Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Women of 1975: Florinda Bolkan

Foreword: A special thanks to my partner-in-crime, Alex of Alex In Movieland, for getting his hands on this rare film for me. 

Florinda Bolkan in “A Brief Vacation”

Grade: ****

An actress I was previously unaware of, Brazilian star Florinda Bolkan caused quite a stir on the continent in 1975, as a downtrodden wife in Vittorio De Sica’s “A Brief Vacation.” A moderate success for De Sica, it charts a woman’s recovery from Tuberculosis in the clean air of the Italian mountains, comfortably away from her demanding husband, mother-in-law, and seven children. Very much indicative of the era, De Sica’s subject is a woman oppressed by society’s expectations of her, as well as the uncaring strain her family puts her under, falling firmly on the side of sympathy against the trappings of domesticity. Rising to the occasion, Bolkan earned the attention of the Los Angeles and New York film critics groups, who gave her their Best Actress prize and runner-up prize respectively.

Bolkan’s haggard appearance is one of forlorn resignation, her prior beauty evident in the noble structure of her face, but its perplexion discoloured, neglected, and unloved. Her character Clara has all but given up on being able to have a life, and it shows. De Sica zones in on Bolkan a lot towards the beginning of the film, the close-ups exposing the woman’s erratic surges between lethargic acceptance and heightened paranoia, as she crystallises Clara’s realisation on a bus to work that she may have left her child in mortal danger. The moment itself is a severe overreaction, affirming the emotional overdrive this woman is under, deprived of affection and enjoyment, living to work rather than working to live. You don’t have to clamour to establish Clara’s early frame-of-mind but Bolkan doesn’t quite hand it to you on a plate: hers is a fraught, lived-in impression of depression-through-routine, and it really works for establishing a connection to the character.

When Clara retreats to the mountains  and falls for love interest Luigi, the film gets a little bland and boggy in illustrating the couple’s tentative relationship. The casting of actor Daniel Quenaud as Luigi, however,  reads as a smart move, his anonymity as a presence quelling any sense of perspective for us but Clara’s, and encouraging Bolkan to further internalise the bubbling joy from this fresh dilemma. The script feels more insistent to implore a clearer sense of Clara’s love than Bolkan, who admirably resists telegraphing her affection as a foolhardy infatuation. The ever-present conscious of a former life floating within the confines of her performance, Bolkan maintains a steely inner crust until the final sequence of the film, where De Sica’s vicious circle crests to completion.

Accolades: Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Best Actress

                   New York Film Critics Circle, Best Actress (Runner Up)

1 comment:

Louisa said...

i have never seen this, but i looks like one i will have to track down!