Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
La Bella Venezia!
on 18 April 2016
Although Katharine Hepburn puts in a typically impressive and quite subtle performance as the nervy, lonely American spinster abroad (perhaps seeking romance), Jane Hudson, it is Venice’s stunning backdrop to David Lean’s 1955 film that for me steals the show. The lush colours of Jack Hildyard’s cinematography really can’t help but impress and even though a cinematographer’s job on location in this magical place should probably be regarded as something of a 'slam dunk’, Hildyard does full justice to the location, giving us a whole series of idiosyncratically shot moments (close-ups on gargoyles, Venetian lions, etc) evoking the unique architectural and artistic heritage of the city. The bustling, touristic nature is always, of course, present (it was nearly as ‘bad’ back then as it was last year when I was there!), but Lean also takes us off the beaten track, via some nice touches, as Jane espies a stray cat and then comes to a halt at one of the city’s many, seemingly unavoidable dead-end passageways.
The film’s central narrative, the romance between Hudson and Rossano Brazzi’s’s suave antiques shop owner (of dubious authenticity), Renato de Rossi, takes some time to get going and is fairly conventional when it does. Brazzi is solid enough (though I suspect his 'forced’ English detracts somewhat from the performance), but the acting honours are undoubtedly Hepburn’s, whose vulnerability really connects. Elsewhere, the comedic element of 'small-minded Americans abroad’ is nicely played up by the portrayal of Jane’s fellow pensione (hotel) guests, whilst one of the film’s most engaging (and affectionate) threads is that between the yearning spinster and Gaetano Autiero’s young 'orphan’, Mauro. In addition, there is also a nice cameo from noted Italian actress Isa Miranda as pensione proprietress, Signora Fiorini. The trajectory of the central couple’s developing romance is relatively predictable, but does include some touching (and cinematic) moments, notably that of the elusive gardenia floating down the canal and then (in a reprise of this moment) in the film’s impressive and moving denouement. It’s certainly a film worth catching for fans of Hepburn and (particularly) of Venice.