22 November 2004 | ItalianGerry
"And before him all Rome trembled"
This movie from Fascist-era Italy is not a musical version of Giacomo Puccini's operatic masterpiece but a straight dramatic narrative of the same story that had originated in Sardou's play. Puccini's music does figure in, however, with strategically placed arias on the sound track. Argentina-born Spanish actress Imperio Argentina plays the title role with diva-esque aplomb. Rossano Brazzi is perfectly cast as the strikingly handsome painter and revolutionary collaborator Mario Cavaradosssi. Michel Simon steals the show whenever he is on screen, as nefarious police chief Baron Scarpia, who is out to apprehend all opponents to Papal rule in this story set in early 19th-century Rome...and who has his eyes on Tosca for his own sexual gratification. He pays with his life, victim of Tosca's loathing and a well-placed knife.
The actual Roman settings, where the actions are written to have taken place, add a great deal of authenticity...Palazzo Farnese, the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle and the Castel Sant'Angelo from whence the double-crossed Tosca, having failed to save her beloved Mario, makes her ultimate leap. Carlo Koch directed the film begun by Jean Renoir. The great Luchino Visconti had a hand in it as well as assistant. The film ought to be better known and revived in museum series outside of Italy. It opened commercially in New York under the title "The Story of Tosca" in late 1947. Unfortunately it still remains an obscurity seen pretty much only on Italian television.