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Sunday, August 14, 2011

RHAPSODY (1954)

Pricelessly idiotic romance with Elizabeth Taylor as a spoiled rich girl who runs away from Dad’s boring old luncheon party (Artur Rubinstein, Kate Hepburn & Henri Matisse* are expected) to nibble on the ears of budding violin virtuoso Vittorio Gassman. But he’d rather fondle his fiddle than get distracted with Liz, so she marries promising piano prospect John Ericson on the rebound. Now, she’s out to weaken his . . . er, technique. It’s the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto going toe-to-toe against Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2, with an ending apparently stitched together after a bad preview. (Gassman gave up on Hollywood for a couple of decades after this, and you’ll see why.) But there are recompenses in the extended classical excerpts which feature the great, tragic Michael Rabin dubbing the violin parts, and the even greater Chilean master Claudio Arrau, in his young fiery days, on piano. Plus, there’s the absurdly overdressed Liz relieving her boredom during the Tchaikovsky by adjusting her fur to fully expose her left shoulder. (To better balance her decolletage?) Then, just before the end of the pic, lenser Robert Planck finally finds the angle for Liz; slightly elevated, over Gassman’s shoulder. And, for a moment, she truly looks like her own legend.

*Matisse may have been late since he died this year.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Some wiseguy @ M-G-M must have noticed that Liz's character not only is called Lulu, like the infamous vixen of Wedekind’s PANDORA’S BOX, but that she also has the same poisonous effect on the men who love her. So, they bobbed her raven locks, though not in the style Louise Brooks sports as Lulu in the Pabst 1928 classic. Brooks' straight bangs would never have worked on Liz’s heart-shaped face.

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