Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

Maria (Ava Gardner), a beautiful Spanish club performer, is recruited by Hollywood looking for a fresh face. Despite Hollywood, Maria isn’t all keen to go. She likes to keep her feet in the dirt, whatever that means.

The movie begins at Maria’s funeral. The story is about her rise to fame, her struggle with what is truly important to her, the rich and powerful men that court her, and her ultimate fate. It is told from the perspective of the lives she touched, mostly Director Harry Dawes (Humphrey Bogart).

What I was expecting to be a pretty standard rom-com turned out to be something else. There are comedic elements but it is by no means a comedy. And romance is in short supply. That’s right faithful reader. Bogart does not get the girl. Leave it to Mankiewicz to do a regular Hollywood production that doesn’t exactly follow genre conventions. Typically wordy, intelligent, and high quality. Despite much of the film taking place directly in Hollywood, it has a European feel in a way I can’t exactly explain. I also get the feeling that it was a longer film (128 minutes as it is) and cut down. There are characters introduced who seem to have more story in them.

The Barefoot Contessa is an interesting, if not riveting, character study. It’s witty, visually appealing, does not lull, and keeps you invested to the conclusion. The tone was a little unexpected and maybe not Mankiewicz’s best, but it was most certainly interesting. AMRU 3.5.
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