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.
Monday, 1 August 2016
Young Toscanini, 1988
I never imagined in my wildest dreams I would enjoy seeing Elizabeth Taylor in blackface as an opera diva singing (or miming to) an aria from AIDA, but that is just one of the treats in Franco Zeffirelli's 1988 YOUNG TOSCANINI, so thanks Jerry for that.
Of course Zeffirelli (now 93) knows how to stage an opera and how to showcase a diva, we get both in spades here. His later films (this one never even played in London) may be inconsequential but are marvellously staged, costumed and cast. TEA WITH MUSSOLINI was fun with that cast, and Fanny Ardant is terrific as Maria Callas (whom Zeffi knew well) in CALLAS FOREVER in 2002. His huge hits in the 1960s were of course THE TAMING OF THE SHREW with the Burtons, and ROMEO AND JULIET in 1968. I particularly like his hippie St Francis film BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON in 1973, where again he creates spell-binding moments. His long apprenticeship with Visconti certainly paid dividend.
Rio de Janeiro
in 1886, eighteen-year-old conductor Arturo Toscanini, in Brazil
on an orchestra tour, is torn between an aging soprano attempting a comeback
and a mistress his own age. Opera diva Nadina Bulichoff has interrupted her
stage career for Dom Pedro II the emperor of Brazil.
When Toscanini begins to coach his childhood idol for a return to the stage in
"Aida," Nadina has fallen into deep depression. The conductor is
instrumental in her transformation as her performance proves an ultimate triumph
and she is back the top of her art.
Taylor is terrific here as Nadina, its a leading role and maybe her last significant cinema one. She certainly looks and emotes better than she did in that terrible A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC a decade earlier. I did not know C. Thomas Howell's work, but he has certainly been busy and still working now. Cast also includes Sophie Ward, Franco Nero, Philippe Noiret. Certainly worth seeing if one can catch it.
I will now finally be moving on to Zeffirelli's 1990 HAMLET this week - again, a stunnng cast, and should be an interesting take on the play. I will be also tackling his 1996 JANE EYRE which may arrive today; there are so many JANEs around, it will be interesting to see how Franco stages it, and again has a great British supporting cast (Joan Plowright, Billie Whitelaw, Sam West, Richard Warwick, with William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsburg in the leads). .