Adua e le compagne

 

Adua e le compagne

[aka: Adua and her Friends]

Written by Ruggero Maccari, Antonio Pietrangeli, Ettore Scola &Tullio Pinelli

Cinematography: Armando Nannuzi

Music: Piero Piccioni

Produced by: Moris Ergas

Directed by Antonio Pietrangeli

1960

 

Featuring:

Simone Signoret

Sandra Milo

Emmanuelle Riva

Gina Rovere

Marcello Mastroianni

Claduio Gora

Ivo Garrani

Gianrico Tedeschi

 

Production:

Theatrical: Zebra Film

Video: Raro Video USA

 

Video:

Aspect Ratio: 1.64:1

Codec: MPEG-2

Bit Rate: 7.8 Mbps

Runtime: 125 minutes

Chapters: 16

Region: 0 / NTSC

 

Audio

Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono

 

Subtitles

Optional English

 

Extras:
• Introduction by film critic Maurizio Porro (6:55)

• “Girandola 1910”- short film directed by Pietrangeli (10:30)
• Photo Gallery (1:40)
• Director Biography
• Director Filmography
• 12-page booklet with essays and photos

 

Presentation:

DVD clamcase: DVD x 1

Release Date: May 31, 2011



Introduction:

Raro Video continues its foray into lesser known Italian cinema with a beautiful restoration of this gem from Writer/Director Antonio Pietrangeli.  Made in 1960, the same year as Fellini’s masterpiece, La Dolce Vita, Pietrangeli shares with his more famous compatriot a fondness for women, in this case prostitutes and ordinary people, and striking black and white photography, especially shots of nearly empty city streets at night. In fact, Adua e le compagne is bookended by them. But Pietrangeli is not nearly as optimistic in his view of the possibilities that such people have, given a locked, intolerant and hypocritical society.


               
 

 

The Movie: 8

The government has passed the “Merlin Law” which shuts down brothels across Italy. Adua (Simone Signoret, who had won her Oscar for “Room at the Top” just the year before, voiced here by an uncredited Italian speaking actress), and three of her fellow prostitutes: Lolita (Sandra Milo), Marilina (Emmanuelle Riva, aother French actress whom you will remember from “Hiroshima mon Amour”) and Milly (Gina Rovere), plan to take what they have been able to save and open a restaurant outside the city.  But forces are arrayed against them from the start, not least their own reluctance to turn a ramshackle   ex-building into a habitable, enterprise since, as they see it, it would be far easier to work on their backs.  But this is is the least of their problems.  They soon discover that their is trouble with the license.  And who should come to their aid but Ercoli (Claudio Gora) who eventually demands a piece of the very action the women have tried to escape from.


               
 


Along the way, they hook up with various men who seem to offer some hope for a future, Stefano (Gianrico Tedeschi) and Piero Silvagni (Marcello Mastroianni), but all is lost one way or another as they betray their true intentions or attitudes, this despite - and possibly even because of - thier growing success as restauranteurs.  At the film’s climax, when the four women, led by Adua, take command of their fate in a bold and cataclysmic gesture of defiance, you might find yourself reminded of the final moments of Thelma and Louise. The two endings, and in their own ways, the two movies altogether, make for an interesting comparison.


               

 

Image: 8/7

Kudos to Raro Video and Cinema Forever, the people responsible for the restoration.  The oddly formatted visuals (1.62:1) run the gamut from the smoke filled brothel to phantasmagoric night scenes, to bright sunny days in and around the restaurant.  Blacks have sufficient detail and very little noise or crush.  Edge enhancement is at a minimum.  Faces have wonderful texture and render the life behind the eyes beautifully.

 

Audio & Music: 4/8

I admit to never quite knowing how to score Italian movies of this period.  Producers lean heavily on dubbing and it shows.  It’s as if these guys are really making silent films and, as an afterthought, some careless fellow melds in dubbing from vocalists who, even when they get the drama right, are so off sync that we who don’t speak Italian find ourselves grateful that our attention is distracted to the subtitles.


               


I admit there is some attention to enhancing the dialogue audio so as to obtain some sense of space here, as in side the restaurant vs. outside, but there is no question that, with the exception of Sandra Milo, the women speaking are not the ones acting.  As for the subtitles, they are in an easy to read white font, and not so large as to get in the way. The English translation is idiomatic and without more than a couple typos.


Twisting the knife further is the fact that, in this case, anyhow, the dubbers tend to have similar timbres and, since their lips don’t move in time with the dialogue it can be a labor to figure out who is speaking. On the other hand, Piero Piccioni’s tasteful and dramatically contrapuntal jazz score comes off very well.


               

 

Extras: 5

In place of an audio commentary, which this film (and us) are in serious need of, Raro offers a seven-minute introduction by film critic Maurizio Porro, who places Adua e le compagne  in context (besides La Dolce Vita, 1960 was the year of “Two Women” which gave Sophia Loren her Oscar, and Visconti’s “Rocco and his Brothers,” among others.  He talks about the director, who had worked with Visconti and Rossellini, and his particular sensibility in regards directing actresses as well as in the understanding of their characters.  Unlike the essays contained in the booklet, Porro doesn’t give away too much of the plot - in fact, he makes a point of it - bless him. I’d say you should start here, then watch the movie, then read the booklet from cover to cover - it’s not that long.


               


There is one oddity whose presence is not really explained: a ten-minute segment directed by Pietrangeli titled “Girandola 1910” from the 1954 multi-directional “Amour di Mezzo Secola.”  The episode is quite droll, laced with relentless sexual metaphors.  The picture quality isn’t nearly good as the feature film, with a thinned pastel that passes for color, but its certainly watchable, with readable subtitles and with no glaring defects.


I have two quibbles about the booklet which, as far as the several essays it contains are concerned, are enlightening and well written: the incidence of black type against dark red (Raro’s colors) is unreadable without more light than is usually handy, and makes for a less professional look in the bargain.  I also have an objection to Mastroianni’s name so prominently placed on the cover (the art work is as awful as it is misleading - makes it seem as if the film is the stuff of tawdry pulp fiction, which it isn’t).  His character can hardly be considered on of Adua’s “friends” nor is his one of the major characters, though it is the most visible of the men.


               

 

Recommendation: 8

My personal difficcuty with Italian dubbed dialogue aside, this is a highly recommendable DVD.  Image quality is superb.  Extra Features are helpful.  And the film itself is easily the best that Raro has offered to date.  We hope that U.S. response to this film with encourage Raro to soon offer more films from this overlooked director.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed for “Il Sole negli Occhi” (Empty Eyes), “Nata di Marzo” (March’s Child), “La Visita” (The Visitor), and Pietrangeli’s best and most interesting film “Io la Conoscevo Bene” (I Knew Her Well).


               

 


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

May 20, 2011


 

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