Tuesday, August 31, 2010

La strega bruciata viva

Elävältä poltettu noita / Häxan som brändes levande / The Witch Burned Alive. - An episode from: Nykypäivän noitia / Häxorna / The Witches / Le streghe. IT / FR 1967. PC: Dino De Laurentiis Cinematografica / Les Productions Artistes Associés. P: Dino De Laurentiis. D: Luchino Visconti. SC: Giuseppe Pastrone Griffi with Cesare Zavattini. DP: Giuseppe Rotunno – Technicolor. PD: Mario Garbuglia, Piero Poletto. COST: Piero Tosi. Make-up: Goffredo Ricchetti. M: Piero Piccioni. ED: Mario Serandrei. CAST: Silvana Mangano (Gloria), Annie Girardot (Valeria), Francisco Rabal (Valeria's husband), Massimo Girotti (the sportsman), Elsa Albani (friend), Clara Calamai (ex-friend), Véronique Vendell (young guest), Leslie French (industrialist), Nora Ricci (Gloria's secretery), Bruno Filippini (singer), Helmut Steinbergher ( = Helmut Berger) (waiter). Duration with the opening credits 40 min, e-subtitles in Finnish by Lena Talvio, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Luchino Visconti), 31 Aug 2010

Revisited Visconti's contribution to the Silvana Mangano episode film Le streghe, in a print of stunning photochemical colour paying justice to the refined colour space of the jet set gathering at the Tyrolean mountain resort Kitzbühel.

This is Visconti's study of the film star in the world of capital, a de luxe asset in the organization of production, explicitly compared by an industrialist to his own line of work (canned meat). Gloria is pregnant, and she has to sacrifice her baby to the next film project.

Visconti's study of alienated relationships is completely original and different from Fellini (La dolce vita) and Antonioni (La notte). He is both more deeply an insider (himself a long term member of the jet set) and an outsider.

It is interesting to meet here Clara Calamai and Massimo Girotti, the stars of  Visconti's debut feature - and Helmut Berger in his first credited role.

Visconti clashed with De Laurentiis and disowned this version of his episode. It's memorable even as it is.


Sergio Repka said...

Very good post about a little-known and underrated film. I always found "La strega bruciata viva" astonishing for its economy and brutality. To my mind, it says everything von Trier was trying to say in the first part of "Melancholia", only better. I wonder whether von Trier might not have had it in mind when he spoke about failing to match Visconti's ability to elevate matters above the trivial; I had assumed he meant something like "Il Gattopardo", but "Strega" seems to fit the bill even better.

I was really surprised to learn Visconti disowned this; would you be able to point me towards more information on the matter? Thanks!

Antti Alanen said...

Dear Sergio Repka, thank you for your intelligent comparison. According to Henry Bacon (professor of film studies at Helsinki University, author of a monograph on Visconti) De Laurentiis wanted Visconti to make a feature film of the subject, but for Visconti the subject was short story material. Because Visconti refused to prolong his episode, Laurentiis made the final cut, for Visconti the episode lost its bite, and he refused to take responsibility for the result.

Sergio Repka said...

Hello and many thanks for the response, I will look for the monograph.

Visconti was right, I don't see how this could have kept its punch as a feature-length film. I presume we're left to dream of what Visconti's edit might have been. It remains a very powerful and very accomplished film.

I'd be curious to know what was the extent of Cesare Zavattini's influence on the final result, especially when you compare "La strega bruciata viva" with "Le Streghe"'s other bookend, "Una serata come le altre", which he also wrote.

To me, "Serata", though still very funny and very sharp, is a weaker piece. Having said that, I love the astonishing contre-emploi of Clint Eastwood.