Archive | October 8, 2009

Valli Girl

The 1942 Italian film version of We the Living (Alida Valli, Rossano Brazzi, and Fosco Giachetti) – the best of the Rand movies, and by Rand’s own admission better than the Rand-scripted The Fountainhead – is finally out on dvd, and this version includes some cool extras.

We the Living

First, there’s 45 minutes’s worth of the hour or so of scenes that Rand chose to delete from the authorised version. Some were deleted for ideological reasons (e.g., anticapitalist and antisemitic rants that the fascist authorities insisted on adding to the script) and others for artistic reasons (for example, the film changed Andrei’s death from a suicide to a murder, and Rand changed it back). Still others were subplots that, though not inaccurate to the novel, Rand evidently regarded as distracting from the main plot. (I do wish there were also a version available of the whole movie as originally made.)

Second, there’s a short documentary about the history of the film, the highlight of which is an interview with Massimo Ferrara, general manager of the studio that made the film, and a chief source of the claim that the movie was eventually banned by the same government that had originally authorised it. (R. W. Bradford has questioned the accuracy of Ferrara’s story; the points Bradford raised are worth thinking about, though I don’t find them as compelling as he did.)

There’s also a brief visual clip of a funny Rand letter I don’t recall having read before, where she jokes about having no non-intellectual activities to report.

The copy on the back of the dvd is misleading in one respect; it promises to include “The Original Ending and Why Ayn Rand Changed It.” The original ending is included in the “deleted scenes” feature, but there’s no discussion of why she nixed it. Still, it’s obvious enough once one sees it; the whole point of that scene in the book is what Kira is thinking and feeling, but in the movie you can only see a pale figure in the distance and can barely even tell it’s Kira.

Some of Rand’s other hard-to-find movies are also available now on dvd, albeit in lower-quality versions that seem to have been copied off tv broadcasts – from the excellent Love Letters (Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones; full script by Rand, albeit adapting someone else’s novel), through the uneven but still worthwhile You Came Along (Robert Cummings and Lizabeth Scott; Rand revising someone else’s script), to the disappointing Night of January 16th (Robert Preston, Ellen Drew, and Nils Asther; a barely recognisable adaptation of Rand’s Broadway play).

In mostly unrelated news (not completely unrelated, since Welles co-starred with We the Living’s Valli and Love Letters’ Cotten in one of my favourite movies, The Third Man, as well as playing a character in Citizen Kane analogous to Raymond Massey’s character in The Fountainhead), I can’t tell whether this movie is any good, but Christian McKay definitely does an impressive job of capturing Orson Welles.

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