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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 22 May 2017
Everything fine.
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on 31 March 2015
Vittorio de Sicas poignant drama deservedly took the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Movie in 1971. The story of a wealthy Jewish-Italian family in 1938 who gradually see their way of life being eroded by the on coming fascist regime and who will eventually succumb to the horrors of the Holocaust. Beautifully photographed in a dreamy hypnotic way it stars the great Romolo Valli as the father of the family and the gorgeous Dominique Sanda looking radiant as the love interest .Poignant and profoundly moving.
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on 12 May 2008
Good to see this utter masterpiece back, funny yellow subtitles and all. The subtitles, unfortunately, are American and not brilliant (so shall we agree on "Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini" as the title of the film?); I count myself lucky that I understand Italian with ease, luckier yet about a particular accident of birth.

The high point here is the cinematography. The eponymous garden itself, the young people and their cycling outings and garden parties (reminiscent in a way of "Brideshead Revisited"), and the tennis matches (I think irresistibly of J.I.M. Stewart - of Duncan falling in love with Penny on the courts in "Young Pattullo") are all thoroughly English-looking, and, were it not for the glimpses outside the wall, you'd never think this was Ferrara, of all places. It's rather reminiscent of a Merchant/Ivory film, but one with a great deal more class; the finished product didn't always please Bassani, but that was down to De Sica himself necessarily re-writing the script, not to his cameraman.

The personal relationships, superficial as Bassani made them, are even more so here. In essence, the film details the unrequited love of upper-middle-class Giorgio (Lino Capolicchio, on perfect form) for aristocratic Micol Finzi-Contini (the hideously miscast but lovely Dominique Sanda - she's unmistakably French, FRENCH, and sometimes her phonology betrays it). Micol is the character on whom the camera's eye focuses, just as in the novel, and we see her in all her quirks and oddities, as well as in the emergent sexuality she can't control. But - De Sica lets her be blissfully unaware of being Jewish. Bassani didn't. In fact, he made it quite clear that behaviour like her affair with the Gentile Malnate (by the way, folks, a COMMUNIST and not a FASCIST - there's a whole spectrum between them), and parading about in the wet dress that gives us a notion of toplessness, is all thoroughly inappropriate. So is trying to escape her family after Mussolini has passed the Punitive Laws.

The tableaux are the wonderful thing, but not the only thing; in fact, Bassani is best when he preaches most, and De Sica has picked that up. Giorgio's aggressively Jewish father is a wonderful creation; the post-Sabbath singing at table is a splendid scene; and the force of Mussolini's legislation - you can no more do this, you can no more do that - is positively hammered into our heads. (In fact, the permission given by Professor Finzi-Contini for Giorgio to write his thesis in the family library when the university one becomes out of bounds to Jews is wonderfully understated.) Much better is to come.

A few months later, the Gestapo come for the Finzi-Continis just as they've done for Ferrarese Jewish families lower on the ladder. The Professor and his wife go into the cattle lorries with dignity, emotional only when their son - dead of a venereal disease six months before - has his name called and is dealt with by a Nazi with a thick black pencil; the old grandmother is fearful but goes; and only Micol, hitherto too busy having fun, loses her composure. By chance, the Professor and his wife are shoved into one lorry, Micol and her grandmother into the other; this is when the "signora Regina", the old lady, begins to gibber with fear, but she knows no Italian, Micol no Judeo-Spanish, so the only comfort that can be offered is tactile. For De Sica, this is the moment of Micol's awakening; she's not a blonde party girl, not an upper-class young woman having fun, but an Italian Jewess on the way to be gassed at Auschwitz. In this moment she recognizes it, De Sica throws it at us with no subtlety at all - and the film ends far more directly than the book. It's unforgettable.

I've just sketched a few things, and it doesn't really do the film - which is much better than the novel - justice. See it for yourselves.
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on 4 October 2015
The subject matter - a gilded family doomed, and an unrequited love swallowed by major historic events, is a great opportunity for a film maker.

When it was originally released this seemed beautiful, sad, and memorable. The story still stands up, but unfortunately the film has not stood the test of time very well, and now seems clunky and dated. I would have preferred to keep my original memories of the film.
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on 19 January 2012
I think this is a wonderful, wonderful film. I have read Giorgio Bassani's book and felt that this film did it more than justice.I have had this film as a Lovefilm choice for about 18 months but it only just became available again in the UK. I've just finished watching the rental copy for a second time before returning it and I will be buying a copy to keep. The acting performances are excellent and moving, the photography superb and the score perfect.For anyone interested in Italian cinema there are additional interviews with Lino Capolicchio who played Giorgio and Vittorio de Sica's son who was responsible for the score.
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on 24 January 2017
I tried for several years to get hold of a copy of this film which I first saw a year or so after it was made, in a cinema I believe was called 'The Academy' in Oxford Street in London, which showed only 'Foreign Films', I was quite happy to watch this with English subtitles and thankfully it has not been dubbed and ruined. It tells the story of the affluent Jewish family, the Finzi Continis, living on their huge estate in Ferrara where much of the filming was done. Michol, (Dominique Sanda) a rather spoilt, aloof young woman I think toys and plays around with the feelings of tha young men who accompany and fawn over her .Giorgio (Lino Capolicchio) is in love with her although he hides this until one moment when he cannot stop himself showing his hand, a hand which is rejected and he is summarily dismissed by Michol and told never to return. Michols brother Alberto (Helmut Berger) is a youth who is unfortunately cursed with ill-health and is seemingly attracted to Malnate (Fabio Testi) although there is nothing in the film to confirm this as there is nothing to confirm Alberto having an incestuous relationship with Michol, but the 'feeling' is just there in both cases? The demise of the family and others less fortunate come with the rise of Mussolini and their arrests. A really wonderful film about human behaviour, relationships and tragedy. As an aside,other films I remember seeing included The Seven Samurai, Les Biches and La Grande Bouef.
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on 9 March 2013
this is a brilliant evocation of a period when time appeared to stand still but ultimately was destroyed

I hadnt watched this film since the early 1970s when I saw it at the Biograph in London. I dont think I had planned to see the film, but it was showing...

It is marvellous. an understated and forgotten classic, well-deserving of its best foreign film Oscar
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on 16 September 2014
Excellent screenplay and acting. Follows the book very well.
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on 10 December 2011
In 1969 Willy Brandt had been elected as Germany Chancellor and was the first post war German politician who could hold his head up high, having left Germany during Hitler's rise to power. (His predecessor as German Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger had been a member of the Nazi Party.) Though the film is set in fascist Italy rather Germany, its release in 1970 was therefore particularly poignant. The film rightly won the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Film. I have not viewed the film since its original release, but I could not let another's review go without comment. The film certainly deserves more than two stars.
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on 11 April 2016
Boasting fine performances and breathtaking cinematography, 'The Garden Of The Finzi Contini' is a masterpiece. It's deliberate pace is very slow but ultimately very rewarding. The final scene is one of great sadness. It's a shame that movie storytelling like this is a thing of the past. Definitely De Sica's finest and most accessible movie. This DVD is an excellent print and the sound quality is superb. A must see.
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