Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bitter Rice

I just saw the movie Bitter Rice, which was one of the big European films to hit the American screens in the 1950's. It combines Italian Neorealism with Hollywood elements and a little sex appeal. At the time it was actually banned in some places due to some of the racy shots of scantily clad women working in the rice fields. But seen today it is rather tepid - not to mention dated.

I dug up the original New York Times review and darn if the critic doesn't make it sound a whole lot better than it is. The review was by Bosley Crowther who seemed to be a fuddy duddy 17 years before he flubbed his infamous negative review of Bonnie and Clyde. Here are some of the highlights of his Bitter Rice review.

>"Passion toils and tumbles through it like the wrestlers in a gas-house free-for-all, and torments of carnal hunger are boldly and rawly exposed.
>[The director's]candid and natural presentation of the robustness and earthiness of life in a camp full of migrant women workers is bulging with vitality, and his episodes of violence and love-making are slices of life in the raw.
>[T]he ultimate seduction of the oddly perverse heroine is a wildly accelerating traffic in mayhem, sadism and reckless lust. And the final resolution of personal conflicts in a white tiled slaughter house, amid blood-dripping beef cadavers, is literalism carried close to the absurd.
>Silvana Mangano, [is] full-bodied and gracefully muscular, with a rich voice and a handsome, pliant face, she handles with vigor and authority the characterization of a tortured libertine. It is not too excessive to describe her as Anna Magnani minus fifteen years, Ingrid Bergman with a Latin disposition and Rita Hayworth plus twenty-five pounds!"
I want to see this movie! I mean, I did see it. But I want to see the one Crowther describes.

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