Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rotaie (1929)

Director: Mario Camerini
Starring: Kathe von Nagy, Maurizio D'Ancora, Daniele Crespi, Giacomo Moschini, Mario Camerini, Carola Lotti

A young couple, distressed, broke and married against their wishes, take refuge in a small hotel next to the local train station. The pair make a pact to take their own lives when the wind from a passing train spills the poison they were to take. Seeing this as a sign, the couple flee only to find a wallet full of banknotes at the station, board a train and head to Sanremo.

I first saw this film in 2010 at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and what has stuck with me is one of the most perfect examples of imagery you will see on screen. Every shot has a reason and the romantic and tragic moments are spellbinding thanks to cinematographer Ubaldo Arata, not to mention Camerini's vision and his timing - he also served as editor.

Shot at a time when the Italian film industry was struggling following World War I, mainly due to foreign competition and a lack of industry knowledge, the story of a young couple trying to find their way without the resources available to them seems very true of the time period and is still a subject relevant to today. A somewhat unknown figure outside of Italian film history - he's only foray internationally was as one of the screenwriters of the '56 epic War and Peace - this has to be one of Camerini's finest works and a piece of cinema I highly recommend, though be pre-warned that even in the current days of downloading this is still quite hard to find.


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