17 December 2001 | dwingrove
Goddard triumphs at last!
Impeccably styled and shot, Francesco Maselli's hyper-elegant 1920s drama rivals Bertolucci's 'The Conformist' and Godard's 'Contempt' as the best-ever film of an Alberto Moravia novel. All the acting is first-rate: Paulette Goddard as a faded grande dame, Claudia Cardinale and Tomas Milian as her wayward offspring, Shelley Winters as her scheming 'best friend' and Rod Steiger as the coarse and ruthless businessman who holds them all in his power. The evocation of the period is almost eerie in its perfection. Did Marcel Escoffier and Luigi Scaccianoce really DESIGN those luscious costumes and sets, or did they wander into a haunted house where ghosts live that way?
Amazingly enough - with all the talent on show - the undisputed star of this film has to be Paulette Goddard. A legendary Hollywood beauty, she never had much reputation as an actress. She was more famous for her string of husbands - Charlie Chaplin, Burgess Meredith, Erich Maria Remarque - and her immortal maxim "Never sleep with a man unless he gives you diamonds!" (Guess what? She had a whole suitcase full.) Seeing her as a washed-up femme fatale in this film, you realise that she COULD act after all - or was it just the most brilliant bit of typecasting in screen history?