Roberto Rossellini – La vispa Teresa (1939)

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Quote:
Scalera had obtained backing for a series of animal shorts and needed someone to make them. Roberto plunged in enthusiastically. He arrived at Ladispoli with animals of all sorts distributed among pockets and cages and started sixteen documentaries, no less, all at once. A slew of titles were annouced. La foresta silenziosa (“The quiet forest”), Primavera (“Spring”), Re Travicello, and La merca; and perhaps ll brutto idraulico (“The ugly plumber”). Fellini recalls finding Roberto at Scalera kneeling under small reflectors. “Inside a small enclosure made of nets and rope were a turtle, two mice, and three or four roaches. He was shooting a documentary about insects [La vispa Teresa?], doing one frame a day, very complex and laborious, with great patience.”
“He kept shooting for months,” Fellini adds, probably with his customary exaggeration. For in fact Roberto’s enthusiasm flagged quickly. Continue reading

John Cromwell – Jalna (1935)

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In this adaptation of author de la Roche’s chronicle of the passionate lives of the strange Whiteoaks of Jalna, their beautiful family estate located in souther Ontario. The story begins as a young Whiteoak, a novelist travels to New York where he encounters a charming woman, marries her, and takes her back to Jalna. There she encounters many difficulties as she attempts to adjust to life with his odd family. It does not help that several soap-operatic events transpired while he was gone when his brother married the illegitimate daughter of a despised neighbor. One day a “sexy dame” suddenly shows up on the family porch. Soon she and the novelist are trysting away, but before he can consummate their affair he is killed during a terrible fall. The new widow then realizes that it is a different brother that she loves. They soon marry. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide Continue reading

Roberto Rossellini – Il tacchino prepotente (1939)

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This is an anti-Fascist short Rossellini made in 1940.
Quote:
La vispa Teresa was rejected and, although Ferrara said that Il tacchino was distributed by Scalera under its working title, “La perfida Albione,” there were no press notices, and no one outside of Scalera is known to have seen it. According to Ferrara, Rossellini told him it was a satire in which “Perfidious Albion,” a big turkey representing England, goes around pecking at the hens representing the nations of Europe, until defied by a rooster representing Italy. “Rossellini detested it,” said Ferrara, “[though his] genius was such that he could achieve extraordinary effects out of nothing. He used to tell me, ‘It’s the only time that, through my weakness, I made a work of propaganda.’” Continue reading

Alessandro Blasetti – Resurrectio (1931)

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PLOT SYNOPSIS:
Desperate because abandoned by his lover (V. Alexandrescu), orchestra conductor hesitates: to kill himself, or kill her? He simply shoots the portrait of the lover and returns to conducting, helped in his “resurrection”, by a cute girl (L. Franca), who restores his will to live.
Second film by Blasetti, after the silent “Sun” (1929), and the only one for which he signs the script himself. Produced by Cines, it is the first Italian sound film but, deemed not commercial enough, was released after La canzone dell’amore (1930) by Righelli.
It is interesting at stylistic level, for the ambitious mixage of dialogs, music (Amedeo Escobar) and noises in parallel with experimental visual inventions. Continue reading

Vittorio De Sica – Maddalena, zero in condotta AKA Maddalena, Zero for Conduct (1940)

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Imdb comment:

This is definitely one of the best comedy ever made anywhere…In a Technical school girl students learn to write commercial letters to a Mr Doe in Germany…one day one of these letters is posted by mistake..the problem is that this Mr Doe really exists…The exquisite vittorio de Sica was a great performer before reaching stardom in 1946 with “the bicycle theft”…The movie is always charming ,never vulgar nor stupid and you really get off the movie theatre happy with yourself and life in general..Mussolini censors used Cinema to divert people in those black days…its is not the only movie of its kind but it is the best by miles..After 1960 Italian Directors like Fellini or Scola reacted strongly against this type of comedies..Now they dont seem to know how to make them anymore. Continue reading

Jack Conway – Arsène Lupin (1932)

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Synopsis by Mark Deming
John Barrymore plays a burglar and his brother Lionel Barrymore is the detective trying to catch him in this cleverly cast drama. An upscale thief who works under the name of Arsene Lupin is making the rounds of the homes of the wealthy and privileged, and Detective Guerchard (Lionel Barrymore) is determined to track him down. What he doesn’t know is that the suave and sophisticated Duke of Charmerace (John Barrymore) is actually the man behind the robberies. Will Guerchard find out the thief’s true identity before he can execute a daring theft from the Louvre Museum? Karen Morely co-stars as Sonia, the Duke’s love interest. Continue reading

George Fitzmaurice – Arsène Lupin Returns (1938)

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Synopsis by Hal Erickson
This follow-up to MGM’s 1932 John Barrymore vehicle Arsene Lupin stars the ineluctable Melvyn Douglas. Reported to be dead, suave gentleman jewel thief Arsene Lupin (Douglas) resurfaces under the assumed name of Rene Farrand. Intending to follow the straight and narrow path, Lupin/Farrand reverts to his old larcenous ways when the opportunity to pilfer $250,000 in gems presents itself. Slowing down our hero somewhat is the presence of hotshot American private eye Steve Emerson (Warren William) and glamorous adventuress Lorraine de Grissac (Virginia Bruce). Ironically, both Melvyn Douglas and Warren William also played thief-turned-sleuth Michael Lanyard, aka “The Lone Wolf”, over at Columbia. Continue reading