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.

Italian Posters:

A still:

A soundtrack album and a 45 rpm record:

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