Hugo Fregonese

Sog.: da tre novelle del Decameron di Giovanni Boccaccio. Scen.: George Oppenheimer. F.: Guy Green. M.: Russell Lloyd. Scgf.: Thomas Morahan. Mus.: Antony Hopkins. Int.: Joan Fontaine (Fiametta/Bartolomea/Ginevra/Isabella), Louis Jourdan (Boccaccio/Paganino/ Guilio/Don Bertando), Godfrey Tearle (Ricciardo/Bernabo), Joan Collins (Pampinea/Maria), Binnie Barnes (Contessa di Firenze/La contessa/ Nerina/la vecchia strega), Eliot Makeham (governatore di Majorca), Marjorie Rhodes (Signora Bucca), Noel Purcell (padre Francisco). Prod.: M.J. Frankovich per Amerit Film Corp., Film Locations, Ltd. 35mm. D.: 84’.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

As the countries of Europe turned to tax incentives and subsidies in hopes of reviving the continental cinema in the wake of World War II, crafty American producers began hatching complicated schemes to take advantage of the new governmental sources of financing, and the runaway production was born. Producer Mike (later M.J.) Frankovich arranged to shoot the exteriors for Decameron Nights largely on location in Spain, using – according to a report in “Motion Picture Herald” – funds from an American oil company frozen in Spain by the Franco government, and to shoot the interiors at the Elstree Studios near London, thus qualifying for a British subsidy under the Eady plan.
It was a situation built to order for the multilingual, footloose Fregonese, who would spend much of his subsequent career managing shakily funded international co-productions around Europe and South America. But Decameron Nights is a handsome, confident film, cleverly structured to show off both its Spanish locations (mostly doubling for the Florentine hills) and the considerable gifts of its cast. Again we find Fregonese’s familiar themes of imprisonment and escape, here transposed to the erotic realm. In his pursuit of the beautiful widow Fiametta (Joan Fontaine, in the most sensual performance of her career), the poet Giovanni Boccaccio (the unshakably urbane Louis Jourdan) pursues her to her country estate, where she is hiding with five ladies in waiting while Florence is under siege. Boccaccio talks his way into this improvised convent (where Fontaine is dressed in nunnish black-and-white) by offering to entertain the ladies with stories.
The omnibus film, with its framing story and three or four individual episodes, had been popularized by such titles as Dead of Night (1945) and Le Plaisir (1952), but Fregonese and his screenwriter, George Oppenheimer, take the formula in a fresh direction. The tales are presented as a witty, ironic dialogue of seduction, as Fiametta and Boccaccio imagine themselves in three different erotic scenarios.
Working with British cinematographer Guy Green, Fregonese subtly manipulates the color palette, contrasting the natural lighting and earth tones of the framing story to the expressionistic shadows and bold, primary colors of the imaginary tales. This is a lush and generous film that stands as a delightful contrast to Fregonese’s darker works.

Dave Kehr

Copy From

lent by an anonymous collector. Original 1953 IB Technicolor print with a variable density soundtrack