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.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

1970 rarity: First Love

As IMDb puts it:
Based on Ivan Turgeyev's novella, FIRST LOVE is about two young lovers in czarist Russia. One is a 21-year-old woman, the other a young man of sixteen. Things take a tragic turn as the girl (Dominique Sanda as Sanaida) falls in love with the boy's father (Maximilian Schell). The film, Schell's first as director, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 1970's Academy Awards

Two icons of '70's international cinema -- Dominique Sanda and  John Moulder-Brown -- play wonderfully off each other in this lovingly rendered tale of youth, love and the loss of innocence. 
The photography by none other the great Sven Nykvist so of course it all looks terrific, shot in Hungary, with that right kind of period look.  Schell assembes an interesting polyglot cast, apart from the two young leads and himself, theres Italy's Valentina Cortese and English character actress Dandy Nichols, playing posher than usual here, plus Richard Warwick from IF... and BUMBO, as well as playwright John Osborne (Schell had performed in his A PATRIOT FOR ME in 1969. Like Lumet's THE SEA GULL (below) it too plays out at a languid pace as we experience those lazy days on the country estate, which, with the house, look marvellous to our eyes now.
Anjelica Huston in a magazine feature on her favourite books, has this to say about FIRST LOVE: "A hauntingly beautiful novella that Turgenev partly based on his own experience. In it, two men describe their first passions, inspiring the third, Vladimir, to quietly write his story down".

FIRST LOVE - I saw it at a sole London Film Festival screening back then - has not been available for years, so its good to see it back in circulation now. It too has that early 70s look, when international and youth culture movies were all the rage.
 Moulder-Brown was also effective that year in Skolimovski's DEEP END, a favourite here, and 1972's KING QUEEN KNAVE (Moulder-Brown label), as well as appearing in Visconti's LUDWIG in '72 as well as VAMPIRE CIRCUS!. He still looks great now, as per the extras on the DEEP END Blu-ray, but does not seem to do much, though IMDb lists 66 credits with him working until recently, like James Fox he was a child actor.
John Osborne, left; Dominique Sanda, centre; Richard Warwick, right.

Sanda, was for a period, the face of the new European cinema, with so many fascinating roles in such a short time: Bresson's A GENTLE CREATURE, FIRST LOVE, memorable as Anna Quadri in  Bertolucci's THE CONFORMIST - that chilling murder in the woods, and that sensual tango - in 1970, as well as Micol in De Sica's THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINI'S, (see Sanda, De Sica labels) and in Bertolucci's 1900 in '76, as well as Demy's UN CHAMBRE EN VILLE (A ROOM IN TOWN) in 1982, and is still working now. She has been luckier than that other lauded discovery, the late Maria Schneider (RIP label).
Schell died last week, aged 83, as per RIP below.


  1. Yes, FIRST LOVE is a fascinating film, an indication of Maximillian Schell's interests in literature and art. And certainly, in 1970, Dominique Sanda seemed to be THE continental actress of the moment. It remains perhaps not wholly successful, but a film filled with many odd and touching moments.

    But Schell's most impressive achievements as a director were his two documentaries, MARLENE (a marvelous and feisty portrait of Marlene Dietrich, who famously refused to be photographed, so the film consists of her commentary with clips form her films, stage appearances, etc.) and MY SISTER MARIA (a heart-breaking portrait of Maria Schell as she succumbed to Alzheimer's).

  2. I saw MARLENE at the time, but I can't imagine I would want to revisit it. Schell's film on his sister Maria sounds fascinating, if distressing to her admirers.

  3. I wonder if Schell's film inspired the look or mood of Losey's THE GO-BETWEEN the next year in 1971, it too has that perfect turn of the century period detail and features a young man in thrall to an older girl who has her own agenda .... Ken Russell's THE MUSIC LOVERS also in 1971 trowels on that period detail, which must have fascinated film-makers at that interesting time for international cinema in the early 70s.