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Thursday, January 23, 2014

WOMAN TIMES SEVEN (1967)

After the signature Neo-Realist classics, Vittorio De Sica (often in collaboration with scripter Cesare Zavattini) found some of his broadest successes in the omnibus format. Along with all the bravura acting opportunities, his humanistic gaze found uproarious comedy, honest sentiment & ironic tragedy whether he helmed all the segments (GOLD OF NAPLES/’54; YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW/’63) or just the best of an otherwise bad bunch (BOCCACCIO ‘70/’62). This late entry is a decidedly lesser achievement, though the episodes still give off a modest kick & some civilized pleasure. The emphasis is definitely on the female side, and what a showcase they’d have made for Capucine (flirting with Peter Sellers in ‘Funeral Procession’); Giulietta Masina (joining streetwalkers as payback to Rossano Brazzi in ‘Amateur Night’); Jeanne Moreau (driving Vittorio Gassman to distraction as an interpreter in ‘Two Against One’); Claudia Cardinale (going from wren to reckless as writer’s muse in ‘Super Simone’); Anita Ekberg (defending her couture outfit in ‘At the Opera’); Shirley MacLaine (debating her pact with Alan Arkin in ‘Suicides’); and Gina Lollobrigida (followed home by Michael Caine’s mystery man in ‘Snow’). Alas, the seven roles turn out to be played by Shirley MacLaine, Shirley MacLaine, Shirley MacLaine, Shirley MacLaine, Shirley MacLaine, Shirley MacLaine & Shirley MacLaine . . . and she’s only right for the Alan Arkin sketch, a sort of Mike Nichols/Elaine May thing. Style, let alone High Style, was hardly MacLaine’s forté at the time. And while it’s certainly a yummy looking product, beautifully designed & dressed, with a rich EastmanColored look from New Wave lensing icon Christian Matras, plus honest to goodness Palais Garnier L’Opera interiors!, all held together in a seemingly effortless manner via De Sica’s easy, exact, oft taken for granted technical mastery. If only MacLaine didn’t play so many of the characters as if she were guesting on The Carol Burnett Show.

DOUBLE-BILL: Still waiting for De Sica’s GOLD OF NAPLES to appear in a complete cut. (It’s greatest segment following a child’s funeral is still missing.*) Till then, YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW will do more than nicely. (Look for the KINO/Lorber restored DVD.)

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *And speaking of still missing . . . the credits for the Vittorio Gassman segment goes missing in both the ‘Pre’ and ‘Post’ credits on this otherwise splendid looking LionsGate DVD. Was the film ever distributed as WOMAN TIMES SIX?

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