Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Vitti Vitti Vitti ...

I cannot go too long without spending some time watching Monica Vitti or listening to that husky voice of hers, so here's an enjoyable double bill of Monica in 1969 and 1979 when she was certainly at her zenith.

THE SCARLET LADY is an interesting comedy drama from '69 set in Paris and is a veritable feast of Vitti as it is all about her: wearing fabulous clothes (Christian Dior and Marc Bohan) and living it up in fancy hotels, lunching at the Eiffel Tower etc. When she finds out that she has been swindled out of her perfume empire by her lover Robert Hossein she decided to kill him and then herself. But not before she heads off to Paris, sells her jewels, checks into a hotel and decides to splash out on champagne and caviar, but she has a week to kill before Hossein travels to Paris every Friday. Feeling alone she invites a stranger to lunch with her, he is Maurice Ronet who becomes fascinated as he realises her plans and how desperate she is behind that bright facade. So far so good - then she is buying a fancy car, lots of clothes, moves to the Hilton, gets involved with a pop group and is generally having a great time. She saves a man from suicide who curses her for not leaving him alone and when another guy thinks she is a prostitute she goes along with it, giving the fee to a real working girl, so there are lots of crazy situations. Instead of a revenge thriller a comedy of sorts ensues, particuarly with Ronet trying to track her down before Friday, while she disovers the pleasures of simply being alive. This is Monica in throwaway comedy style as in my perennial favourite MODESTY BLAISE or THE BLONDE IN BLACK LEATHER.

The primary joy of this quirky unsettling journey into the unexpected is Vitti herself - Monica has a lot of fun, looks terrific, wears some fabulous clothes, it is Paris and 1969 (she tries to smoke pot with one of the hippie musicians while sitars drone in the background) and then Friday arrives and she goes to meet the plane from Nice where the ex-lover arrives .... those who only know Vitti from those Antonioni films will be surprised at her here, but then she always wanted to be a comedienne and at least got to star in lots of movies like this in the 60s and 70s - as per my other posts on her here, (see Vitti label). Ronet is also a nice presence here and the lift attendant at the Eiffel Tower is none other than Claude Chabrol! Directed by Jean Valere with lots of nice Paris locations.

Michael Ritchie's 1979 romantic comedy drama AN ALMOST PERFECT AFFAIR was unseen for far too long, but nice to see it again now on dvd. This is another quirky Ritchie film (like his SMILE) set againsgt the background of the Cannes Film Festival and those who come there to show their wares. Vitti and Keith Carradine (from from NASHVILLE, GREETINGS FROM L A etc) are the unlikely couple to come together. He is the idealistic first time director who lives for his art, and Monica is the wife of a bigshot Italian producer, played by Raf Vallone (terrific as ever). Their bittersweet romance is played out against the backdrop of the glitz, glamour and frenzy of the film festival, as Vitti's neglected wife - out walking her dog - collides with the impoverished young director. With terrific scenery and a nicely comic insider's view of the movie world, AN ALMOST PEFECT AFFAIR is a real treat, particularly with the combination the hip modern world of Carradine and the classic European film milieu represented by Vitti and Vallone. Unmissable!

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