Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cari genitori (1973)

Italian Two-Panel Poster

Cari Genitori (aka Dear Parents and No Regrets), directed and co-written by well-known actor Enrico Maria Salerno, is the story of an Italian mother, Giulia (Florinda Bolkan), who goes to London to try to find her college-student daughter, Antonia (Maria Schneider), because she has not heard from her in months.  Upon arriving at the boarding house where Antonia was staying (with strict rules for the girls), Giulia learns that she has not been seen in a while and is pointed in the direction of Madeleine (Catherine Spaak), a literature instructor who is a "friend" of Antonia's.  The next 20 minutes or so of the movie follow Giulia and Madeleine as they go from one lead to the next around London in search of Antonia.  It starts to become clear that Antonia has rebelled against her conservative, Italian upbringing and is seeking a more "enlightened" life among the young, socially liberal crowd.  We also start to get the sense that there may be some underlying issues that will surface concerning the relationship between Antonia and Madeleine. The search culminates in the location of Antonia as she is performing in a pro-abortion-rights-type performance-art play, which includes some of the participants telling about their own abortions.  Giulia is shocked to hear Antonia claim to have had an abortion.

The film then devolves into sequences of Giulia hanging out with Antonia and her friends around the city.  They butt heads as Antonia expresses her intention to live a different life than that of her mother (and different than the one that her mother desires for her).  Giulia, for her part, is concerned that her daughter has fallen into an anything-goes life of drugs and free love.  Along the way, Giulia is shocked to see Madeleine proclaiming her unrequited love for Antonia in a pouring rain storm.  The inference is that Madeleine and Antonia carried on a sexual relationship that has been ended by Antonia.

Finally,  mother and daughter seem to reach some acceptance of the situation, and Giulia leaves to fly back to Italy, informing Antonia that she does not intend to ever return to London and that Antonia is the one who has chosen to leave by staying in London and living a lifestyle for which her parents do not approve.  Antonia realizes that she is being left all alone and tries to catch her mother before the plane leaves, but it is too late.  We are left with the impression that Antonia is angry by her mother's departure and had a moment of weakness, but she is intent on cutting the cord and staying in London.

My conclusion is that this generation-gap film must be a product of its time in Italy, since it was made during a period when conservative Catholic social standards were being challenged in many films as Italian society transformed.  There is nothing subtle about the film's portrayal of a young person who is "enlightened" about a better, more liberal way to live life after rebelling against a conservative upbringing.  It generally seems critical of a socially conservative Italian culture, although the film's ending seems to provide a little balance to the situation.

To put it bluntly, this film is not my cup of tea, and it does not seem to have held up well over the last 40 years.  I am not fond of the storyline, the social commentary strikes a sour note with me, and the film is rather boring.  Furthermore, the prints that I have seen are less than pristine and present a dreary London.  Catherine's attractiveness has been toned down as much as it could possibly be done for the 27-year-old beauty.  Her very short, brownish-dirty-blondish hair is not becoming, even if it may have been trendy in some circles at the time. In the dreary weather, she is often dressed in an overcoat while outdoors.  I found myself wondering if all of this was part of some attempt by Salerno to make her appear more "lesbian" according to the times.  I find very little to like about this film and would probably never have watched it more than once, if not for Catherine's role.  There was one tiny redeeming quality however:  Catherine has a running scene in which we see her distinctive running style, the charming way that she sort-of kicks out her feet from the knees down.  All-in-all, this film is among my least-favorite in Catherine's filmography, ranking down with La ronde and The Little Nuns.

Despite my negativity about this film, it was apparently a rather high-profile production.  Produced by Carlo Ponti and shot in London in the late summer/early fall of 1972, the film had an original working title of Three Women, and it was expected that Sophia Loren would play a lead rule (presumably that of Giulia).  Also of note, Lina Wertmuller (who has had a long and successful career as a writer and director) was a co-writer on this film.
  • The May 3, 1972 Variety reported that "In September, Enrico Marie Salerno will direct 'Three Women' for Champion, with Sophia Loren playing a lead role."
  • The August 30, 1972 Variety reported:  "Two-Ponti pix now filming are Roman Polanski's "What?" with Marcello Mastroianni topbilled, and Enrico Maria Salerno's 'Dear Parents' ( ex-" Three Women") now filming in London."
By the end of 1972 and early 1973, within months of wrapping her work on this film, Maria Schneider was to gain international fame for her performance in the infamous Last Tango in Paris with Marlon Brando.  I would not have predicted it based on her appearance in Cari Genitori.

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I am generally not overly-fond of Florinda Bolkan's work, but she received a David di donatelli award (an Italian Oscar) for her performance as Giulia.
  • The June 20, 1973 Variety reported:  Female performance David was shared by Florinda Bolkan for her role in the Carlo Ponti production "Dear Parents" and Silvana Mangano in the Dino De' Laurentiis production "The Scientific Cardplayer."


The film was released in Italy on February 9, 1973 (according to IMDB), but I have found no information about a release in the UK or the USA.  My guess is that it was never released in the U.S. and that it may or may not have had a UK release.

Reporting from Rome in the February 28, 1973 edition, Variety referred to Dear Parents as a "minor Carlo Ponti production" that ranked 9th on the list of box office attractions for the weekend of February 17-18.  The March 7, 1973 edition reported the film still holding in 9th place in Rome for the weekend of February 24-25, but it did not mention it as a top performer in other key Italian cities.  Finally, the March 15 edition no longer showed the film in the top 10 in Rome, but it was reported as the #6 earner for the weekend of March 3-4 in Milan.

I have seen no indication of a DVD release for the film in any country, but at some point, it was released on VHS video in Italy, although I have no information about its running times, etc.:


It was also apparently released on VHS video in Greece under the title No Regrets, because I have viewed that English-dubbed version with a running time of 79 minutes.  Catherine clearly did not do her own English dubbing, but it is decently done and is not distracting.  It appears that the actors mouthed their lines in English for later dubbing.

I have also seen an Italian language TV version with a running time of just under 74 minutes.  The only differences that I noticed are that the English-dubbed version, in the opening sequence, has a short clip of Antonia expressing her life view that also appears later in the film, and this Italian version does not.  This Italian version also has a longer sequence at the beginning of Giulia riding through the city from the airport, and in the middle of the film, it is missing a scene involving long-time British character actor Tom Baker.  

IMDB shows a running time of 94 minutes.  I have yet to see a print that is anywhere close to that running time.  It would be interesting to see what has been trimmed and whether that additional material, along with a nice, clear print, would improve the film.  On the surface, I would have guessed that the shorter prints may have been of versions edited for television, but the English-dubbed version includes some profanity and brief performance-art-type nudity that would not have been permitted on U.S. television in the 1970's (and I do not know whether such scenes would have been permitted on television in the U.K. in the 1970's).  So, that does not seem to be the explanation for the shorter prints.

I have not found much in the way of promotional material for the film, but here is what I have been able to locate, so far.

An Italian Four-Panel Poster and an Italian Locandina Poster:



A still:

 
A soundtrack album and a 45 rpm record:



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Un meurtre est un meurtre (1972)

French Poster

Un meurtre est un meurtre, an Italian-French co-production (aka A Murder is a Murder...is a Murder in the U.S. and La sedia a rotelle in Italy) directed by Etienne Perier, is a mystery starring Jean-Claude Brialy as Paul Kastner, a car salesman, whose wife Marie (played by Stephane Audran) has died in a roadside accident.  Paul and Marie had been married for five years, and Marie was confined to a wheelchair after being in a car wreck with Paul three years previously.  We see that their marriage has completely deteriorated since the accident, and Paul is having an affair with a dress shop owner, Francoise (played by Catherine).  Marie is aware of the affair and thinks that Paul wants her dead.  Paul, for his part, would not seem to mind if Marie died, but he does not appear willing to do the deed.  Therefore, the accident that takes her life seems like a fortuitous turn of events for him.

Unfortunately for Paul, however, he is faced with one problem after another following her death.  The police do not appear to suspect foul play, but Marie's sister, Anne (also played by Stephane Audran), arrives from New York for the reading of the will.  Paul had never met Anne, and he was shocked at the resemblance to her older sister.  Apparently Marie was very wealthy, because the couple lived in a mansion, and Paul is informed that he has become a wealthy man after inheriting the bulk of her assets.  One stipulation, though, is that Anne will live in the house with Paul to keep Marie's memory alive.

Paul's life becomes really complicated after a stranger, Jean Carouse (played by Robert Hossein), appears to inform Paul that he killed Marie and the he will frame Paul for murder, unless Paul pays extortion money.  This plot-line drives the action through the remainder of the film with Paul refusing to give in, but finding himself being sucked in deeper and deeper.  To make matters worse, Anne has mental problems, which have resulted in her assuming Marie's appearance and personality.  All the while, she accuses Paul of trying to murder her and tries to get the police involved.  Eventually, Paul decides to solve the problem by killing Carouse in a plot that he hatches with the help of Francoise.  After arriving in a secluded location to meet Carouse (and kill him), Paul is knocked unconscious and awakes to learn that someone has beat him to it!

Ultimately, the police commissioner (played by Michel Serrault), solves the mystery and clears Paul. Anne miraculously regains her mental fitness and announces that she is returning to New York, and it appears that Paul and Francoise will live happily ever after.

I am not familiar with Perier's work, but I generally think that he did a competent job with this film, although most consider it to be a cheap imitation of the work of famed French director Claude Chabrol.  Chabrol himself has a bit part in the film as a train conductor that louses up part of Paul and Francoise's plan to create an alibi for Paul in the plot to kill Carouse, and Stephane Audron was married to Chabrol at the time.  Since I am also not familiar with much of Chabrol's work, I do not have an opinion as to how Perier's film compares.  Here is a French advertisement for the film that includes a picture from Chabrol's scene:


For the most part, I find the film interesting and engaging, although it is more "French" in nature and does not feature the type of camera work and pulsating soundtrack that distinguish Italian Giallo-type films of the era.  My biggest complaint is the film's ending, the last 15 minutes or so.  What had been a suspense film wraps up rather mundanely with an explanation of Carouse's motivation and a goofy "happy" ending.  Anne springs from her wheelchair and happily declares that she is returning to New York, after which Paul and Francoise push the wheelchair off to crash down the street as they happily stride into the distance.

As for Catherine, she gives a good performance and looks lovely in this supporting role with long, reddish, strawberry-blonde hair and a healthy figure.  She does not have an extensive wardrobe in the film, and one of her primary styles, black leather pants and a long-sleeve red top, is quite becoming.  In the closing scenes of the film, Francoise runs down the driveway to join Paul, and I could not help but notice Catherine's distinctive running style that we have seen in so many previous films.  It's a charming little touch to close the film.  The version that I viewed was in French, and it is nice to hear Catherine speaking her native tongue (at least it sounds like her to me).  Although nothing about Catherine's role in the film particularly distinguishes it among the best roles of her career, I would rank the film as being amongst Catherine's better post-Hotel films.

The film is based on a novel by Dominique Fabre.  Here is a French paperback tie-in:


Un meurtre est un meurtre was shot in the mid-to-late spring of 1972.  It premiered in France on August 23, 1972 and in the U.S. on November 27, 1974 (per IMDB).  I have not seen any release date information for Italy.
  • The May 3, 1972 Variety reported:  "Claude Chabrol doing walkon bit for Etienne Perier in latter's suspenser, 'A Murder is a Murder,' now shooting with Jean Claude Brialy, Catherine Spaak and Stephane Audrane."
On September 20, 1972, Variety reviewed the film from a showing at the Mercury theater in Paris on September 7 with a 100 minute running time (the version that I viewed had a running time right at 99 minutes, and IMDB shows a 90-minute running time), concluding:

"There are some good ideas in this psychological suspenser but with direction too bland and characterization too surface to give this more than dualer or playoff use abroad, with tv a good probability on its simple close-quarter work, homes chances are good.
...
Brialy walks through his role as the resigned victim until he finally decides to kill the blackmailer but finds someone has beaten him to it...Catherine Spaak is only decorative as the other woman in Brialy's life."

As for a U.S. release, the November 21, 1974 edition of Variety reported that producer Jerry Pickman had acquired four French-made films for distribution in the U.S., including "'A Murder is a Murder...is a Murder' directed by Etienne Perier with Stephane Audran, Jean-Claude Brialy, Robert Hossein, and Catherine Spaak."  Other than the release date listed on IMDB (as mentioned above), I have found no other information about a U.S. release for the film, but here is the U.S. one sheet poster for the film (from the archives at emovieposter.com):


Jerry Pickman was part of the Levitt-Pickman distributing company, which was an independent distributor of the era, so it appears likely that the film only received a limited release in some arthouse theaters and on some college campuses.  I have not yet seen any information to indicate how the film performed at the box office, either in the U.S. or abroad.

The film was released on VHS video in France in 1998, but I have not seen evidence of any other home video releases.


Now, for some non-U.S. promotional material.

Italian posters and fotobustas:








A Spanish poster:


A Brazilian pressbook:



A French newspaper advertisement:

 
A Polish poster (from the archives at emovieposter.com):

 
Unknown promotional item (perhaps German or Austrian?):


Some stills/press photos:


Here is a collector card for the film (I am not sure of the country of origin or date of issue):


A 45 rpm record released in France in 1972:


The soundtrack was included on a CD release in France and Italy in 1996:




Friday, September 12, 2014

Il Sorpasso on U.S. Television

On Sunday night, September 14, TCM will be airing Il sorpasso at 2:00 A.M. Eastern time.  If you haven't picked up the great DVD release from The Criterion Collection, then this is a great opportunity to set your DVR and check it out.  This may well be the first time that it has been seen on U.S. television since the late 1960's or early 1970's.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Catherine Spaak:  The Year in Review - 1971

September 12, 1971 Italian TV magazine


As 1971 started, Catherine was still working with Johnny Dorelli, as they toured Italy with their stage production of Promises, Promises.
  • The January 27, 1971 Variety reported that the "Johnny Dorelli-Catherine Spaak troupe touring 'Promises, Promises,' head for San Remo Casino last four days of Jan."
I am not yet sure of when Catherine was formally divorced from Fabrizio Capucci, but apparently it was official (or at least well on its way to being official) by July of 1971, based on an article in Time.
  • Time, in the July 12, 1971 edition included an article called "Italy:  Undoing the Gordian Knot" about the difficulty of divorcing in Italy.  The article notes that "Aside from a few celebrities such as Vittorio De Sica, Maria Callas and Catherine Spaak, those who do go through the struggle in the courts are usually middle-class people anxious to legalize long-term liaisons and second families."  
By the summer of 1971, Catherine was in the U.S. for the filming of Un uomo dalla pelle dura in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • The July 28, 1971 Variety reported:   "Franco Prosperi stepped in for director Alberto De Martino on 'Tough Guy' now filming in Albuquerque with Robert Blake and Catherine Spaak for Cinegai."
  • The August 11, 1971 Variety reported:  "Cast of Cinegai's 'Tough Guy' is topped by Robert Blake, Ernest Borgnine, Catherine Spaak, Gabriele Ferzettl and Tomas Milian with Franco Prosperi now directing in New Mexico."
Around late August or early September Catherine began work on Causa di divorzio in Carpi and Rome, Italy.
  • The June 30, 1971 Variety reported:  "July start for producer Dino De Laurentis is 'Cause for Divorce' with a cast including Senta Berger, Catherine Spaak, Enrico Montesano, directed by Marcello Fondato."
  • The August 12, 1971 Variety noted that "Cause for Divorce" was scheduled to start August 28.
  • The August 25, 1971 Variety reported:  "DDL starts this week were Marcello Fondato's 'Cause of Divorce' with Santa Berger, Enrico Montesano and Catherine Spaak."  It noted that filming was started August 23 in Modena, with interiors at Dinocitta.
  • The October 13, 1971 Variety reported from Rome:  "Latest Columbia acquisition here is Marcello Fondato's 'Cause for Divorce,' recently completed at Dinocitta."
I have not yet found any information to indicate how Catherine finished out 1971, during the October through December period (after winding Causa di divorzio).

Note:  As we will soon see in future posts, Catherine married Johnny Dorelli in 1972.  Catherine gave birth to their son, Gabriele, sometime in 1971.  My guess is that it was in the summer of 1971, just before she went to New Mexico for filming of The Boxer.  I have seen an Italian tabloid report from 1971 (see picture below) indicating that Catherine was pregnant with Dorelli's child and telling close friends.  A July 19, 1971 tabloid (see picture below) purports to show a newborn picture of their child.  Also, as shown below, one tabloid in 1971 ran pictures of the child's baptism, and another 1971 tabloid ran a headline that Catherine had left the child just days after being born (perhaps to work on a film?).  Finally, as pictured below, the September 20, 1971 edition of Oggi has a cover photo of Catherine, Johnny, and Gabriele at the child's baptism. 

I have no information on these press photos, but it seems to me like Catherine's look in The Boxer, so they may be from 1971 (the second photo appears to show Catherine with Sabrina).


Here are some magazines featuring Catherine from 1971: