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.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

F for fake: War of the Volcanoes

One of the items that interested me in the new bulky brochure for the forthcoming London Film Festival (LFF) is a new documentary WAR OF THE VOLANCOES, just 52 minutes, showing with a revival of Rossellini's VIAGGIO IN ITALIA. WAR OF THE VOLANCOES also plays in the NYFF. Here is how our BFI big it up:
A scintillating documentary: a delightfully gossipy combination of film history and romantic soap. Consisting of glorious film clips, black & white and colour archive footage and newsreel, WAR OF THE VOLCANOES plots the '50s scandal surrounding the legendary Italian director Roberto Rossellini's dumping of his star and lover Anna Magnani in favour of a new creative and emotional affair with Swedish-Hollywood icon Ingrid Bergman. The result was tabloid headlines galore, and - stoking them - two rival films in production at the same time on near-adjacent Aeolian islands: VOLCANO starring Magnani, and Rossellini's own STROMBOLI, featuring of course his new muse Bergman. A revealing treat.

Well, if I had paid to see this I would be rather cross, but thankfully it played on one of our Sky Arts tv channels yesterday (and is on several more times next week) ... it is in its way fascinating and rather amusing, but it is a total fake. It takes the well-known story of Bergman leaving the cossetted life of the 1940s Hollywood dream factory in search of realism, which she thought she had found with Rossellini and the film they were making on Stromboli.The director here Francesco Patierno assembles a mix of newsreel footage and clips from the Rossellini-Bergman films to canter through the familiar tale - we also get to see clips of Magnani in action, not only in her VOLCANO film but also others to highlight her distress at Rossellini leaving her. . Like for instance when Bergman's husband come to talk to her, we get a clip of Bergman and Alexander Knox who played her husband in EUROPA '51 - their arguement here is passed off as being relevant to Bergman and Lindstrom discussing their marriage!  All this fakery gets rather much, but thankfully it is quite short at 52 minutes. Talk about "structured reality" as I mentioned below, in A BIGGER SPLASH post! Hopefully this is not a new trend where events or relationships can be re-interpreted by judicious editing of newsreels or movie clips to satisfy the never-ending craving for celebrity gossip ...

Ingrid at the NFT
The good thing about it though is that it reminds us of the value of these Rossellini films. I can still picture Bergman at one of the National Film Theatre events I saw her at, maybe it was a screening of CASABLANCA, reminding us the audience about how these films were dismissed and badly received at the time, but are now genuine classics of the Italian cinema. I saw STROMBOLI as a child and also JOURNEY TO ITALY, which is now finally restored and available (and placed at number 41 in that recent "Sight & Sound" poll - and number 5 in its list of top ten Italian films).  Looking at the scenes in STROMBOLI of Bergman's alienated Karin  approaching the volanco, after witnessing that savage tuna hunt, one is reminded of how these films paved the way for Antonioni - L'AVVENTURA with it's scenes on that remote island, and the angst of Moreau and Vitti in LA NOTTE and L'ECLISSE and the others. I have already reviewed JOURNEY TO ITALY here, see Bergman/Italian labels, and I am now looking forward to getting to EUROPA '51 before too long. 

I have also been meaning to get back to re-see Ingrid's take on Golda Meir in A WOMAN CALLED GOLDA - her final work (when she was quite ill). Ingrid actually had a wonderful sense of humour, (MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, CACTUS FLOWER, INDISCREET, SARATOGA TRUNK)  there is a lot of sly humour in her portrayal of Golda, even the false nose, wig and makeup are quite funny.  And today has another showing of Hitch's UNDER CAPRICORN which I like a lot, with Cardiff's marvellous colour photography. 
(Reviews here too of Bergman's AUTUMN SONATA, and the Italian SIAMO DONNE, those segments with her, Magnani, Alida Valli and Isa Miranda, in 1952).

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