Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

27 May 2011

The Briefest of Reviews from 1973

I wish that I could like Luchino Visconti, but I guess I just don't. I liked Romy Schneider and Trevor Howard in Ludwig, and literally every shot could be framed and put in a gallery. It's that gorgeous. But the film is just so boring. And I am really interested in Ludwig II and in Richard Wagner, whose life and work have always fascinated me, but I feel like Visconti just drains all energy out of his films. This is sacrilege, I know, but I feel it is time to be honest about this.

There is one sequence in Ludwig that I liked and that has real emotional impact: there is an extended sequence (every sequence is an extended sequence in Visconti) where Romy Schneider takes a tour of all the castles that Ludwig has built. The castles are all empty and unbelievably sumptuous. At the end of the sequence, Schneider throws her head back and laughs. I loved this sequence, but for me that was the film's only scene of merit.

Also. I do not understand what it was with the Italians from this time – Fellini and Visconti in particular. Why are all their films dubbed? I fail to understand it. Helmut Berger, as far as I can tell, was speaking English in the film. But instead of listening to him speak in English, I listen to someone else speak over him in Italian and then read an English translation of that Italian in the subtitles. I am sure there must be an explanation for this, but whatever Visconti's reasoning (and Fellini's and René Clément's) the dubbing works to distance me from the emotional impact of the film.