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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Golden Coach (1953) d. Jean Renoir

Italian actress Anna Magnani starred in Rossellini's classic Open City (shown above), she also stars in the less formidable The Golden Coach (1953) directed by Jean Renoir.

Movie Review
The Golden Coach (1953)
 d. Jean Renoir
Criterion Collection #242

  Sometimes I'm watching a Criterion Collection title and I'm like, "OK, I guess so."  Such is the case with Jean Renoir's "Spectacle Trilogy;" it's not really a trilogy, but the designation of The Golden Coach, Elena and Her Men and French Cancan as such makes sense, since all three are colorful comedies with quality female leads and not much plot. This films- all three of them- are comedies in the Shakespearean/ Elizabeathan/Classical sense in that they are stories that have a happy ending, they are comedies not tragedies, but they are not "comedies" in the sense that we use the term today.

  For The Golden Coach, based on a French play which debuted in 1829, this classical, theatrical source material is key to understanding the film.  If you watch this movie applying film genre standards of the 1950s and 60s, you will be disappointed and likely think The Golden Coach artistically worthless.  On the other hand, if you regard The Golden Coach as kind of a meta-fictional take on performance, taking into account the play-like mise en scene and glorious technicolor costumes and locales, you might pass an agreeable hour and forty five minutes on the couch.

 Originally produced simultaneously in three different languages, the Criterion Collection version is in English, so you don't have to read it.  The underlying play and this film is set in colonial Peru.  A touring troupe of actors plays for the Viceroy, who becomes enraptured by Camilla (played by Anna Magnani) the lead singer/actress in the troupe.  He decides to gift her a solid gold coach he's had imported from Europe to Peru, but he is not alone in his affections, having to compete with a local bullfighter and one of the other troupe members.  This competition for Camilla's attention sets the plot in motion, and your enjoyment of the machinations will likely be tied to your appreciation of 19th century theater pieces.

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