Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews

Videophiled: ‘Adua and Her Friends’

AduaAdua and Her Friends (Raro / Kino Lorber, Blu-ray) are prostitutes from a Rome brothel attempting to take charge of their own lives after their place is shut down in the aftermath of Italy’s Merlin Law, which ended legalized prostitution in 1958 (the film was released in 1960). Adua (played by Simone Signoret), a veteran of the life, has a plan to open a restaurant as a front for their own little brothel in the rooms upstairs and her friends—cynical and hot-headed Marilina (Emmanuelle Riva), naïve and trusting Lolita (Sandra Milo), and practical Milly (Gina Rovere)—pitch in for the purchase and start-up and fake their way through running a real business. Adua may be a dreamer but she has a lot invested in this project. She’s the oldest of the four and, as anyone familiar with the films of Mizoguchi will attest, life on the streets isn’t forgiving of age. But what really charges up the film is the feeling of accomplishment and ownership as they work their way through each problem and, almost without noticing, create a successful business out of the restaurant.

For all the stumbles along the way, director Antonio Pietrangeli and his screenwriting partners (which includes future director Ettore Scola and longtime Fellini collaborator Tullio Pinelli) don’t play the disasters for laughs but rather a mix of warm character piece and spiky social commentary. It’s not simply that their pasts follow them around but that the Merlin Law has actually made things worse for women, whether they remain in the life (without any legal protections) or attempt to transition into another career. Palms need to be greased and officials cut in on the business; they haven’t even started up and they’re already paying off a pimp. And no, it’s not Marcello Mastroianni’s Piero, a charming hustler who hawks cars and woos Adua, who enjoys engaging in a romance that she gets to define for a change. He’s a pleasant distraction and something of an ally, but he’s better at looking out for himself.

Read More “Videophiled: ‘Adua and Her Friends’”

Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews

DVD: ‘La Visita’

La Visita/The Visitor (Raro Video)

Pina (Sandra Milo) is a lonely beauty in a small Italian town in the north, a successful and confident professional with her own business and a lovely home she shares with a pet dog, parrot, and turtle. Adolfo (François Périer) is a bookseller in Rome who answers her personal ad. As he takes the train north, their correspondence is read over the soundtrack: the voices of two single thirtysomethings making tentative steps to making a connection.

It’s a tender, delicate beginning of a tentative romance that slowly loses its sentimentality as we learn more about the two would-be lovers, but for all the edged humor and eccentric characters of Pina’s backwater village, The Visitor is neither satire nor romantic comedy. Director and co-writer Antonio Pietrangeli working from a script developed with Ettore Scola (who became a successful director in his own right) and frequent collaborator Ruggero Maccari (whose filmography includes the original Scent of a Woman), offers a much more layered and unexpected portrait in disappointment and resigned concession.

Milo’s Pina, whose caboose is, shall we say, cartoonishly overpadded to add a comic imperfection to the actress’ beauty (she practically waddles as she hustles about the streets), is a sweet, smart, accomplished woman in a provincial town who wants nothing more than to flee this prison of a home for the sophistication and opportunity of the city and the company of a husband. She bends over backwards to overlook her date’s arrogance, gluttony, vulgarity, and unmotivated cruelty toward her helpless pets. Périer’s Adolfo puts on a show of urban sophistication that evaporates in direct proportion to the amount of wine he knocks back, and he surreptitiously measures her home and even rearranges furniture to his liking, as if already taking residence as the man of the house. Hiding behind a brush mustache and insincere grin, Périer offers up Adolfo as a neat but unattractive man who imagines himself some kind of sophisticate gracing the provincial north with his cultured presence.

Continue reading at Turner Classic Movies