, Rapsodia Satanica was one of the summits of what was later called the "tail coat film." Diametrically opposed to the "cinema of reality" practiced by Serena, Martoglio and others, "tail coat films" set their melodramatic stories in the salons and villas of the upper middle class and the aristocracy, deploying narrative structures contrived to showcase their actors and especially its actresses. This had the effect of accentuating their physical presence and turning them into stars - probably the first stars in movie history. The success of the "diva" contributed to the development of motion picture grammar in its special use of the close-up.Written by
There are two things you can say in favor of this film: It has a cool title - and it is mercifully short. The story is as trite as can be. Prologue: Some old countess makes a deal with the devil: She receives everlasting youth if she abjures love. Part one: Endless boring "parties" - interminably we have to watch dancing and flower throwing youths. Single small bit of plot: One of a pair of brothers falls in love with her and shoots himself. Part two: Now we have to endure her remorse in close ups and mid shots and in this gown and in that gown and some more senseless flower throwing until the predictable end releases us from this boredom.
The only somewhat interesting thing is the use of various coloring techniques: You get some green dresses, yellow butterflies in close-up and a red colored Mephisto. But the acting is mediocre and the direction is terrible: There is some unintended comedy now and then when Mephisto pops up like in a Punch and Judy show. But it's not hilariously bad enough to justify the waste of 45 minutes by watching this film.
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