Monday, August 9, 2010

Tinto Brass - La vacanza AKA Vacation (1971)

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rjbuffalo wrote:

Brass, Redgrave, and Nero had so much fun making Dropout that they decided to follow it up with an Italian companion piece. Again, the three of them paid for the 16mm production out of their own pockets. Despite having nearly provoked a riot at the Venice Film Festival, it won the prize for best Italian film. This no-budget work plays, looks, sounds, and feels like a folk tale. It’s a must-see, and it’s one of my five or six favorite movies ever. Fiorenzo Carpi’s music, based on Venetian folk songs, is among the loveliest ever to appear in a movie. The lyrics, appropriately, were written by inmates of mental institutions.
This is one of Vanessa Redgrave’s greatest rôles, completely unglamourous. She plays peasant girl Immacolata, who leads not the best of lives. Her seduction of Count Claudio backfires when the count, having turned his attentions back to his wife, has Immacolata committed to an asylum for the criminally insane. Immediately upon her one-month experimental leave (vacation) from the institution, her family reject her and give her to a creditor as a mare. Her subsequent adventures of escaping into the woods, hitching up with a poacher, and squatting with her newfound friends—four Gypsies and a traveling underwear salesman named Gigi the Englishman—end tragically with kidnappings, murders, and more imprisonments. Corin Redgrave (Vanessa’s brother) as Gigi the Englishman gives one of the most appealing performances in movie history. And you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Osiride Pevarello wearing a dress and interrogating a donkey.
Everything about this movie amazed me, but what especially amazed me was the economy of its storytelling. Complex ideas are presented in a matter of moments, and presented more directly and more visually than I have seen done in even the best silent movies. Often this is accomplished by absurd exaggeration. For instance, to illustrate that Immacolata (played by the 5'9" Vanessa Redgrave) is a misfit among her family, most of her relatives are played by midgets. If I had made the film, swiftly explaining that Immacolata’s family are in debt to their neighbor the miller would have presented me with a challenge. Watch how Brass explains it, primarily visually, in about five seconds. In one instance Brass apparently had to go to some length to explain how Immacolata and Alpì went from being prisoners of the Count’s Nazi son to being enslaved in a sewing factory. To speed the film along, Brass simply deleted the explanation, replacing it with a jump cut. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. As far as I know, there’s never been another movie even remotely like this one.






















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ROBERT ELVAUZ