Carlo Ponti

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Tribute to Sophia Loren at AFI Film Festival

Carlo Ponti and Andrea Meszaros Ponti - A variety of stars attended an event to pay tribute to Italian film star Sophia Loren at the American Film Institute Film Festival held at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California, United States - Wednesday 12th November 2014

Sasha Alexander, Edoardo Ponti, Sophia Loren, Carlo Ponti and Andrea Meszaros Ponti
Sasha Alexander, Edoardo Ponti, Sophia Loren, Carlo Ponti and Andrea Meszaros Ponti
Edoardo Ponti, Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti
Edoardo Ponti, Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti

AFI FEST 2014 Presented By Audi's Special Tribute To Sophia Loren

Carlo Ponti and Andrea Meszaros Ponti - A variety of stars attended an event to pay tribute to Italian film star Sophia Loren at the American Film Institute Film Festival held at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California, United States - Thursday 13th November 2014

Sasha Alexander, Edoardo Ponti, Sophia Loren, Carlo Ponti and Andrea Meszaros Ponti
Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti

Zabriskie Point Review


Good
In Osha Neumann's memoir of his time as a '60s anarchist radical, Up Against the Wall Motherf**ker!, he describes the scene in 1969 as one of considerable change. He writes, "The season of love, rage, and extravagant expectations was coming to an end... hard drugs replaced LSD. The young dropouts had a nervous, ragged edge... Optimism was giving way to a tight-lipped struggle for survival." Students were taking to the streets and there was a paranoid energy in the air. Anything could change at any second.

It was like living on a powder keg.

Continue reading: Zabriskie Point Review

Lola (1961) Review


Extraordinary
In an time when gunmen walk on ceilings, when men morph into monsters before our eyes, when future governors of California are shorn of their human skin to expose the glistening steel and circuitry underneath, Jacques Demy's classic 1961 Lola is a breathtaking reminder of what magic in the movies used to mean. Lola is a work of romance, and the magic on view is all of the fairy tale variety. What's transformed in Lola isn't a cyborg or a lycanthrope, but rather life itself.

Or maybe I should say "lives." Set in the dreary French port of Nantes, Lola tells the story of the title character, a cabaret dancer and paid companion to the American sailors who prowl the streets and bars of the city on leave. She's a single mother, the child's father having abandoned her during pregnancy seven years before. What sustains her is the hopelessly naive belief that this man will return to her - return to her rich, no less - and that her drab, hardscrabble life will become the vision of happiness she never stops imagining.

Continue reading: Lola (1961) Review

Massacre in Rome Review


Good
The late director George P. Cosmatos had an interesting career in Hollywood. While his films were always slick affairs, full of rich atmosphere and well directed action, they weren't critically acclaimed. Films like Rambo: First Blood Part II, Cobra, and Leviathan did fairly well at the box-office and achieved notable legions of well-meaning fans, but Cosmatos' real skills were evidenced long before these big-budget pec-flexers.

Cosmatos began his career as an assistant director, cutting his teeth on classic pictures like Exodus, Zobra the Greek, and The Day the Fish Came Out. His first film was 1970's interesting, thought hardly stirring, The Beloved (released in the UK as Restless). Massacre in Rome was his second feature film and one that combines his earlier, moodier work with an action-film sensibility.

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The Passenger Review


Good
The ads for Volkswagen declare that "on the road of life, there are passengers and there are drivers," the gist being that there are people who lead and take charge and others who are content to stare out the window and let things happen.

If the passenger became a driver, could he or she handle all the metaphorical responsibilities that go with it? That question is central to Michelangelo Antonioni's re-released The Passenger (1975) and the answer provides a sobering glimpse into the souls of the contenders who foolishly wish for that second chance, that empty stretch of road, and don't have any idea where to start.

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A Woman Is A Woman Review


Excellent
Jean-Luc Godard calls A Woman Is a Woman "a neorealist musical -- that is, a contradiction in terms." He couldn't be more on the money. Woman is disorienting and unfamiliar, and altogether compelling.

Anna Karina owns the film wholly: She's a stripper in Paris who decides she wants a baby. She approaches her boyfriend (Jean-Claude Brialy), but he refuses. So she turns to another guy: his best friend.

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La Strada Review


Essential
La Strada begins and ends with two of Federico Fellini's most simple yet memorable images.

Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina, who was Fellini's wife) is walking along a bright and uninhabited beach. She's in the low corner of the frame, a diminutive figure with her back to us, facing an endless stretch of white sand going off to one side and the infinite vastness of sea and sky going the other. Tentatively, yet hopefully, she moves forward. In a few seconds we know this character.

Continue reading: La Strada Review

Contempt Review


Excellent
Contempt (or Le M├ępris, for you purists out there), directed by Jean-Luc Godard in 1963, is a superlative film about many things, including the making of a film, the break-up of a married couple, and the parallels between the contemporary New Wave world (of 1963) and the classical (Old Wave) world of Homer. The basic story, based on novel by Alberto Moravia, is this: Director Fritz Lang (playing himself) is in the process of directing a film version of Homer's Odyssey. Lang has already shot some scenes, but his boorish film producer Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance) is upset with the results so he has fired most of the crew and hired a playwright named Paul (Michel Piccoli) to do some rewrites. Paul arrives in Rome with his beautiful wife Camille (Brigette Bardot) and over the course of a couple of days - in which they travel to Capri - everything goes wrong for Paul, who loses Camille to Prokosch and who decides that rewriting the Odyssey is too big a task considering that his own life has taken a heartbreaking turn. Contempt, however, is not a movie about making a movie as much as it is a movie about a disintegrating relationship. The center piece scene is a 30 minute passive/aggressive marital fight between Paul and Camille that takes place in a small apartment. The scene is a very economical piece of filmmaking that unfolds in real time. On first viewing this scene can be maddening because it doesn't seem to go anywhere, and it's difficult to figure out what Camille and Paul are fighting about. Their grief seems to come from someplace else. And maybe there is a past we don't understand, but what Godard is presenting us with is a failed relationship in the modern world: One where gallantry, romanticism and, more importantly, communication have failed. On the surface the film also shows how difficult it is for an art house director to get a film made with a Hollywood film producer: especially if the film is based on such a classic as Homer's Odyssey. Jack Palance gives a very funny performance as the egomaniacal film producer who can only see profit in the venture. He also gets a few humorous lines: When Lang comments on a Greek story, Palance reaches into his coat pocket and says, "When I hear the word culture I get out my checkbook." There is an irony also to Palance's character because it was well known at the time that Godard was having trouble with the film's real producers: Carlo Ponti and Joseph Levine. They insisted that Godard include a nude scene with Bardot so he went back and shot a scene with color filters in which she talks to her husband in the nude. It's a much more intellectual scene than a sexy one and, if anything, it clearly shows that Godard won the battle on that issue. Unlike almost all of Godard's film in the 1960s, Contempt is much more heartfelt than intellectually removed or self reflexive. No doubt, some of this can be attributed to Godard's split from his then wife Anna Karina, which had to have some kind of personal affect on him. But part of the reason too is because of Georges Delerue's distinctively melancholic score, which consists of two mood-setting pieces that are shuffled and repeated seemingly at will about 20 times throughout the film. Still the film does have some self reflexive moments. In many instances Godard comments upon many things in literature from Dante to romantic poetry and films that have influenced him like Roberto Rossellini's Voyage in Italy and Howard Hawks' Hatari!,as well as nods to his own films. Best of all is the gorgeous color Francscope (similar to CinemaScope) cinematography done in anamorphic 2.35:1 aspect ratio by the legendary D.P. Raoul Cotard and the slow burning pace, which is a desirable quality missing from cinema these days. The images are so seductive, in fact, that viewers may miss some of the complexity and issues about the classical versus the modern world. The Criterion Collection DVD is exemplary in all categories. There is an informative commentary track by film scholar Robert Stam and a second disc full of all kinds of goodies. The two best are a 53-minute conversation between Godard and Lang titled The Dinosaur and the Baby and a 10-minute interview with Godard in which he stands at a microphone with sunglasses on and tells an interviewer what he thinks of critics. There is also a short doc on the difficultly of dealing with Bardot's fame during the shoot, a short on Fritz Lang, and a recent interview with Raoul Coutard. There is also an enlightening five minute comparison between the inferior full-frame 1.33:1 transfer of the film (long available in video) versus the widescreen letterbox transfer, which mirror the director's true intentions. All in all this is a stunning DVD and is not-to-be-missed by any Godard fan; something we should all be by now.

The Firemen's Ball Review


Excellent
You can almost smell the cabbage in Milos Forman's The Firemen's Ball, a lovely little farce about a party for an 86-year-old fire marshall in a small Czech town. The problems center around a beauty contest, designed to pick the girl who will bestow an award to the elderly gentlemen -- only the girls aren't exactly supermodels, and then, once they've finally been selected, they're too afraid to go on stage. Other problems erupt (someone is stealing the prizes for the lottery), until the party is interrupted by -- of all things -- a fire.

This 73 minute film is practically a trifle, hardly a masterpiece but definitely the work of genius. Forman's social satire makes more sense in the context of 1967 Czechoslovakia, which had a government in crisis much like the firemen on parade in the film, on the eve of the country's invasion by Russia and imminent conversion to communism. The film was reportedly "banned forever" on the spot by the new regime. Apparently those Russkies were on to the movie, too...

Continue reading: The Firemen's Ball Review

Brief Encounter (1974) Review


Terrible
About half an hour into Brief Encounter, I began to wonder why it was acclaimed as a great film. Then I did a little research and discovered I was watching the wrong Brief Encounter. The 1946 version, directed by David Lean, that's the good one. This one, despite a promising cast of Richard Burton and Sophia Loren is made-for-TV crap. Based on Noel Coward's play (aka Still Life), we find Loren falling for a guy who picks some grit out of her eye at a train station. Will they shrug off society and hook up?

Continue reading: Brief Encounter (1974) Review

Lola Review


Extraordinary
In an time when gunmen walk on ceilings, when men morph into monsters before our eyes, when future governors of California are shorn of their human skin to expose the glistening steel and circuitry underneath, Jacques Demy's classic 1961 Lola is a breathtaking reminder of what magic in the movies used to mean. Lola is a work of romance, and the magic on view is all of the fairy tale variety. What's transformed in Lola isn't a cyborg or a lycanthrope, but rather life itself.

Or maybe I should say "lives." Set in the dreary French port of Nantes, Lola tells the story of the title character, a cabaret dancer and paid companion to the American sailors who prowl the streets and bars of the city on leave. She's a single mother, the child's father having abandoned her during pregnancy seven years before. What sustains her is the hopelessly naive belief that this man will return to her - return to her rich, no less - and that her drab, hardscrabble life will become the vision of happiness she never stops imagining.

Continue reading: Lola Review

Doctor Zhivago Review


Essential
For some people, David Lean's name is synonymous with over-direction, but in Doctor Zhivago, as in Lawrence of Arabia, Lean had a theme and canvas to match his epic style. Boris Pasternak's novel was one of the best novels of the 20th century, and probably the best anti-communist novel ever written. The book is not a political novel so much as a romance -- but the doomed romance of Zhivago and Lara is a damning comment on an ideology and regime that robbed its people of their private lives and passions.

In Lean's hands, the book is transformed into a sprawling epic and a lot of the subtlety is removed -- but despite all the lurid images and overdramatic camera work, the result is not as overwrought as one might have expected. After all, Russia is a big place, and communism is a big subject. Fortunately, the screenwriters of yesterday were not as heavy-handed as today's, and often the dialogue is nearly as rich as the costumes and settings.

Continue reading: Doctor Zhivago Review

Blow-Up Review


Grim
The mid- to late-'60s were a heady time for art cinemas in America. While Hollywood was still saddled with content restrictions that forbade nudity, sex, and other bankable cinematic ingredients, less puritanical cultures like those of France, Italy, and Sweden were turning out highbrow features that played to the id and the intellect at the same time. At the art house, America pondered the role of faith in contemporary society, the bankruptcy of emerging cultural mores, the meaning or meaninglessness of life, and the breasts of European starlets. A new galaxy of superstar directors was introduced to audiences, and among its ranks was Italian Michelangelo Antonioni, who burst on the scene in 1960 with an amazing debut, L'Avventura. With a name like his, the proceedings were bound to be a little arty, and indeed the film was an open-ended, nearly plotless examination of the lives of the idle rich. In the films that followed -- especially La Notte and L'Eclisse -- Antonioni's style emerged as one in which characters wandered about, mankind's deepest emotions were rendered merely fashionable, and the lives on the screen were examined with the blankest imaginable gaze. And there was the frank approach to sex, too, and that helped keep audiences coming.

Blow-Up, released in America in 1966, marked a departure. It was filmed in English and in color, and, it aspired to something like a plot: a photographer in swinging London (David Hemmings) uncovers evidence of a possible murder in the background of a series of pictures he's taken of a couple in a park. (De Palma's 1981 Blow Out is an obvious homage: A sound man records evidence of a murder on tape while recording ambient sounds.) Initially he's intrigued, since this event carries so much more gravity than the activities of his daily life, such as photographing models, driving around in a sports car, and off-handedly buying expensive antiques. But as the clues dry up, his interest does too. And having lost interest (after most of the prints are stolen), he simply throws the last print away.

Continue reading: Blow-Up Review

Flesh for Frankenstein Review


OK
Camp is an understatement. This film, a partial product of the Andy Warhol art machine, reinvents the Frankenstein story as a sexed-up tale of incest, dismemberment, and 3-D gore, all ending in a slaughter on par with Hamlet... if it was written by John Waters. Horror fans will love it, as will friends of bizarro cinema. The rest of you are well-advised to steer clear.
Carlo Ponti

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