English Title: The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
Original Title: Il giardino dei Finzi Contini
Country: Italy, West Germany
Genre: Drama, History, War
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Music: Manuel De Sica
Cinematography: Ennio Guarnieri
Another 70s Oscar BEST FOREIGN PICTURE victor, from the versatile Italian actor/director Vittorio De Sica, in fact this is only my second De Sica’s film (after MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE 1964 and disregarding the medley BOCCACCIO ’70 1962), thus admittedly a major motivating force to watch this one is the star appeal, namely Sanda and Berger.
Sanda, whom I recently discovered from Bertolucci’s THE CONFORMIST (1970), plays Micòl, the young daughter of the aristocratic Jewish Finzi-Contini family in Ferrara in the late 1930s, is the love interest of Giorgio (Capolicchio), from another Jewish but lower-class family, although they have been childhood sweethearts, Giorgio’s courtship has yet come off. Meanwhile Micòl’s effeminately indisposed brother Alberto (Berger) brings his burly friend Bruno (Testi) to the family and initially Micòl antagonizes him with her affected pomposity, but the ensuing happenings will dish Giorgio’s hope and Micòl eventually turns out to be a token victim of the tumult and a failed attempt to dare the purity of Jewish ethnicity.
As a war drama of ordinary people being shoved haphazardly by the humanity-defying heinous torrent of rabidness, the movie (maybe also Bassani’s source material) obviously don’t want to lay bare the ugly truth with pulverizing segments which one can generally assume would happen during the persecution of those Jews (cautiously the film finishes right before that), everything meanders with tepid temperature and sensuous palette, from jovial time on bicycle to the final illusory tennis court flashbacks (the difference between De Sica and Antonioni is immediate), but at any rate, it is wanting a bang to emanate the revelation which is always up in the air, not even the reveal of Micòl’s lover with Sanda’s bare-chest audacity and soul-searching stare.
Like Visconti, De Sica evinces ethereal and superior beauty from his young cast, say no more to knockouts like Sanda and Berger (who is purely existed for his godsend delicacy and impeccable face), even an ordinary-looking Capolicchio and the future action star Testi, have been sculpted meticulously with soft light and fond close-ups. Valli, on the other hand, is prominent as Giorgio’s father, illustrates lucidly as a spokesman for an elder generation frustrated by their fate and also impotent to save their children.
As a double winner for an Oscar and a Golden Berlin Bear, it doesn’t live up to my expectation, maybe it is a common attribute for Italian melodrama, its across-the-board appeal dwindles as time passes by, Visconti’s SENSO (1954) is too saccharine for my palate and this one is somewhat rather undemanding under the reigns of a maestro like De Sica.