Aug 11, 2008

17th August 2008 ; Screening Of Luchino Visconti's White Nights

White Nights
A Film by
Luchino Visconti
Year :1957
Country :Italy
Italian with English sub titles
Run time : 97 minutes
17th Aug 2008; 5.45 pm
Ashwin Hospital auditorium
Call : 94430 39630

Konangal film society is happy to introduce the great Italian master of cinema , one of the golden pioneers of Italian Neo- realist movement , Luchino Visconti . His other celebrated masterpieces - Ossessione ,Rocco and His Brothers, The Leopard and The Earth Trembles are in our list for future screenings.

Luchino Visconti’s 1957 film, Le Notti Bianche / White Nights, winner of the Silver Lion Award at that year’s Venice Film Festival, and adapted from a Fyodor Dostoevsky story of the same name.Luchino Visconti’s Le notti bianche, an exquisite adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s White Nights, translates this romantic, shattering tale of two restless souls into a ravishing black-and-white dream.

The time is never specified, but the story is likely set in the mid-twentieth century, as can be attested by scattered cultural markers such as neon signs and pop music. Yet, with just the slightest change of scenery and costume the characters could be living anywhere in history. Along the way we are treated to some wonderful acting, albeit in a very restrained manner, even when Mario performs a very Chaplinesque dance routine at a rock and roll club where he takes Natalia.

Mastroianni, as always, gives a great performance. We can see that, unlike in his many other roles, this time he is playing a truly shy man. Mario displays sincerity and an unwieldy presence around women, even though he is handsome and the object of affection for other women in the film — even the local prostitute (Clara Calamai) who is obsessed with him
Maria Schell, as Natalia, has a less formally demanding role — that of the classic naive waif. Throughout much of the film her character moons wide-eyed at the camera while recalling a scene from her past. She is the classic submissive woman waiting for a knight or prince to ‘take her away from all this’ — even though her life is not that bad, for her family obviously has taken good care of her.

White Nights, however, transcends the banality of contemporaneous American love tales by simplifying its story into a minimalist parable, while deepening its archetypes. Thus, the film avoids falling into all the easy clichés of the narrative form, resulting in a sort of operatic melodrama of the lost and naive.

Luchino Visconti

Aristocrat and Marxist, master equally of harsh realism and sublime melodrama, Luchino Visconti (1906-1976) was without question one of the greatest film directors of the mid-twentieth century. Immensely rich and a bit of a dilettante, he went to Paris in the 1930s to escape the stifling culture of Fascist Italy. In Paris he met, and fell in love with, the fashion photographer Horst P Horst. But even more formative was his meeting with Jean Renoir in the heady political atmosphere of the Popular Front.

In 1937 he worked with Renoir on Une partie de campagne and was imbued with a lifelong love of cinema. Returning to Italy he took part in the Resistance and became a convinced Marxist, which he remained until his death. A leading light of the neo-realist movement in the 40s, he also acquired a reputation as an innovative theatre and opera director.

With the costume spectacular Senso in 1954 he applied his theatrical talents to a more melodramatic form, while retaining his commitment to a Marxist interpretation of Italy's troubled history. From then on, he mixed contemporary subjects - as in Rocco and His BrothersThe Leopard (1963), but also in Death in Venice (1970) and even more powerfully in the sublime Ludwig (1973). During the making of Ludwig he suffered a severe stroke, from which he never fully recovered. (1960) - with a meditation on the past and on a world which is lost but has left a deep mark on the present. The focus of almost all his films is families, either the disintegration of large families or the breakdown of couples, with betrayal - whether of marriages or of political causes - a recurring motif.

In all his films, regardless of period or subject matter, visual splendour is combined with meticulous realism and deep historical and psychological insight. Famous as the embodiment of art cinema, films such as The Leopard and Rocco were also hugely popular at the box office, particularly in Italy but also worldwide.

At the same time, however, Visconti never compromised his art. He was fanatical about detail, but even more so about the integrity of his vision, which he expected the audience to be able to share.

Source : Geoffrey Nowell-Smith

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