Thursday, January 10, 2013


This 1968 short (37 minutes) by Frederico Fellini is part of an anthology called HISTOIRE EXTRAORDINAIRES,  SPIRITS OF THE DEAD, TRE PASSI NEL DELIRIO, or TALES OF MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION depending on your geographic location,  and is loosely based on stories by Edgar Allen Poe.  Terrence stamp plays a dissolute Shakespearean actor summoned to Rome to star in a "catholic western",  and is quickly swept up in the frenzied glare of papparazzi,  publicity,  and the usual Felliniesque grotesquerie.  Stamp's discomfort is made tangible in the form of a little girl with a ball (see Mario Bava's OPERAZIONE PAURA aka KILL BABY KILL from 1966 for a nearly identical girl,  although here she is filmed and edited in such a way as to question her ghostly presence right up until the film's end).  A Roman interviewer asks:

                                                Do you believe in God?

                                                And in the Devil?

                                       Can you tell us what he looks like?
                                         To me she looks like a little girl.

As Stamp recklessly drives his newly acquired Ferrari out of the city and in to the Roman suburbs (probably Cinecitta) in an effort to escape both the spotlight and his demons,  the girl's presence intensifies until the title of Poe' story becomes painfully apparent,  "Never Bet the Devil Your Head".  The final scene is wonderfully creepy.  After being tormented by his own disintegration and taunted by the girl,  Stamp attempts to drive his car over a ravine (the bridge was down,  ponte rotto),  and soundlessly disappears. As the camera zooms in on the abyss,  the creaking sound of a slowly jittering wire is heard,  and blood is seen dripping from it.  This scene is only interrupted by the girl, filmed as if seen from the corner of one's eye,  quickly retrieving what appears to be a head.  It is this fall into the abyss that harkens back to Fellini's slippery Catholicism,  as well as our own exhausted and generally resigned beliefs.  A condensed classic for sure!

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