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, 27 July 2012

A Discovery: La Notte Brava

"The moral bankruptcy of desperate youth brought stunningly, shockingly to the screen"-  or the glamour of delinquency ?

LA NOTTE BRAVA (NIGHT HEAT), aka "The Big Night" aka "Les Garçons", is an Italian-French co-production starring Rosanna Schiaffino, Elsa Martinelli, Laurent Terzieff, Jean-Claude Brialy, Franco Interlenghi, Antonella Lualdi, Anna Maria Ferrero, Mylene Demongeot and Tomas Milian. It was directed by Mauro Bolognini from a screenplay by Pier Paolo Pasolini and Jacques-Laurent Bost.

This 1959 movie is a socially conscious drama chronicling the exploits of three Roman thugs. The young men spend the day committing petty crimes, beginning with gun theft and culminate it in a rendezvous with three streetwalkers. After taking their pleasure, the guys attempt to cheat the hookers out of their money, but the women outsmart them ahead of time. That night, the hoods return to the city for more exploits, including an attempted car theft, and the harassment and robbery of three rich men. By daybreak, the guys have all separated, with nothing but feelings of loneliness and disgust for their troubles.

This is another of those ground-breaking movies about delinquent youth in 1959 - at the same time Jean-Pierre Mocky was shooting LES DRAGUEURS (THE YOUNG HAVE NO MORALS) in Paris (when Truffaut was shooting his 400 BLOWS there..). Antonioni may well have set the template with his alienated youth in I VINTI in 1953 (Antonioni label), before THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE or REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. LA NOTTE BRAVA is a key '50s film too and catches its young cast at the cusp of the 1960s when they were going places. It is a perfectly Pasolini story of low-lifes but with a more attractive cast - Pasolini had yet to shoot ACCATONE or MAMMA ROMA with his own real low-life discovery Franco Citti.
Brialy & Terzieff watch Martinelli & Lualdi
Mylene smoulders ...
LA NOTTE BRAVA is not available now except on YouTube where it can be seen in full and with English sub-titles! Pity it has never played in London since my arrival in 1964; it is a great discovery for those interested in Italian cinema of the '50s and '60s - like those others now only available on YouTube like my recent reviews of SENILITA and LA CORRUZIONE, both early '60s Bolognini's with that perfectly early '60s black and white look and attractive players like Cardinale and Perrin, and that rarity: Vancini's  THE LONG NIGHT OF '43. Mauro Bolognini (he died in 2001 aged 78) is now becoming another Italian director of note for me, I must seek out his other successes like IL BELL' ANTONIO with Mastroianni. GRAN BOLLITO (Italian label) was a great discovery last year. He also did amusing episodes in those favourites of mine LE BAMBOLE and LE FATE.
Brialy, Terzieff & Tomas Milian (background)
Back to the film:
My friend Daryl says: "It's a glittering movie about wasted youth: beautiful young people with no jobs and nothing to do who get into all sorts of trouble". That captures it perfectly.
I had not noticed Laurent Terzieff much before but he is the real discovery here, with that angular face and frame, its a perfect look: the look I had in the early '60s (he died in 2010 aged 75 - he is a centaur, half-man half-horse, in Pasolini's MEDEA). The girls are lookers too: Elsa Martinelli and Antonella Lualdi as cat-fighting prostitutes .... Demongeot as the wealthy girl Terzieff would like to know better - or is she the maid dressed up in her mistress's finery? - and Schiaffino as the nice girl Brialy and Terzieff want to impress. These layabouts want to sell their stolen goods ignoring the fact that their fence is in the middle of his grand-mother's funeral, then the streetwalkers steal their money; then they try to rob three rich young guys and pretend to fight but get taken back to their plush home where a different scenario seems to be unfolding, are these guys gay looking for some rough thrills? some intense homoerotic tensions seem to be simmering - is the stunning Tomas Milian coming on to Brialy?, who wants to borrow money from him. It's all very Pasolini... I wasn't expecting a scene like this in a 1959 film.
Milian smoulders ...
They have to flee though when Bellabella (Interlenghi), a real opportunist, steals a wallet full of cash  - which they then squander in an expensive restaurant (after Terzieff wants them to return it so he can continue his flirtation with Demongeot). By dawn nothing of the money is left as Terzieff screws up the last note and tosses it away - so they start all over again. Its a stunning climax to a fascinating film which is also great social document of that time.  I am currently watching a violent  Italian weekly crime series ROMANZO CRIMINALE here, the gang in it would surely be the less violent NOTTE BRAVA boys 50 years ago.... 
Here it is:

I have now unearthed some rare photos of Tomas Milian, Laurent Terzieff, Jean Sorel . watch this space!

Summer re-runs continue with some choice Italians: THE RED DESERT, YESTERDAY TODAY & TOMORROW, MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE, LE BAMBOLE and LE FATE again,  and Wertmuller's unseen since the '70s, the stunning SEVEN BEAUTIES, which I must experience again before I lend it to Jerry on Tuesday when we are having a boozy afternoon out. Then its on to Almodovar, Chabrol, Deneuve and so many others ...
Laurent Terzieff (centre) LES TRICHEURS, 1958
I have been familiar with this image since my teens from "Films & Filming" magazine

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