Thursday 26 November 2015

Resurrectio/Resurrection - Barrie Pattison begins a trawl through the work of Alessandro Blasetti

Alessandro Blasetti
Sometimes being a film freak works out. I just watched Ripley’s beautiful but Italian only sub-titled disc of Alessandro Blasetti’s 1930 RESURRECTIO, the first (sort of) Italian sound film.

Blasetti is brushed off because his best work is mainly in the void between CABIRIA and the point where (American) critics discovered “Neo Realism” during the post WW2 occupation. He was the man who was responsible for my finding Marcello Mastroianni in his fifties Sophia Loren movies and the director of the first dubbed movie I ever saw - FABIOLA. Suspect qualifications?

On the evidence which is only now surfacing Blasetti was however one of the most interesting film makers of the early years of sound. His take on talkies was different from the work being done around him and much more assured than debut films from China, Portugal, Australia and other out of sight centers. He tells the story in visuals backed by noise and music, only going into synchronized speech when the camera moves in on the characters’ conversations. In RESURRECTIO several of the best scenes are voiceless - the bus ride
and Lya Franca at the Concerto Sinfonia. It is put together with imaginative devices like the reminder visualization of the pistol inside popping on and off her dropped bag, handed back by the beat cop who doesn’t check it, or dissolves between close-ups and the consequences.

Lya Franca & Daniele Crespi
The star turn is the juxtaposition of vampy Florica Alexandresco got up in  grotesque high fashion and Franca in her cloche hat or shop girl uniform. Franca also comes appealingly out of Camerini’s nice GLI UOMINI, CHE MASCALZONI opposite De Sica a couple of years later. She stands out. There’s little in the way of information about her and, like the other more theatrical leads, she vanishes from the scene after these few films. Veteran cameraman Montuori will later shoot LADRI DI BICICLETTE and his camerawork is impeccable, outside of one clumsy fog bound exterior early on, which may have been knocked out by an assistant. Discounting a couple of dodgy opticals the work is remarkably sophisticated for people who had never faced these challenges before.

You can count sound films then as good as this one on a saw miller’s fingers but RESURRECTIO vanished even in it’s home market. Blasetti has been ignored despite his skill and versatility and it takes determination to locate his best work. The fun part is finding it paying off.

Resurrectio, Italy, 1931, 64 minutes. Direction, Script/Alessandro Blasetti, Dialogue/Guglielmo Zorzi, Producer/Sefano Pittaluga, Cines Produzione
Cast: Lia Franca/the girl, Daniele Crespi/Pietro Gadda, Venera Alexandrescu, OLga Capri, Aldo Moschino, Giorgio Bianchi, Aristide Baghetti, Umberto Sacripante, Giuseppe Pierozzi.

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