Sunday, December 04, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #75 - The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

cute puppy pictures - It was a tough job being the center of attention... but someone had to do it
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Sunday edition this week, as yesterday found me giving my very first live and in person version of my From Fanfiction to Fantastic Fiction workshop at Charter Oak Romance Writers, where a wonderful time was had by all, but we're here for the movies today, and once again, I have stumbled upon a remake, so now the search begins for another movie and the novella from which it sprang.

I first spotted The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone at a library book sale, and couldn't at the time remember why the title jogged the "out of my way, I must have this movie" urge, but it did, and I snagged it. Quick glance at the cover - aha, Helen Mirren spotting, so that had to be part of it. Midcentury setting? Also good. Still, the title, where did I know that from? Flip case over...aha, adapted from Tennessee Williams novella (what, he wrote novellas? Apparently so.) Scan cast list. Rodrigo Santoro's name jumped right out at me, as he was in Love Actually, my favorite comedy ever ever ever. Also this visually gorgeous bit of commercial indulgence:

Yep, okay, I can tell already that this is going to be good. Now for the plot. Retired actress moves to Rome after the death of her husband and becomes involved with a...with a what, now? :ahem: A gigolo. As in male prostitute. Played by Mr. Santoro? Nope, he plays likely the most gorgeous homeless person in the history of history, and it's not even a speaking role, but essential and pivotal. Instead, the intriguing and dangerous Paolo is played by Olivier Martinez, who also has a fragrance ad to his credit:

Add in Anne Bancroft as "the Contessa" (aka madam) and Brian Dennehy as the soon to be deceased Mr. Stone and send the under eighteens out of the room because this is a movie for grownups.

If I had to sum up this movie in one word, it would be "gorgeous." Helen Mirren was gorgeous, in acting and appearance, even though her character's arc was one of an actress with more beauty than talent, who found even the beauty beginning to fade. Anne Bancroft was gorgeous in the Contessa's shrewd, shabby elegance that masked a brittle and desperate soul. Italy was, well, Italy; gorgeous scenery, gorgeous sets, gorgeous atmosphere. Olivier Martinez and Rodrigo Santoro both provided their share of the pulchritude, but more importantly, both men can act. Mr. Martinez' Paolo is one complex character, cunning manipulator, vulnerable boy, suave seducer and ruined aristocrat all at once, and his relationship with the titular Mrs. Stone is as volatile as Vesuvius, with equally disastrous results. The final scene is a giant, intriguing question mark that I'll have to mull over for a while. Definitely have to watch this again to get the most out of it; I can tell there are layers yet to be found.

Also yet to be found is the previous version of this movie, filmed in 1961 with Vivien Leigh in the lead.

In the meantime, I have a sudden urge to re-read Broken Wing by Judith James, to help me figure out what happens to Mrs. Stone's Young Man (Mr. Santoro's character is credited thus)after the cameras stop rolling. Have you ever had the need to fill in the gaps left by a favorite film?

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