Tuesday Editor’s Pick: A Matter of Time (1976)

by on October 18, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Tue Oct 25 at 6:50*, 9:30 at BAMcinématek [Program & Tix]

*Q&A with Minnelli scholar Joe McElhaney

 

Premiere Vincente Minnelli champion Joe McElhaney (who wrote the Alt Screen feature on the Minnelli retrospective) will be on hand to discuss and explain the director’s much-maligned, misunderstood final film, which has been in hiding like some mutilated child ever since it was barely released in 1976.

 

The film suffered from a troubled shooting schedule and a disastrous re-editing at the hands of its producers, American- International Pictures. The print screening at BAM boasts an additional scene, not present in most release prints, of the Contessa (Ingrid Bergman) encountering her former maid.

 

With A Matter of Time, there are a lot of hurdles to jump to get to the beauty of the film. There is poor post-dubbing, some clumsy staging, and particularly catastrophic interpolations of sightseeing Roman stock footage at a key point in the story. The film has had plenty of detractors, but most of them were sympathetic to Minnelli’s position against his producers.

 

Pauline Kael wrote in 5001 Nights at the Movies:

The romantic story, taken from Maurice Druon’s novel Film of Memory, is about a peasant girl (Liza Minnelli) who gets a job as a maid in a Roman hotel. A contessa (Ingrid Bergman) who lives there was once a great demimondaine; she talks about her romantic adventures, and the maid visualizes herself living through the events. But the film has been mangled; the producers took it away from the director, Vincente Minnelli, shifted scenes around, cut others, and even added stock footage. The result exposes Liza Minnelli, in particular, to ridicule; however, though Ingrid Bergman’s performance has no rhythm left, Bergman herself is assured enough to do much of the role in statuesque repose, and she has a glamour beyond anything she’s had before on screen.

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Vincente Minnelli at BAMcinématek (Sep 23-Nov 2)

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