Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ranking Catherine Spaak Films of the 1960's

Everybody loves a list!  Right? They are completely subjective, so a good debate usually ensues.  I might even change my own mind from time to time.  Here is my current ranking of Catherine's pre-1970 film work that I have been able to view.  The rankings are based on what I like as a Catherine Spaak fan, not necessarily what I think are the "best" movies.  I considered not ranking movies that I have only seen in a language that I don't speak, but I decided to rank those films anyway.  Since I had a good synopsis for each of those films to aid in the viewing, I think that I was able to get a good feel for where I would most likely rank those films, if I am ever able to view them in an English-friendly format.

1.  La Noia (The Empty Canvas) (1963) - classic Spaak; Catherine never looked nor performed better than in this dramatic role; she oozes sensuality; black and white cinematography and mood set a perfect tone for the film; Criterion Collection treatment would elevate the stature of this film and appeal to Bette Davis and Horst Buchholz fans, as well.

2.  La calda vita (The Warm Life) (1964) - classic, beautiful Spaak; perfect dramatic role for Catherine; impeccable, lush color cinematography sets the tone; Non e niente performed by Catherine over the closing credits is exquisite and perfectly suited for the wistful finale; it's a shame that this one is not available in the U.S.; it would be perfect for a Catherine Spaak retrospective on TCM.

3.  La parmigiana (The Girl From Parma) (1963) - classic Spaak drama; great performance by Catherine; nobody could do roles like this better than her; a shame it's not more available to the general public; the famed Nino Manfredi is solid.

4.  Il sorpasso (The Easy Life) (1962) - classic Spaak in a classic Italian film; very good movie, but fairly limited screen time for Catherine in a supporting role, though she makes the most of it and is memorable; Criterion Collection print is fantastic, never thought I'd see it look that good.

5.  Diciottenni al sole (Eighteen in the Sun) (1962) - classic light-hearted Spaak role; Catherine is beautiful, pleasant, and perfect for her ensemble role in this film; better than American beach films of the era; nice color cinematography and good humor; very little to "not like" about this film.
6.  La bugiarda (1965) - classic Spaak; the type of comedic role in which Catherine excelled; a film built around Catherine.

7.  Hotel (1967) - a good, professional, well-made, old-fashioned Hollywood drama; Catherine with heavy French accent amongst a talented ensemble cast.

8.  Adulterio all'italiana (Adultery Italian Style) (1966) - Nino Manfredi and Catherine do what they do best; fun film.

9.   La voglia matta (Crazy Desire) 1962 - classic Spaak; Catherine's big breakout role that made her the "it" teen in Italy; would have liked to have seen this one shot in color; Ugo Tognazzi good, though working with material that was probably a little below average for him.

10.  Tre notti d'amore (Three Nights of Love) (1964) - classic Spaak; wall to wall Catherine being pretty and funny with beautiful color cinematography.

11. I dolci inganni (Sweet Deceptions) (1960) - classic Spaak; impressive performance from a very young, inexperienced Catherine; beautiful black and white cinematography.

The above 11 films should be considered must-see viewing by Catherine fans.  These are the best films for giving all retro film lovers a good sense of what made Catherine an "it" girl in Italy and ultimately an international star.

12.  Week-end a zuydcoote (Weekend at Dunkirk) (1964) - Pretty good Belmondo movie with a big budget; not a lot of Spaak, however.

13.  Madamigella di maupin (1965) - Decent period, costume piece; lots of Spaak, just not classic Spaak.

14.  Le puits aux trois verites (1961) - Not a bad movie, just not especially good; not fond of Brialy as the lead in this film, but a nice look at a very early role for Catherine.

15.  La matriarca (The Libertine) (1968) - Unusual exploitation film for Catherine - sexy Spaak; she looks good and performs well in this reasonably interesting film.

16.  Certo, certissimo, anzi...probabile (1969) - uneven; starts off fairly well with focus on Claudia Cardinale and Catherine, but it loses its way after the first hour; running time too long for this material.

17.  Oggi, domani, dopodomani (1965, short version of Spaak segment) - like this overall film better than the stand-alone, long version of the Spaak segment.

18.  La notte e fatta per...rubare (Night is Made For Stealing) (1967) - Have only seen Italian language version; silly comedy/caper film that adds little to Catherine's resume; cool title song performed by Catherine.

19. Non faccio la guerra, faccio l'amore (Make Love, Not War) (1966) - Have only seen Spanish language version; appears to have been no better than average material for Catherine.

20. Il marito e mio e l'ammazzo quando mi pare (Drop Dead My Love) (1967) - Have only seen Italian language version; though the film has some humorous scenes, overall, the material with which Catherine had to work was no better than average.

21.  Made in Italy (1965) - decent movie, not so fond of Catherine's segment.

22.  Con quale amore, con quanto amore (released January 1970, but lensed in 1969) - Have only seen Italian language version; not my cup of tea, but beautiful Spaak; Erika Blanc is a bonus.

23.  L'uomo dei cinque palloni (The Man With the Balloons) (1968, long version)

24.  Le Trou (1960) - pretty good movie, but very little Catherine.

25.  L'armata brancaleone (For Love and Gold) (1966) - Need to be Italian to appreciate this film; this is a Gassman film; Catherine is just a supporting player.

26.  L'amore difficile (Of Wayward Love) (1962) - disappointing film for me; not fond of Catherine's role in this one.

27.  Una ragazza piuttosto complicata (A Rather Complicated Girl) (1969) - was hoping for more with this one from Damiano Damiani; unlikeable characters; not up to the standards of most Jean Sorel or Catherine Spaak films.

28.  If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969) - movie isn't bad, but only a very brief walk-on cameo from Spaak.

29.  Le monachine (The Little Nuns) (1963) - How did Catherine end up in this movie?  Vanilla and uninteresting role for Catherine.

30.  La ronde (Circle of Love) (1964) - I've viewed this film twice, and I will probably never watch it again; French period-piece rubbish from Roger Vadim; if I have a least favorite film of Catherine's below this one, we'll have to go into the 1970's and beyond to find it.

Films not ranked, because I have never seen them in any version:

L'Hiver (1959)
Il carro armato dell'8 settembre (1960)
La vedova allegra (1968)

What do you think?

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