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.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

A Matter of Time, 1976

Finally, thanks to rare-movie-hound Jerry, a look at Vincente Minnelli's last feature, A MATTER OF TIME, from 1976. This one always eluded us here in London, though the BFI did screen it once. I can always happily sit down in front of a Minnelli musical like THE BANDWAGON or a Minnelli drama like TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN or a delicious Minnelli comedy like THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE, but this last feature (like Wilder's equally problematic FEDORA) is a different story. Perhaps only Hitchcock had a happy last film in FAMILY PLOT, which delighted us that year, while Howard Hawks happily remade his films over and over ...

A simple young woman helps eccentric old countess deal with her old age and she introduces the young woman to a world of upper class society.

The shock here is getting used to Ingrid Bergman's almost Kabuki-style makeup, with that odd make-up and grey wig. Liza ramps up the gauche quality she often indulged in; it seems now only Pakula, Fosse and Scorsese were able to rein her in for those effective performances in THE STERILE CUCKOO (aka POOKIE) in 1969, CABARET and NEW YORK NEW YORK

The simple story is overdone, but great to see Ingrid again, with Boyer (shades of GASLIGHT) and her daughter Isabella Rossellini plays a nun, nice to see mother and daughter (briefly) here. Tina Aumount, Fernando Rey and Gabrielle Ferzetti are also involved. It kind of harks back to GIGI - that period obviously appeals to Minnelli. 
Liza plays Nina, a naive young chambermaid who starts work at a once-grand hotel in Rome, and Ingrid is the ageing countless, a long-time resident whose money is starting to run out. The countess retreats to her dreams and helps Nina to face the world .....  Unfortunately Minnelli's vision was ruined by American-International Films who financed and then re-edited it, so Minnelli disowned it. Perhaps its a miscalculated masterwork, but in the era of TAXI DRIVER and ROCKY it just did not work, but 40 years later it is an intriguing campy mess of what could have been, there's even  couple of Kander & Ebb songs. More on Ingrid, Liza and Minnelli at labels. (Below: Ingrid and Isabella).


  1. I saw this for sale last time I was in Spain but I wasn't sure about it. I guess I should have bought it or maybe I will ask my friend Pat to see it he can dig it up for me. You have made it sound interesting.

  2. I stumbled across this last year, a terrible print but with something as elusive as this you take what you can get, and was prepared for it to be subpar because of its reputation. Unfortunately it played out right to my expectations. A sloppy mess that was so far removed from the quality of Vincente Minnelli's other work it was obvious that it had been heavily tampered with.

    Liza was borderline terrible, completely at sea but her character made no sense so all the blame can't be laid at her feet. The only halfway decent elements of the thing were Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer who managed to turn their soggy scenes into something approaching entertainment. Still thank all the saints that Ingrid was able to follow this up with her masterful work in Autumn Sonata and have that be her swan song, Boyer was not so lucky.