When you review a movie and reveal its ending, it's called a "spoiler."
(And those who do that should be boiled in their own pudding.)
Tonight, I encountered an unusual variation on that dastardly deed. A
film whose plot is a spoiler in itself... because there is nothing more
It is with genuine regret that I report that the North American Premiere
of "Puccini e la fanciulla" (Puccini and the Girl) in Embarcadero Center,
at the closing night of the New Italian Cinema Festival, was an 84-minute
Expectations, including mine, were high: the couple responsible for the
film, Paolo Benvenuti and Paula Baroni, arrived in San Francisco for the
event, and they spoke in superlatives about their research and the
resulting film. Here's the story and the buildup:
The filmmakers, it says here, "fascinatingly employ elements of pure
cinema in this historical depiction of musical maestro Puccini and his
possible extramarital dalliance with a housemaid. In 1909, the great
composer is working on "La fanciulla del West" in his Tuscan villa in
Torre del Lago when whispers start circulating a - " by the musiciana -
's stepdaughter a - " of his supposed inappropriate behavior.
"As the story unfolds, all dialogue is heard in muffled tones or through
letters read in voiceover as visual representation and musical moments
take center stage. Based on recently discovered historical material and
employing actual footage of Puccini from 1915, this film richly and
indelibly reinvents the musical biopic."
Benvenuti told the audience before the screening that the film has
no dialogue because he wanted to feature the sounds of Puccini's
environment, that we'd hear what the composer had heard in and around
his home. The only way that could be true was if Puccini wore a hearing
aid or if high-powered microphones were implanted all around. And,
besides the jarring sound, of course there IS a narrative, self-handicapped,
in the form of letters being read and those promised "muffled tones."
The simple story unfolds slowly and somewhat in the bizarre fashion
of a melodrama, a la "The Drunkard." Melodrama without dialogue,
mediocre-to-poor acting, a few phrases from "La Fanciulla" on the
thundering piano, and at the end, you leave pretty much the way you came
in: with a simple, potentially - but not actually - interesting story.
For more, see http://tinyurl.com/5mzwgu.
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