Wednesday, January 30, 2013

71 of 1001 Movies: The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

While All About Eve was good it didn't make an impression that was long lasting, and The Barefoot Contessa definitely didn't do anymore than it did. Joseph L. Mankiewicz already has proven to someone though that his movies are likable though, and they are undeniably classics. They are just very slow movies.

Harry Dawes is revived in the hope of maintaining his career when he is hired by Kirk Edwards to write and direct a film. This leads Dawes with the hopes of finding a new face for his movie so he heads to Madrid to find a dancer at a nightclub, Maria Vagas. Maria hasn't had too much life experience though, and easily agrees to go to Hollywood to audition for the movie. Once she finds herself a hit though she doesn't seem capable of handling it without being used along the way. Rich men like Kirk Edwards and Alberto Bravano dispute over her as if they own her leaving her to want to escape the success she has found. She then meets a man, Count Vincenzo who believes she loves, and marries him. Even her marriage though proves to be one based on somehow looking for gain from her though. All of this leads up the death established at the beginning of the movie, and how she got to where she did.

The main thing working against this movie is the slowness of it. The plot is intriguing, but there is nothing to build it. The narration hurts it tremendously. Instead of letting the characters tell the story through their acting the majority of the time we are instead listening to a narrator as the point of view changes. This makes it even more jumbled. We start off seeing her pulled in by Harry then in battles over her career, and then married. The funeral was made well of to transition, but it still left some sort of disconnection from the character.

Humphrey Bogart does his thing, and makes his character work as best he can. He's honestly just a likable guy as Harry Dawes, and the strongest moments are when him and Maria are together on screen. He proves he is intriguing character just as he did in The African Queen.  It's the few moments where you actually feel interested, and involved. Ava Gardener as Maria was okay, but there felt like some weak moments in her acting especially when doing the accent. She is a stunning actress to see, but she just lacked something in this one. Also, the point of view after Harry is from Oscar (Edmund O'Brien), but his has to be the slowest part of the whole film. The scenes of dialogue, and narration are way too long in these areas. It feels like you spend forever on one scene. Then we move into the final part of the movie with Count Vincenzo (Rossano Brazzi), and that is the most interesting part of the whole movie. She gets married to this guy and finds out a very in your face secret about him, which is a great twist.

The main thing that keeps The Barefoot Contessa from being good though is that it just isn't paced well. It's so slow in some areas, and the actors just don't always feel into their parts. Their isn't any connection you feel to most of them. It has a great potential to be something interesting as far as a story, but it doesn't really show how interesting it could be till the end. The story is quite sad too, and though you know how it ends from the beginning they never build suspense toward the ending of how it happens enough to make you really anxious to see how it happens, except just to get it over with and tell us what happened.

Rating 2 of 5.

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