Una Donna Libera

Vittorio Cottafavi

Sog.: dalla commedia di Malena Sandor; Scen.: Fabrizio Sarazani, Oreste Biancoli; F.: Guglielmo Garroni; Mo.: Iolanda Benvenuti; Scgf: Alfredo Montori; Mu.: Ezio Carabella, brani di Tchaikovski; Su.: Pietro Ortolani; Int.: Françoise Christophe (Liana Franci), Pierre Cressoy (Gerardo Villabruna), Gino Cervi (comm. Massimo Marchi), Elisa Cegani (madre di Liana), Lianella Carell (Solange), Christine Carère (Eleonora), Antoine Balpêtré, Barbara Florian (Anna Maria), Galeazzo Benti, Augusto Mastrantoni, Luigi Tosi (Michele), Nada Cortesi, Mario Maldesi, Mario Mazza, Luigi Zuccolo; Prod.: Fortunato Misiano per Romana Film (Roma)/S.N.C. – Societé Nouvelle de Cinématographie (Paris); Pri. pro.: 29 dicembre 1954. 35mm. L.: 2777 m. D.: 94’.

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

I found myself in a situation where I had some problems with the text’s narrative structure, slightly similar to Guido Da Verona; it was rather dated but had to be made during the mid 1950s, so I tried another solution. Since the narrative material was what it was, and I couldn’t rewrite it, with decadent and D’Annunzio like elements that I couldn’t stand, so I used something from my film Una donna ha ucciso, re-creating its atmosphere, but most of all I persisted in perfecting language, rhythm, camera movements and long takes. It was handwriting practice with material I didn’t feel was mine. In fact, when the film flopped, as I had anticipated, Misiano blamed its failure not on the mediocre story but on thefact that it was too beautiful, too wellmade.

Vittorio Cottafavi, interview with Gianni Rondolino (January 8-9, 1980) in Gianni Rondolino, Vittorio Cottafavi cinema e televisione, Cappelli editore, Bologna, 1980

His “handwriting practice”, nevertheless, transformed into a real search for expression and reaches astonishing moments of balanced style. I am referring to the scene in which Liana and Gerardo are shot from on high near a balcony of the Piazza di Spagna: the camera moves forward slowly, enough to include the straight line (“infinite”, that is, uncertain like the future of their love) of via Condotti; and at the concert: the camera’s movement from Gerard to Liana and back – with a cut to Gerardo framed from below while conducting Wagner – demonstrating the feverish attraction between the two and the jump cut and low-high framing foreshadowing male arrogance. I also refer to the film’s ending: after committing the crime, Liana is reflected in a window and then shot from above – almost flattened on the glossy pavement – then after a jump cut there is a big close up of her head from behind while the camera moves downward with a perspective including the gate of the police station, appearing to lift her. Or, better still, elevate her. Overwhelmed with guilt, Liana is elevated à la Dostoevsky with the (liberating) choice of punishment. It is not just a question of the main character; developing a kind of repetitive compulsion deriving from a malignant, rigid and melodramatic fate, the second part of the film with its excessive moralizing risks compromising the director’s excellent portrayal of Liana’s ambiguity and the different aspects of a story that is ultimately liberating but also contains generous and honest passion. The ending closes off all leeway and acquires a nobler, “Jansenistic”

Tullio Masoni, L’altra metà del cielo. I melodrammi degli anni Cinquanta, “Bianco e Nero”, n. 559, Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, Carocci Editore, Rome 2007