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  • I quote from Time Out Film Guide, 11th ed. "...demonstrates to what degree French cinema de qualité was rather a matter of quantity, demanding a complacent accumulation of production values in lieu of the slightest vision or intelligence." This is boilerplate, trotted out to denigrate all literary adaptations made before Truffaut and Godard arrived on the scene. The film that I saw was made by a solid craftsman well before he became a hack. The sets are often stunning (the prison out of Piranesi), the costumes superb, the actors--well, you couldn't ask for anybody better than Gerard Philipe and Maria Casarès, both 25 at the time, Renée Faure, Louis Salou, Lucien Coedel.

    Christian-Jaque had one big problem when he sat down with Pierre Véry to write the script: the novel is very digressive and full of scenes that don't advance the action. It takes 40 pages from the meeting with Giletti to the knife fight resulting in Giletti's death that puts Fabrice in prison. It was necessary to eliminate some minor characters and the opening chapters dealing with Waterloo are gone (major disappointment for Stendhal fans). Most problematical: the story really gets underway when Fabrice enters prison, and that isn't until Chapter 18, more than halfway through the book. If you can be patient and wait until the half way mark in a picture that lasts almost three hours, you will enjoy a classic.

    Maria Casarès was too young to play La Sanseverina, a woman in her late thirties, but let's not observe tradition here. The sexual excitement around the Gina-Fabrice-Clelia triangle is only made more potent with Casarès. The happy few can be even happier.
  • Beautiful story developed patiently but rewarding, that takes you on a trip to the Renaissance Parma. The sets are stunning. The actors performance are amazingly balanced, avoiding over-dramatization.

    What a beautiful and unpredictable ending yet fully justified. And the most haunting scene of the film at the end, inside the Italian church under the divine melodies of ave maria, the two lovers only looking at each other manage to express the deepest and most intense love .... An epic to not be missed.
  • The bearded and venerable Pope Paul III as painted by Titian is a far cry from the brilliant young cleric and notorious womaniser Alessandro Farnese who was imprisoned in the Castel Sant' Angelo for killing a rival.

    Nine years after the publication of his indisputed masterpiece 'Le Rouge et le Noir', Stendahl planned to write a novel based upon Alessandro's youth but thought better of it as Italians are notoriously sensitive about their pontiffs and as Stendhal was at the time French consul in Trieste he felt that the subject matter might sour Franco-Italian relations.

    In his second masterpiece 'Chartreuse de Parme', written in just fifty-two days, he has not been able to resist retaining certain elements and here we have the dashing, highly sexed cleric Fabrice del Dongo who kills a jealous husband and is incarcerated in the appropriately named Farnese tower. The novel is a Frenchman's view of the Italians and the author has drawn upon personal experience of court intrigue and of his numerous amours.

    Director Christian-Jaque's film has been severely castigated by Stendhal purists for the liberties he and his fellow adaptors Pierre Jarry and Pierre Véry have taken with the original but one has to be practical. It is of course to be regretted that Fabrice's youth in Napoleonic Milan and his experiences at the Battle of Waterloo have been omitted and that certain characters have disappeared altogether but the very nature of Film has always demanded compromises and very few classic novels have been filmed to the readers' satisfaction. Originally shown in two parts, this version has a running time of almost three hours and for this viewer at any rate, has captured the spirit and atmosphere of the novel and never drags. A fuller treatment would require a TV min-series which was in fact done by Mauro Bolognini in 1982.

    The director has chosen to commence his film at Chapter VII of the novel and we are introduced to Fabrice 'the hero of Waterloo', as well as the sensuous Gina Sanseverina and her 'companion' Count Mosca. In the novel Gina is actually Fabrice's aunt but as her interest in him is far more than familial, the incestuous element has here been removed and she has become a younger woman.

    Gina is passionate, intrepid and one of the most captivating females in literature and who better to play her than the sensational Maria Casarés? Mosca, an ageing diplomat faced with the prospect of being supplanted in Gina's affections by the youthful Fabrice, is sensitively played by Tullio Carminati. In an early role Gérard Philippe is perfectly cast as Fabrice. One simply runs out of superlatives when speaking of this superlative artiste so cruelly taken in his prime. He was later to impress as Julien Sorel in Stendhal's 'Le Rouge et le Noir' for Autant-Lara.

    The linchpin of the piece is the love between Fabrice and Clelia Conti who is the daughter of the governor of the prison where Fabrice is held. She is a dramatically effective contrast to Gina in her nobility of soul and religious devotion whose feelings for Fabrice are tempered by remorse. A touching performance here by Renée Faure, a member of the Comédie Francaise and Christian-Jaque's wife at the time.

    The most effective scenes are those involving the Farnese tower and here the makers have cleverly enlarged the role of Grillo the gaoler, given a superb characterisation by Louis Seigner. Lucien Coedel relishes his role as the villainous Rassi whilst Aldo Silvano is the buffoonish Conti. We are also treated to a customarily outrageous turn by the excellent Louis Salou as Prince Ernesto IV, a vain, tinpot tyrant with a Louis IVth complex.

    Luminous cinematography by Nicolas Hayer, superb sets by Jean d'Eaubonne and a suitably passionate score by Renzo Rossellini.

    This film is one of those dismissed by the ferocious young critic Francois Truffaut as representing 'qualité francaise', a term he used in a highly derogatory sense. Ironically, as his directorial career developed he was not above filming in the style he had previously denigrated, notably 'L'Histoire d'Adele' and 'Le Dernier Métro'.
  • If you are alive then,at the end of the film, in the gothic Italian church, you will cry thinking of love while listening the "Ave María".

    "Joy is impossible, but it worths all of our live" (Stendhal)