Monday, November 19, 2007

Heller in Pink Tights

Price: $3.98 on DVD (DVD cherry officially popped re this blog)
Year: 1960
Run Time: 100 min
Director: George Cukor
Cast: Sophia Loren, ANthony Quinn. Ramon Novarro, Steve Forrest

Sophia in Technicolor would perhaps be a more appropriate title for this film, as those two elements really steal the show here. This is viewed as being a lesser work by master director Cukor. While I'm not about to start a campaign for a mass critical re-evaluation of the movie, I will say that every shot is so beautiful that you could fucking eat it. Art direction wise, think Wes Anderson+ Moulin Rouge + Suspiria+ FIstful of Dollars- most of MR's overblown acting (most, not all)- the irritating bourgeois male malaise of WA (but not minus WA's problematic portrayal of non-whites). Narrative content wise, there is nothing too spectacular. Its a basic story of a femme fatale actress named Angela Rossini (loren) who seduces her way through the old west. Her romance with the dependably affable Healy (Quinn) is threatened by the advances of Mabry, a devestatingly handsome gunslinger (Forrest). This love triangle plays out as the theater company, with Mabry in tow, races away from the debt they left in Cheyenne, trying to escape a murderous Indian tribe along the way (ah, Hollywood).

In this tale that relies strongly on to-be-looked-at-ness, Sophia Loren is the perfect star.

Her presence is truly iconic, and no matter whom you prefer to go to bed with, you will not be able to take your eyes off of her in this film. In an early scene at the theater in Cheyenne (a set which bursts with color) Loren peers through a window with wooden curtains that have a nude women painted on them. This short frame is a one-two punch of feminine spectacle. Her and Mabry eye each others' lower halves in this carnivalesque atmosphere, creating the sexual tension that will push much of the narrative forward. A unique and evocative interior space has been created here. When the narrative moves to the dessert, the open landscapes and mountains and canyons are treated with just as much visual care. The colors and the shapes of the landscape pop out and assault the eye with their beauty. The most heightened moment of this is when the Indians capture the theater company's coach, and set it on fire. The mountains of brightly colored costumes consumed by flames, paired with the blue sky and the gray smoke makes for a compelling spectacle.

Compelling spectacle certainly overtakes compelling storyline here. However, Ms. Loren plays an interesting character here. Although her most prominent quality is her beauty, she sets most of the narrative of the movie into action. She is a much more central force than any of the men in the film. I'm not sure if I'd say this is a feminist film, but what it certainly does do is wear the notion of female spectacle on its sleeve. Angela Rossini, and the other young girl in the company, make money after each performance by parading around the saloon in pretty dresses, selling stylized photographs of themselves. They are able to get the undivided attention of the saloon patrons. WHile the other woman (Della, played by Margaret O'Brien) is a pretty flat character, Angela is what I'd call a powerful spectacle.

Actually, that's what I'd call the whole film.

1 comment:

osama bin tupac said...

check my extensive devil's rejects review from two months ago re: dvd cherries being popped and such