Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (Cable; 2003). Director: Robert Allan Ackerman.

The cable remake of 2003, with a teleplay by Martin (Bent) Sherman, stars Helen Mirren and Olivier Martinez as Karen and Paolo, both of whom are superior to Leigh and Beatty in the 1961 version. Mirren is simply superb and Martinez, a fine actor, doesn't just play Paolo like Beatty does (however well); he is Paolo. Brian Dennehy is excellent as Karen's husband, as is Anne Bancroft as the Contessa, although she is nowhere near as good as Lotte Lenya in the original. The Meg character has been replaced with a male gay playwright who seems based on Tennessee Williams and is given some of Meg's lines with less caustic delivery. Roger Allan is very good in the part but the real Tennessee Williams wasn't as epicene as Allan plays him. This version is, of course, more sexed-up than the original, with the two leads sexily pounding away in a Cadillac out in the country at one point. There is also more of a political subtext to the movie, with Karen Stone representing the wealthy American invaders of Rome, American prosperity in general, during the difficult post-War period when so many Italians were living in poverty, which, of course, gives more impact to, and a strong basis for, Paolo's contempt for her. The handsome tramp or Angel of Death who follows Karen around (played by Rodrigo Santoro) is introduced snatching a discarded piece of pizza from the street and stuffing it hungrily into his mouth. [Unfortunately, this emphasis on his starvation and misery creates the impression that at the end of the movie he will be less interested in raping or killing Karen than he will be in raiding her refrigerator for a sandwich!] In this version, as in the original, the ending just doesn't convince. Mirren, like Leigh, seems much too strong and collected to throw her life away the way she throws her keys down to the man who's been stalking her. And neither film version today can quite escape the dated quality of the novel when it comes to older woman/younger man relationships. Still, both films are very good and worthwhile seeing. The cable remake has the slight edge due to the superior acting of the leads, as well as more scenes delineating Paolo's character, but the original does have the wonderful Lenya – an absolute force of nature! -- as well as an evocative Richard Addinsell score.

Verdict: See it! ***1/2.


Sherry said...

I have seen it numerous times and it is spectacular! I agree totally with the comments of the writer. Helen Mirren's character is too strong to throw her life away.

William said...

I'm glad you agree with me on that. Thanks very much for your comment.