Sunday, October 02, 2011

Il veleno delle parole / [The Poison of Words]

(Lastertongen) (Celio Film, IT 1913) D: Baldassarre Negroni; cast: Francesca Bertini (Luciana Valdi), Carlo Simoneschi (Carlo [Charles in this print] Rizzi), Alberto Collo (Alberto [Albert in this print]), Augusto Mastripietri (Giovanni Valdi); orig.: 642 m; 35 mm, 559 m, 30' (16 fps), col. (tinted); from: EYE Film Institute Netherlands, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection). Nederlandse tussentitels. Russian intertitles. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone (Cinema Italiano: Francesca Bertini), with e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: Antonio Coppola, 2 Oct 2011.

Ivo Blom (GCM Catalogue): "Il veleno delle parole [The poison of words] “stars” Francesca Bertini, who at that point was not yet a full-blown diva, but would soon become one. Luciana Valdi (Clara in the Dutch version) is married to Carlo, a lawyer, when Alberto, her cousin and lover in their adolescence, returns. People start to gossip about a relationship, although Luciana tries hard to avoid Alberto. At first, Carlo refuses to believe the story, and then starts to have doubts. He visits Alberto to ask him for his guns, saying he wants to fight a duel with a man who insulted him. He then discovers Luciana behind a curtain. She is there only to beg Alberto to prevent the duel. The husband grabs a gun and shoots her dead. Later on he reads his wife’s diary, where Luciana states that she loved only her husband. He repents, but it is too late."

"In one sequence the three protagonists travel to the country for a picnic, together with a large group of ladies and gentlemen from town in carriages or on horseback. They sit and eat in a deliberate composition, which brings to mind the various déjeuners sur l’herbe of 19th-century painting. The perception of the countryside is that of the well-to-do city dweller: nature is described as an idyllic and cultivated background for bourgeois romance, comedy, or melodrama."

"Il veleno delle parole is also a film about voyeurism. The sense of intrigue is heightened by the inclusion of scenes showing the alleged adulterous couple being spied on by different people. In several cases the spies are given more importance than the couple itself, as in the scene in which a group of girls are seen looking at Alberto and Luciana through huge box-trees. In another shot a lady turns back to cast a rapid glance at the two, with an evil smile on her face. It is not strange, then, that in the end Luciana stands behind a curtain: a symbol for the hidden, for something inducing a morbid curiosity. In contrast to similar situations in comedies, here the publicly shared secret is no longer a joy; rather it produces anxiety and suspense. Will Luciana be discovered? Carlo lifts the curtain at the very moment he thinks he has lifted an imaginary veil on the situation. He comes to the wrong conclusion."

"Quite uniquely for the time, the shooting of the female lead is depicted straight-on, full-front, and was not removed by the censors." – Ivo Blom

AA: A tragedy. A woman and her beloved husband meet her first lover, now only a good Platonic friend who comes to stay with them as a lawyer's apprentice. Evil words start to circulate, and first when Carlo actually sees Luciana's purse at Albert's place (Albert having established himself independently) and finds her hiding in Albert's bedroom he finally believes them, but he is wrong. Bertini is excellent, subdued in a story of grand passion. There are powerful moments and a striking ending in this movie. A beautiful print with beautiful colour.

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