Terra madre (1931)

  |  Drama


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5 July 2017 | Mozjoukine
Interesting early Italian sound film.
Coming out of the void that is our knowledge of Thirties Italian cinema, this one is one of the best things an old movie can be, a glimpse into a world the (English speaking) audience knows zip about and it's delivered in an accomplished manner - particularly for a film so early in European sound film production.

The plot deals with a subject said to be close to Il Duce's heart, the superiority of the agrarian worker to the decadent city dweller. There are not a few of these from other sources at this stage - Hanns Schwarz 1928 German UNGARISCHE RHAPSODIE/ Hungarian Rhapsody or more peripherally Michael Curtiz' US 1932 CABIN IN THE COTTON as examples.

They work hard on the idea content, offering two contrasting female models, Leda Gloria's slinky blonde city woman and Isa Pola in her peasant blouse get up, or the tenants doing traditional worker songs and dances while the visiting city friends lounge about in evening dress and their pianist plays fox-trots.

The not over sophisticated plot has land-owning Duke, uncharismatic Sandro Salvini, coming back to the family castle with it's statues and suits of armor and putting up lady friend Gloria in the bed chamber where the roof leaks while he joins in wrestling bulls for the branding, to the applause of his tenant farmers. However his reduced circumstances mean he has to sell the property to a new, graceless owner whose man gropes the jolly middle aged maid and who plans on clearing the peasant accommodation. A fire breaks out and Salvini races back to the scene.

The choice of angles and pacing is quite good, giving an appearance anticipating Blasetti's best film, the 1939 swashbuckler UN'AVENTURA DI SALVATOR ROSA, and the piece is rather winning in it's warm,unfamiliar picture of the rural community.

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