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Monday, May 15, 2017

BIANCO, ROSSO E . . . / THE SIN (aka WHITE SISTER) (1972)

Pretty dreadful. The post-war glory days of Italian cinema came to a screeching halt in the mid-to-late ‘60s. Most of the big names weren’t much affected, but standard commercial fare went into fast decline. Regardless of political leanings, producers & directors, terrified of seeming old-fashioned/out-of-touch, discarded old verities in cinematic grammar & craft, tossed aside in the hustle to survive. So a fine journeyman helmer like Alberto Lattuada, who’d given Fellini a leg up in VARIETY LIGHTS/’51, made sharp, near perfect dramedies both romantic (LA SPIAGGIA/’54) and cynical (MAFIOSO/’62), now looks hopelessly ill at ease in the lumbering sentiment & political sparring of this comic-tragedy. Sophia Loren is just as uncomfortable as a saintly, irreplaceable nun riding out the latest crisis at an overrun strike-happy hospital. Adriano Celentano is the comical communist orderly, leading the revolt (and he’s plenty revolting), but falling hard for the unavailable Sister Sophia. It’s one of those hospital-as-metaphor-for-society films popular at the time, but too lazy to stick with the conceit, jumping into backstory for Loren (pre-nunnery lost love) and street protests for schlubby Celentano. (A big star in Italy whose appeal didn’t cross over.) Kudos to Alfio Contini for some polished cinematography, but it hardly matters.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The Lattuada films mentioned above are all great, with MAFIOSO (out on Criterion) easiest to find.

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