English Title: The Golden Coach
Original Title: Le carrosse d’or
Country: France, Italy
Language: English, Italian
Genre: Comedy, History, Romance
Director: Jean Renoir
Cinematography: Claude Renoir
Raf De La Torre
To this reviewer’s reckoning, one has to inure the fact that French auteur Jean Renoir’s latter track record smacks of resting on his tremendous laurels, THE GOLDEN COACH, the first of his post-Hollywood musical comedies trilogy, will be followed by FRENCH CANCAN (1955) and ELENA AND HER MEN (1956), headlines Anna Magnani as the pillar of an Italian Commedia dell’arte troupe, setting its foot in a 18th century colonial Peru.
Ms. Magnani is Camilla, whose romantic embroilment with 3 different male suitors: Ferdinand (Lamont), the Spanish viceroy, Ramon (Rioli), an indigenous toreador and her longtime Italian beau Felipe (Campbell), will be immediately thrown into a whirlpool of romp and pomp, with the titular golden coach as a token of love from the noble viceroy, which can be put into practical use to save his pending deposition if Camilla feels up to do it.
First things first, amped up by Vivaldi’s repertoire, gingered up by Magnani and her troupe shrouded in sheer Technicolor splendor and variegated costumes, not to mention the deadpan aristocratic panoply and comic skits impromptu, THE GOLDEN COACH is so eye-pleasing and ear-soothing that, for one second, one might assume it is a masterpiece in the making, to certain extent, that expectation is partially validated by Renoir’s effortless facility to beautifully refine the stodgy with freewheeling ease and the Midas touch, a compassionate, pyrotechnic Magnani, who defies any moral obligation and jaundiced ageism to attest that for a woman in the mellow years, her Camilla is second to none in commanding her own life path and expressing her own feelings, and she has many options at hand: retreating to a simpler, quieter life with Felipe, becoming a celebrity couple among locals with Ramon, aiding with Fedinand in his silk-stocking intrigues, or just resuming her stock role of Columbina with the troupe, it is her call and hers only.
A Cinecittà production bursts into its full-blown lavishness of its visual complexion and texture, THE GOLDEN COACH is a vintage farce hampered by its folly-driven staginess and erstwhile flippancy, unwieldy in its glittering sheen but still a very different kettle of fish from any other vanity projects, for one thing, Renoir is quite au fait with men’s sophomoric foibles and a believer in a woman’s elemental beneficence.