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The Reeler Blog

The Sandrelli Factor

(Editor's Note: This is the first entry of The Reeler's new feature Seduced and Abandoned, in which author Miriam Bale surveys a weekly highlight among New York's rich repertory offerings. Bale programs the monthly series The Movie Night Disco at Frank's Lounge in Fort Greene.)

Stefania Sandrelli and Aldo Puglisi in Seduced and Abandoned (Photo: Film Forum / Janus Films)

By Miriam Bale

There's nothing sexier in cinema than the Italian ladies of the sixties. Monica Vitti rules supreme of this lot, of course, with her performances that are equal parts elegant reserve, fire and goofball romp. Sophia Loren's body is shocking, architecturally. But another in their ranks, Stefania Sandrelli, is often forgotten. Her beauty is less bold and sometimes almost ethereal, but she wiggles across the screen with the best of them. There's a feline quality to her movements, even her face, and when her nostrils flare expressively, she looks like she might pounce.

Sandrelli is showcased in three films by Pietro Germi -- Seduced and Abandoned (from 1963, and the source from which this ongoing feature adopts its name), Divorce Italian Style (1961) and Alfredo Alfredo (1972) -- that are included in Film Forum's current retrospective of the Italian director's work. Each of their collaborations dwell on themes that Germi established in his classic comedy Divorce Italian Style (playing for two weeks starting Nov. 9) -- on its face confronting the hypocrisies of marriage laws in Italy, but really about men who are better at seeking rather than having. Germi offers hideous presentations of women in these comedies, but it's all in service of skewering the hero's delusional viewpoint. Where Germi's sympathies lay -- and where he gets especially interesting -- is in exploring the relationship between the graspability and elusiveness of Sandrelli's allure. Her role evolves from that of the teenaged fantasy and cause of irreconcilable differences in Divorce Italian Style to, in the rarely-screened Alfredo Alfredo (playing Nov. 7,) the wildcat wife of Dustin Hoffman (dubbed, as a nebbish Italian!) whose very sex appeal causes him to seek elsewhere. Since the prize is the problem, it's clear that his actual problem is far knottier.

Also screening with Alfredo Alfredo (for separate admission) is The Facts of Murder (1959) starring a young Claudia Cardinale -- another member of the Italo-feminine royalty. The Facts of Murder is not one of the broad social satires that became Germi's trademark after Divorce Italian Style, but rather a weaving of his comedic view into a tightly-constructed crime yarn based on a complex experimental novel by Carlo Emilio Gadda. It's a strange and appealing blend that even Pier Paolo Pasolini -- who detested Germi --begrudgingly praised: "At certain moments I had the feeling that I was seeing fragments of a masterpiece."

Posted at November 5, 2007 11:41 AM

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