Lo scopone scientifico (1972)
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Remember, there was a card game in Wilder's film too! Here, Bette Davis, as poised, professional, and grandly self-assured as ever, is the Norma Desmond character. She's shrewd, not crazy, but she's got everyone twisting their lives out of shape to humor her in much the same way. Joseph Cotten is the Max von Mayerling character - the artist who threw away a brilliant career to serve this imperious creature. The twist is that Commencini replaces William Holden's wry screenwriter, Joe Gillis, with Alberto Sordi and Silvana Mangano as the poor couple who've unwittingly staked their lives on whatever they can get from the old lady. Ultimately, of course, it's not just them, but their entire neighborhood who Davis is leading on her merry chase -strictly for her own amusement. The twist at the end is just as perfect, in its own, thoroughly Italian way, as the finale of Wilder's film.
Absolutely delightful - especially the wonderful body (and facial) language of all four principals at the cardtable. They could have kept it up twice as long and it would have been just as amusing. Four expert screen actors, directed to perfection.
Can the bizzers-in-charge PLEASE find a decent print of this and DVD it right away?
Other than Davis, this is interesting only for a look at the lives of peasants in Italy as well as many location shoots. A great deal of the time deals with their family situation, showing the children making flowers for funerals and all the struggles the parents must go through. Joseph Cotten, appearing with Davis for the third time, plays her partner, yet is greatly wasted. The art direction of Davis's estate is lavish and colorful, and Davis seems to have intentionally made herself look like the old Mrs. Skeffington, in color and with garish blue eye shadow.
This is an interesting footnote in Davis's career, coming around the time when her theatrical films were either outrageous camp ("The Anniversary"), barely released ("Bunny O'Hare"), not released in main U.S. markets ("Connecting Rooms") or not seen in the U.S. at all (this one). No wonder she turned to TV guest appearances, talk shows and movies of the week to keep herself active. Yet she's hardly a shell of herself, and her drive would keep her going for nearly another two decades. If you are interested in the subject matter of cards, this will interest you, otherwise it is pretty difficult to get into.