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Critics' Pick Sandra (Vaghe Stella Dell'Orsa)

Movie Details

  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Date: 1965-01-01 Limited
  • Running Time: 100 min.
  • Director: Luchino Visconti
  • Cast: Claudia Cardinale, Jean Sorel, Michael Craig, Renzo Ricci, Fred Williams
  • Writers: Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Enrico Medioli

Beautiful people, in the most beautiful places, suffering the grandest of capital-R Romantic travails: Even if Sandra weren't alive at each moment with its director's genius for composition and staging, and even if its mysteries of sex and blood weren't so alluring and fathomless, this remastered re-release of Luchino Visconti's 1965 lulu of palazzos and incest and heroically strained nightgown straps would already stand as a dessert cart for the cinema-minded. A swooning cursed-family tragedy that suggests a sexed-up House of Orestes, Sandra, mostly filmed in the ancient pile of Volterra, gives us a young beauty (Claudia Cardinale) returning after many years' absence to her family estate, new husband in tow, and discovering that she remains susceptible to the one comfort she enjoyed in a troubled childhood: the pawing of Gianni, her Byronic swan of a brother (Jean Sorel, all cheekbones and needy charisma). The longer Sandra stays home, the more she's tempted to succumb, and the more she fears there's some taint in her blood. The occasion of her visit is the dedication of a public park in honor of her dead father, murdered at Auschwitz by the Nazis, possibly as a result of a family member's betrayal. This new print makes it impossible to miss the Stars of David that Sandra and Gianni always wear -- here, in the ruins of the old world, the knotted perversities of myth meet the crack-up of 20th-century Europe and the glamour of high-water Italian filmmaking. Still, Sandra's drama always remains human, localized to this decay-touched villa and the three points of this rotted triangle, and Cardinale's tear-blotted face is Italy's most beautiful ruin.

Alan Scherstuhl

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