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Black Journal (1977)

Gran bollito (original title)
Lea, a mature Neapolitan woman who runs a box office in the Lotto in a northern city, has had thirteen children, but all but one have died from abortion or after a few months of life. The ... See full summary »

Director:

Mauro Bolognini

Writers:

Sergio Amidei, Nicola Badalucco (dialogue) | 6 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Shelley Winters ... Lea
Max von Sydow ... Lisa Carpi / Carabinieri Marshal
Renato Pozzetto ... Stella Kraus / Carabiniere
Alberto Lionello ... Berta Maner / Banker
Laura Antonelli ... Sandra
Mario Scaccia ... Rosario
Franco Branciaroli Franco Branciaroli ... Don Onorio, the priest
Milena Vukotic ... Tina
Rita Tushingham ... Maria
Adriana Asti ... Palma
Antonio Marsina ... Michele
Liù Bosisio Liù Bosisio ... The crippled neighbor
Maria Monti Maria Monti ... Second neighbor
Giancarlo Badessi Giancarlo Badessi ... Lisa's friend
Marco Modugno Marco Modugno ... Student
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Storyline

Lea, a mature Neapolitan woman who runs a box office in the Lotto in a northern city, has had thirteen children, but all but one have died from abortion or after a few months of life. The only survivor, Michele, is taken care of by her with morbid affection: she is convinced that she has stolen it from death by negotiating with her, so she is not willing to give it away either to her country or to another woman. When Michele gets engaged with a pretty dance teacher, the mother, to avert her detachment, makes a new sacrifice to Death, suppressing three spinster friends, from which she obtains soap and biscuits. His call to arms comes for his son: to get him back, Lea wants to multiply his sacrificial rites, targeting, this time, a silent maid and the hated girl of Michael. The carabinieri will stop it in time.

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Did You Know?

Connections

Referenced in Horror Business (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

Vita Vita
By Enzo Jannacci and Giuseppe Viola
Performed by Mina
See more »

User Reviews

Bloody Mama - Italian Style!
2 December 2003 | by dwingroveSee all my reviews

Gran Bollito opens with a message that "this is a tale of collective madness." In a film as willfully deranged as this one, that's putting it mildly. Shelley Winters stars as a psychotic Italian matriarch with a penchant for slaughtering her neighbours and boiling their chopped-up corpses to make soap. In a spirit to waste-not-want-not, she grinds up any bones that are left over to make biscuits for afternoon tea. The fact that all her victims are middle-aged spinsters played by men in drag (including - no, I kid you not! - that Ingmar Bergman stalwart Max von Sydow) only goes to show that Gran Bollito is well-nigh apocalyptic in its weirdness.

Ah, but there are deeper meanings at work here! Winters, it seems, was driven to madness because all but one of her children were born dead. Worse, she lives in Mussolini's Italy in 1938, and is tormented by visions of the upcoming World War. "What I have done is nothing!" She intones, and history is about to prove her right. Madly possessive of her one surviving son (Antonio Marsina) she will go to any lengths to keep him out of the army - or out of the arms of a sexy young dance teacher played by Laura Antonelli.

One of Italy's most gifted and under-rated directors, Mauro Bolognini here seems to invent a genre all his own. Gran Bollito is - in equal parts - a lush period epic, an anti-war message movie, a blood-soaked giallo and a hilarious high-camp drag show. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets La Cage aux Folles? Yes, but with elements of Coming Home and a Merchant Ivory frock flick thrown in. In one of her rare leading roles, the sublime Winters is a worthy rival to that other portly and all-too-plausible psychotic, Kathy Bates in Misery.

Her trio of cross-dressing victims are perfect in every gesture, and there's fine support too from Milena Vukotic as a simple-minded maid and Adriana Asti as a snooty neighbour. Antonelli's role is largely decorative, but she wears her Danilo Donati gowns with aplomb, and the very handsome Marsina gets a frontal nude scene. As usual, Bolognini does an impeccable job of evoking the look and feel of his chosen period. All the more mystifying, then, that he allows a cheesy 70s pop ballad to recur on the soundtrack.


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Details

Country:

Italy

Language:

Italian

Release Date:

1977 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Black Journal See more »

Filming Locations:

Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Triangolo Film See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color
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