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

Thursday, June 20, 2013

SISSI: THE FATEFUL YEARS OF AN EMPRESS

Franz (Boehm) and Sissi (Schneider) at La scala in Venice















SISSI: THE FATEFUL YEARS OF AN EMPRESS (aka Sissi - Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin/1957). Director: Ernest Marischka. 

The third and final installment in the Sissi trilogy continues the story of the beautiful young Austrian empress (Romy Schneider) and her husband, the Emperor Franz Josef (Karl Boehm). Sissi develops a serious lung infection  which has her doctor predicting that she will die unless she goes to a warmer climate, and that even then the outcome is not certain. The film turns into a type of travelogue as Sissi travels to other lands such as Portugal and Greece with her mother (Magda Schneider) and Major Bockl (Joseph Meinrad), whose romantic adventures with different women are briefly explored. The travelogue continues as the empress accompanies the emperor on a goodwill tour to Naples and Venice, where the Italian citizenry, still smarting over past unpleasantries and Austria's occupation, do their best to snub and ignore them. An interesting scene has everyone at the La scala opera house singing one of Verdi's patriotic choruses from Nabucco as the royal Austrians take their seat in their box. There are some attempts at drama when Sissi tries to make friends with one Hungarian, Count Batthyani (Peter Neusser)  who is not thrilled with Austria, and is told by handsome Hungarian Count Andrassy (Walter Meyer), whom she charmed in the last picture, that he is in love with her. Anton Profes' musical score is richly romantic and memorable, as is Bruno Mondi's photography, especially his exquisite shots of Venice. The opening credits feature a flock of birds actually spelling out the name "Sissi" before taking to flight -- marvelous. The leads and supporting players are fine and Vilma Degischer continues her wonderful portrait of the stern, if loving, mother-in-law Sophie. 

Verdict: Entertaining and nice to look at if you take it with a grain of salt. ***.  

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