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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
The ageing Italian aristocrat, Dame Alba d' Oltrevita ( Dame Lyda Borelli ) would like to find a second youth. Remember in those early days no one had any beauty secrets ( with the exception of Snow White's stepmother ). Dame Alba discovers a particular and special solution for her beauty problems: a pact with the devil.
Herr Mephisto ( Herr Ugo Bazzini ) accepts but in exchange forbids her to fall in love ever, but this it seems doesn't matter to our Italian aristocrat because she is again young and beautiful. She is courted by two brothers, Tristano ( Herr Andrea Habay ) and Sergio ( Giovanni Cinni ).The last one threatens to kill himself if Dame Alba does not grant him her love but Dame Alba doesn't pay attention to him and chooses his brother, provoking Sergio's death.; She prepares to marry Tristano but the devil must have his due and Mephisto turns her into an old woman again.
"Rapsodia Satánica" is a beautiful film directed by Herr Nino Oxilia, who died before his time during the World War I; this is his most successful oeuvre, a film that belongs to those stylish melodramas made in Italy in the early silent days that gave prestige to the unique style of the film productions of that European country.
The film has a romantic atmosphere that fascinates immediately; delicate scenery and careful indoor settings as well as superb cinematography by Herr Giorgio Ricci. Let us not forget that part of the oeuvre was hand-coloured and that fact gives to the film a special sense of decadent and unreal feeling that fits perfectly with the story.
"Rapsodia Satánica", besides its classical invocations of the myth of eternal youth ( this ageing and wrinkled German aristocrat can't understand such nonsense ) has an idealistic but melancholy view of youth as little more than the most fleeting of situations, a passing hallucination. Adding to the film's power is the presence of one of the most important Italian divas of the early silent days, Dame Lyda Borelli in one of her first leading roles. In spite of her teeth showing, Dame Borelli's performance is outstanding for the delicacy and charm she brings to her character.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count has an appointment with Herr Methuselah.
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com/
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