Friday, September 7, 2007

Hanna Schygulla singing, Nazis coming to power, and ... Marcello in blackface?

One can find the strangest stuff in the "used" bins of old video stores. For instance, for some unknown reason the "Blowout Video" emporium that used to be in Times Square in the '90s (on the same block that now is best known for its throngs of screaming kids yelling up to the TRL window) used to carry Japanese VHS tapes, presumably used rental titles. Where they got them, I don't know. I was sifting through them one afternoon and found among the bad American titles (yes, Kirstie Alley comedies were released in Japan), the occasional rarity like the item you see below, in several clips I've uploaded to YouTube.

The film is a very corny Italian-Hungarian coproduction that never, ever was released in the U.S. (and has never played in any of the NYC retrospectives devoted to either of its two stars). It was released in both Italian and Hungarian-dubbed versions in Europe (the Italians being the masters of the art of dubbing), but I was lucky enough to find that the tape I bought was dubbed in English by its two stars, Marcello Mastroianni and Hanna Schygulla! And, since it was a Japanese release, every single minute has prominent Japanese subs.

I've only selected the musical numbers, as they will be of the most obvious interest, but might as well provide a tiny synopsis here. The film stars Mastroianni as a Jewish-Hungarian entertainer (not a very good one) who takes under his wing a widow, played by Hanna, and her kid. They travel around, having formed an onstage trio that finds Hanna doing her Dietrich-best (Fassbinder's influence is everywhere here, but his finesse is nowhere apparent) while Marcello frequently wears blackface. Yes, the dean of all Italian romantic actors is seen here as a sambo minstrel struttin' his stuff for the fledgling fascists in Italy and Hungary (he even causes a riot in one scene here).

The ever-radiant and entrancing Schygulla's musical numbers, and the always game Marcello's corked-up face, thus supply the motivations to check out these super-rare scenes. The songs aren't that hummable, and the melodramatic frames for the numbers are pretty meager, but you ain't seein' this one anyplace else.

Two scenes that set up the characters (Hanna's first song!)

Click here if the above doesn't work.

Marcello in blackface, doing a full-out number, feast your eyes:

Click here if the above doesn't work.

And why can't a man in blackface cause a riot among fledgling fascists?

Click here if the above doesn't work.

No comments: