Ossessionei is the story of a rotund gentleman of advanced age and boisterous disposition (aptly played by Juan de Landa, an accomplished Opera singer born in the 1800s) blessed with money and talent. Not very much money but certainly more than average, and quite possibly enough, which as you might have noticed is a rare thing. Not very much talent, but sufficient to dominate the "lyrical contest" in some one-hoarse-tenor backwater town lost in the dust somewhere.ii
The unfortunate Mr. Bragana makes at some point in the distant, unnarated past, the mistake of taking in a stray cat. She's a prostitute which deeply regrets the inconveniences of whoredom, much like the caught thief who's not one bit sorry he stole but is terribly, terribly sorry he got caught. As established by people who'd know, she doesn't mind fucking around but is afraid of being pooriii.
Then he makes his second, narrated and inenarrable mistake, of taking in a stray dog. The truth about cats and dogs is that they don't mix well. The result, predictably, is murder. It's distinctly unfortunate that the victim would be the same pleasant Mr. Bragana, pretty much the only character in this repugnant evisceration of underclass filth that I actually liked.
The scene of the leaving Spaniard is iconic, it's what kids today would call a meme I guess. Unfortunately contemporaries tend to find themselves smushed between two thick planks of plexiglass almost to the point of transparency as part of contemporary living conditions. As such they sadly lack the depth that'd allow them to exactly understand what the leaving Spaniard is all about. That doesn't mean the icon is any less relevant, of course, it just means the viewer is that much further removed from the reality of his own existence - enough so as to make the icons that represent the edges and limits of that existence indecipherable to him.
The soubrette that's not been paid is more of an inside joke, I thought, yet that "inside" is apparently pretty inclusive. It was a running gag amongst some people in Cluj in the 90s but here it is, a running gag in a fictional Ferrara of some time before the war as well as in the real Rome of the ICI and the 40s. Beware soubrettes that've not been paid.
Certainly a film worth seeing.———
- 1943, by Luchino Visconti, with Juan de Landa. [↩]
- A special mention for the boyish male who sings, on the hand of his old domineering mother as if he were a canary, to the tune of her walking stick as if he were a trained monkey. Quite excellent cameo characterisation by the director. And incidentally, Landa declares he is to sing "the Andante from Traviata", which I guess is usually identified as "Ah, fors'e lui" (and a woman is heard massacring upon his entrace). He instead sings "Qual destino ti furo" (Germont's part) :
Di Provenza il mar, il suol - chi dal cor ti cancello?
Al natio fulgente sol - qual destino ti furo'?
Oh, rammenta pur nel duol - ch'ivi gioia a te brillo';
E che pace cola' sol - su te splendere ancor puo'.
Dio mi guido'!
Ah! il tuo vecchio genitor - tu non sai quanto soffri'
Te lontano, di squallor il suo tetto si copri'
Ma se alfin ti trovo ancor, - se in me speme non falli',
Se la voce dell'onor - in te appien non ammuti',
Perfectly adequate. And if you're curious the whole libretto is published by Stanford. [↩]
- In the words of that other cat,
You can be young without money, but you can't be old without it.