WOMAN (LA SIGNORA DI TUTTI)
(director/writer: Max Ophuls; screenwriters: Hans
Wilhelm/Curt Alexander/from the novel by Salvatore Gotta;
Arata; editor: Ferdinando Maria Poggioli; music: Daniel Dax; cast: Isa Miranda (Gabriella Murge, alias Gaby
Doriot), Memo Benassi (Leonardo Nanni), Tatyana Pavlova (Alma Nanni), Friedrich Benfer (Roberto Nanni), Nelly Corradi (Anna Murge), Franco Coop (Veraldi), Mario Ferrari (Movie
Producer), Lamberto Picasso (Gaby's father);
Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Angelo Rizzoli;
Ripley's Home Video (PAL DVD format); 1934-Italy-in
Italian with English subtitles)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Max Ophuls ("Le Plaisir"/"The Earrings of Madame De ..."/"Letter From an Unknown Woman") after fleeing his native Germany to avoid persecution by the Nazis for being Jewish, directs his only Italian film in the fascist-run Italian film industry. It's considered by many critics to be his dress rehearsal for Lola Montes (1955), a film many found great but did not particularly move me. The overwrought melodrama tells of the rise and fall of a femme fatale and questions whether she was a victim or created her own bad karma. The only thing it plainly states is that wealth and celebrity are empty assets when compared to love. It's based on the novel by Salvatore Gotta, and is co-written in a hokey and ludicrous manner by Ophuls, Hans Wilhelm and Curt Alexander. The presentation is enhanced by Ophuls's interesting stylized mobile camera shots, cross-cuts, lilting music and a well-executed grandiloquent long flashback; otherwise, it's a cloying soap opera tale that hardly amounts to much of a tragic romantic story, one that is neither convincing nor moving.
The film opens with the
attempted suicide of famous sexy Italian actress Gaby
Doriot (Isa Miranda, her film debut and the
role that made her a star), working for a French
film company, who while under an anesthetic
in the hospital operating room recalls the events
that led her here. As a schoolgirl in Milan, she was
expelled from school because of a sex scandal with
her music teacher and was kept homebound by her
strict widowed military officer father (Lamberto Picasso).
Given permission to attend a party in her neighbor's
villa, Gaby's courted by the estate owner's polite
son Roberto Nanni (Friedrich Benfer)
but ends up befriending his lonely music loving
invalid mother Alma (Tatyana Pavlova).
When Roberto's frequently absentee philandering
unattractive elderly banker father, Count Leonardo (Memo Benass), returns home,
we are led to believe that Gaby falls for him instead
of his handsome son. Since that scenario never was
believable, the rest of this tale never caught my interest.
When Alma suspects hubby is
cheating with Gaby in the garden, she in anger tries
to get her wheelchair down the spiral staircase to
confront them but takes a fall and dies. When the
love-sick Leonardo says he can't live without his
mistress Gaby, she deserts him because she finds it
haunting living in the same house where Alma so
tragically died. By the time we learn the reason for
Gaby's suicide, we could care less about such an
amoral woman or the softer viewers take pity on her by
blaming her weakness for older men on those more
experienced men who took advantage of her giving
nature. A modern audience will find it difficult to
relate to such an old-fashioned story line, one that
was laughable even when released theatrically in 1934.
REVIEWED ON 3/11/2012 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ