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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Venere Imperiale (aka Imperial Venus) (1962)

The young sister (Gina Lollobrigida) of the rising soldier and statesman Napoleon Bonaparte (Raymond Pellegrin) is a flirtatious and headstrong woman which causes her brother much concern. When he forbids her to marry the man she loves and arranges a marriage of convenience with one of his generals (Massimo Girotti), she continues to defy and shock both him and society with her scandalous behavior and series of adulterous affairs. Directed by Jean Delannoy, this is an ambitious romantic epic which recalls the 1954 film DESIREE with Marlon Brando as Napoleon. Though she won the David Di Donatello (the Italian Oscar) award for best actress for her performance here, Lollobrigida was never much of an actress (though often an adept comedienne) and isn't quite able to make her Paulette Bonaparte very compelling. The central romance with Stephen Boyd (as a soldier) doesn't have any tactile passion to it and without that, much of the film is flat. On a technical level, the film is quite accomplished what with the gorgeous period costumes (courtesy of Giancarlo Bartolini Salimbeni), art direction and the superior score by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino. I must confess that the print I saw was quite ragged and faded displaying none of the clarity it must have had during its 70 millimeter first run engagements. With Micheline Presle as Josephine and Gabrielle Ferzetti.

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