Franco Nero

Django (1966, Sergio Corbucci)

Right away, Djano sets itself to have a problem–gunfighter Franco Nero is just way too good. Just when he’s too unstoppable, too unbeatable, the film finds a way to make him even more unstoppable, more unbeatable. The first act of the film has him taking on a band of Confederate soldiers who have rallied behind a would-be Klan leader (Eduardo Fajardo) and are terrorizing Mexicans and possible race traitors in border towns.

Nero has something of a love interest in Loredana Nusciak (who he saves first from Mexican revolutionaries and then the Klansmen) and something of a sidekick in cathouse owner Ángel Álvarez. Only these character relationships only go so far. Nero’s got to kill a lot of people and friends and lady friends just get in the way of it.

Sometime in the second act, José Bódalo shows up as a revolutionary general. He and Nero are old friends and they basically plan a heist. And the movie sort of starts over again. Nusciak isn’t the love interest anymore, Álvarez isn’t the sidekick, instead it’s Nero and Bódalo all the way. Until it starts over again. I don’t think it starts over a third time. It’s very episodic, but the episodes go on just a little too long and don’t have good transitions.

Nero mostly keeps the film together, though the supporting cast helps a lot. Fajardo is an awesome villain, Álvarez’s a decent sidekick, and Nusciak’s pretty good when she’s not acting opposite Nero. As a director–at least as far as directing his actors goes–Corbucci is better when they aren’t talking to each other. Nusciak’s silent observations of the goings on around her, Nero’s reading of his adversaries, those moments are some of the actors’ bests. Though Nero and Bódalo are cute together. Bódalo is far more likable than he ought to be.

Technically, the film has its ups and downs. Nino Baragli and Sergio Montanari’s editing is weak. Corbucci has some well-choreographed sequences–especially a barroom fistfight–but Baragli and Montanari’s editing emphasizes Corbucci’s worst ideas, not his best. The gunfights in particular lack any rhythm. Though Luis Bacalov’s Morricone super-lite score doesn’t help with them either.

Enzo Barboni’s photography is fine, Carlo Simi’s production design is awesome. And Corbucci does have his moments.

Whatever its problems, Django compels throughout. Even in its sillier moments.



Produced and directed by Sergio Corbucci; screenplay by Franco Rossetti, Piero Vivarelli, Sergio Corbucci, and Bruno Corbucci, based on a story by Sergio Corbucci and Bruno Corbucci; director of photography, Enzo Barboni; edited by Nino Baragli and Sergio Montanari; music by Luis Bacalov; production designer, Carlo Simi; released by Euro International Film.

Starring Franco Nero (Django), José Bódalo (Gen. Hugo Rodriguez), Loredana Nusciak (Maria), Ángel Álvarez (Nathaniel the Bartender), Gino Pernice (Brother Jonathan), Simón Arriaga (Miguel), Remo De Angelis (Ricardo), and Eduardo Fajardo (Major Jackson).

Die Hard 2 (1990, Renny Harlin)

Director Renny Harlin often takes an interesting approach to conversations in Die Hard 2. He’ll have a character look off screen and interact with what they see, without ever establishing what they’re seeing. Oftentimes it happens with someone interacting with star Bruce Willis–Harlin only gives Willis this treatment once; it both focuses attention on Willis, but also opens Die Hard 2 up a little. Harlin acknowledges the greater world the audience isn’t seeing. It’s really a neat technical move; Stuart Baird’s sublime editing makes it even better.

Willis’s appealing performance and some nice dialogue exchanges manage to divert attention from Die Hard 2‘s bigger problems. First, William Sadler’s not much of a villain. Sadler’s not bad, but the role’s poorly written. Ditto for returning cast members Bonnie Bedelia and William Atherton. Screenwriters Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson treat the picture as sixty percent sequel, forty percent reunion. Reginald VelJohnson shows up for a scene just to remind the audience how much they enjoyed the first film and to encourage them to give this one a pass on its lesser moments.

There’s a surprisingly lack of action for long stretches. For the first half, all the action’s fantastic. In the second, it’s passable, nothing more. Oliver Wood’s photography’s a lot more interesting in confined places. The outdoor, nighttime action sequences of the last third are a bore.

While it’s uneven (the first half’s so much better), Die Hard 2‘s still a fun time and technical marvel.



Directed by Renny Harlin; screenplay by Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson, based on a novel by Walter Wager; director of photography, Oliver Wood; edited by Stuart Baird; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, John Vallone; produced by Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver and Charles Gordon; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Bruce Willis (Lt. John McClane), Bonnie Bedelia (Holly McClane), William Atherton (Richard Thornburg), William Sadler (Col. Stuart), Dennis Franz (Capt. Carmine Lorenzo), Sheila McCarthy (Samantha ‘Sam’ Coleman), Art Evans (Leslie Barnes), Fred Dalton Thompson (Trudeau), John Amos (Maj. Grant), Franco Nero (Gen. Ramon Esperanza), Tom Bower (Marvin) and Reginald VelJohnson (Sgt. Al Powell).

Tristana (1970, Luis Buñuel)

Deliberate, somehow endless–it clocks in at ninety-five–Tristana is something of an anti-Buñuel or, at least, I was expecting something a little more uncanny. Tristana is so normal, it’s something of a surprise (the film occasionally seems ready to leap into the surreal, but it remains grounded throughout). But it’s very boring, in that good way films can be boring. I can’t tell if Buñuel was doing something fantastic with the sound design or if the DVD was just a poor transfer. I think he was doing something with it though, just because some of the metallic echoes didn’t seem right for a bad transfer.

Tristana is the story of a young woman, Deneuve, whose mother dies and she ends up as the ward of Fernando Rey… and, as it turns out, Rey is a dirty old man. He doesn’t quite force himself on her and he doesn’t quite seduce her, something in between, and that development (after he endears himself to the viewer by not being a dirty old man toward her) sets the film’s present “action” (quotation marks for absurdity’s sake) in motion. Buñuel skips through time a few times in the film, so it’s hard to know how much time passes before the end, but less than ten years seems reasonable (it’s from a novel, so I suppose I could check but I don’t really want to know).

It’s rare–and I suppose it’s appropriate Buñuel does it one of the handful of times I’ve seen it done–a film can cover so much time, so much change to a character (I never really understood Deneuve’s reputation as an actress, but she’s astounding in Tristana), with so little deliberate action and be so affecting in the end. Tristana works because of its end… but it wouldn’t make any sense without what came before. Even though, for the first bit and sometimes again throughout the film, Rey is the central character, it’s all about Deneuve and seeing what terrible effect Rey has on her. It’s a tragedy, but one so quite and common seeming… especially when one is waiting for a sword fight for most of the first half.

The setting of a small Spanish town and the sound design–along with the maid (Rey’s, also Deneuve’s only friend for most of the film) having a deaf son–create an odd atmosphere for the film… if it weren’t for the setting, I’d say it were practically Gothic, feminist revisionist, if such a genre exists. Buñuel has an interesting way of shooting the empty streets too–he has ornate camera setups he never allows to complete, big crane shots only get a few feet off the ground before he cuts away, creating a sense of incompleteness. The whole film–no spoilers, though one could just go to IMDb–but the whole film is about incompleteness and the terrible, selfish things people do to each other.

The only real indicator of the uncanny–besides being suspicious of Buñuel–is a dream sequence, which lays the groundwork, early on, to be suspicious of everything. But it could be me.

Deneuve’s character’s arc in this film is one of those singular filmic tragedies. Buñuel’s handling of it makes it all the more effective, but her performance makes everything possible. It’s an odd thing–a choice role, one anyone could succeed in, filled with a performance proving no one else could succeed in it.



Directed by Luis Buñuel; screenplay by Buñuel and Julio Alejandro, based on the novel by Benito Pérez Galdós; director of photography, José F. Aguayo; edited by Pedro del Rey; produced by Buñuel and Robert Dorfmann; released by Maron Films.

Starring Catherine Deneuve (Tristana), Fernando Rey (Don Lope), Franco Nero (Horacio), Lola Gaos (Saturna), Jesús Fernández (Saturno) and Antonio Casas (Don Cosme).

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