La stanza del vescovo
- 1h 50min
Mario, a rich and eccentric war hero befriends Marco, a loner with a sailboat and takes him home to meet his estranged wife Cleofe and sexually repressed sister in law Matilde.Mario, a rich and eccentric war hero befriends Marco, a loner with a sailboat and takes him home to meet his estranged wife Cleofe and sexually repressed sister in law Matilde.Mario, a rich and eccentric war hero befriends Marco, a loner with a sailboat and takes him home to meet his estranged wife Cleofe and sexually repressed sister in law Matilde.
I will leave the My Weekly Reader world of writing synopses to others: IMDb seems intent on creating a legion of retards scribbling 1000s of idiotic play-by-play capsules, or strings of nonsensical "Keywords" -watch the damn movie yourself! This film adaptation of Piero Chiara's novel set in 1946 on Italy's coast with Switzerland is carefully tailored as a vehicle for its iconic trio of stars, all performing in a quasi-deadpan fashion that weaves a subtle charm. Ugo (who starred memorably in another Chiara adaptation Come Have Coffee With Us) is perfect as the ne'er-do-well, Abyssinian war vet who attaches himself like a barnacle to our previously freewheeling protagonist (a device familiar in later films like Bill Murray in What About Bob?); Patrick Dewaere, a vagabond, former conscientious objector during WW II, is the audience surrogate with a girl in every port, conjuring up a pure naif right out of Orson Welles' Isak Dinesen film The Immortal Story. Completing the topline is of course Ornella Muti -the face that still is the most breathtaking in modern Cinema, on a par with the Garbos, Oberons and Hepburns (both) from the classic age. Her pivotal character is underwritten, but I believe that is on purpose, as it adds to the mystery and fable-like quality of the piece.
What's wrong with a film daring to challenge the viewer, scene by scene, to determine for oneself the level of seriousness implied? The best movies are ones that have enough degrees of freedom, not only for the characters but for the audience as well, to be open-ended and open to INDIVIDUAL reactions. Stop making All-Time lists and complaining about which film is in or out of IMDb's Top 250 -think for yourself people! Manipulating the mood is not Dino's forte -rather he concentrates here on creating a mismatched male combo worthy of his classic '60s work: The Easy Life and a film I always give him credit for (though he apparently was only a helper), The Success, with Ugo giving Gassman a run for his money and Dewaere a perfect correlative to Trintignant.
I saw The Bishop's Bedroom in an English-dubbed version, and the performances were universally strong enough to surmount that technical drawback. Armando Trovaioli's score is just right, even including what I can only describe as Ornella's "masturbation leitmotif" - a charming and evocative little recurring theme. The genius Franco Di Giacomo, who has done classic work for Argento and Bertolucci, captures the Lake Maggiore locations beautifully and timelessly -it should be noted that he shot Muti's wonderful debut film in 1970.
The point here is that Italy was cranking out great films like this one ROUTINELY in the '70s: the works of prolific helmers like Bolognini, Scola, Monicelli plus many young Turks; it all came to a crashing halt circa 1983 when the local actors' union won a victory at long last mandating direct sound dialogue recording for cinema. This overdue update of technique singlehandedly killed Italian creativity just as surely as CGI has killed the wonder of Harryhausen stop-motion animation in Hollywood of late -all in the name of "progress". Sure, Nicchetti, Troisi, Amelio, Moretti and later Salvatores and Tornatore brought a bit of New Wave to the Boot but the factory system with its glittering stars was dead. Laura Morante can only make so many movies before she needs a rest! The final irony is that Italy's Gower Gulch equivalents, aka Joe D'Amato and a dozen Z-directors of the Quentin Tarantino slumming brigade, have their junk lovingly adored by today's so-called film buffs who ignore the true maestros.
While watching The Bishop's Bedroom I wondered what Hollywood director could pull this off so effortlessly? Welles came to mind immediately, as did the greatest of all transplants Billy Wilder. His unsung Avanti was a similar classic made in the '70s, but by the time he got to Marthe Keller in Fedora the touch was gone. Perhaps a reincarnated Mitchell Leisen -my all-time favorite from the Paramount stable, could have made it work.
I had the distinct privilege of interviewing Sophia Loren in NYC 20 years ago anent a tribute at MoMA to Vittorio De Sica. I remember asking her which filmmakers she admired the most, apart from those (De Sica & Ponti) who had shaped her career, and she immediately replied Dino Risi, citing his creativity and urbanity -in a word, class.
- Jun 23, 2009