Friday, March 18, 2011

Anna Magnani in Wild is the Wind

Anna Magnani received her second and final Best Actress nomination for playing Gioia, an Italian woman marrying her dead sister's husband in George Cukor's movie, Wild is the Wind. I don't know what to think about Anna's chances of winning her second Oscar. I don't think she had much of a chance of winning as she had just won plus she was a foreign actress. Moreover, her movie was not big and showy enough. I think she must have been fourth or fifth after all. Joanne, Liz and Deborah were battling it out, in my opinion.

Wild is the Wind is not as bad as some may say. Actually, it's quite good and enjoyable thanks to the great performances. It's pretty mediocre, that's true but not as bad as some might say. It doesn't have the typical flaws of a 50s movie though it doesn't mean it's totally flawless. Mr. Sugar*, George Cukor was a great director but this one is one of his lesser efforts. Same for Anthony Quinn: he was an exceptional performer but this one is not his best performance. However, Anthony Franciosa is sometimes laughably bad.

Well, Anna Magnani. You know, it's honor itself just write about her. That woman! That actress! OK, I might be a bit influenced as she's my dad's favorite actress and I've seen many of her Italian movies beforehand which made me also fall in love with her work. She's (very much like Sophia Loren and most of the great European actors) a natural talent who doesn't have to learn acting, it's in her bones, in her soul and it's just a way of expressing herself. She doesn't have to time her tears, practice accents and do method acting. She knows it from her instincts. There's so much fire and music in Anna that I always feel that while she's acting, there's a volcano erupting with the music of Jaws. Anna Magnani was brilliant, quite simply and her talents shines through time and her work lives on.

It's kind of a cliché to say that Hollywood did not get the best out of Anna. I think it's a dumb, stupid thing to say, since anyone who's seen either of her Oscar nominated works is simply astonished by her extraordinary talent. She's very unusually beautiful (she IS beautiful, I think) and she has a very great sense of humor and she adds a lot of that even to her most serious characters. Gioia is a mysterious woman. We don't know anything about her yet Magnani tells thousands of stories with her eyes and face and we just keep wondering about Gioia.

At the beginning of the movie, Gioia feels like a fish out of water because of her bad English and the aggressively kind welcome to America. The dinner scene is a chaos, however, Anna is able to come out of it. Her performance almost failed in the beginning but Anna was wonderfully in control of Gioia. It's an amazing scene when we see her with her stepdaughter/niece under a tree. She's just brilliant there and from that time on, her performance doesn't stop and it really becomes roller coaster that doesn't stop until the very end. It's so intense and extremely gripping. Even when my interest for the movie died down, I still couldn't take my eyes off the screen and that's only because of Anna.

Anna's chemistry with Anthony Quinn is simply marvelous. Although Quinn is not that great, Anna really gets the best out of the both of them. Quinn actually said that despite her dislike for Anna, he loved working with her. I can easily believe that. Anna's talent is so inspiring and stimulating and I guess her co-stars must have felt the very same way. They don't have the usual "loud Italian rows" but they have some great arguments like the one in the kitchen (which is probably one of the most amazing scenes of Anna). There are so many emotions coming out of Magnani that really blow the viewer away.

Her scenes with Franciosa are also excellent. Although he's giving a really bad performance, Magnani holds all the scenes together and she really carries them on her shoulders. Even the most tender moments are quite great and all thanks to Anna. Their last scene together becomes so heartbreaking with Anna's loud screaming. That being said, Anna's acting is indeed loud and very emotional but I think that's the way it should be with this character. Whenever Anna is looking at the sky and putting her hands on her face, we feel that it's natural and it's not la Susan Hayward-like yelling. Anna always remains natural and that's why it works. She has this mentality in her blood. It's interesting that Anthony Quinn uses the same mannerisms as Anna and yet it doesn't work for him. It's like when Penélope Cruz tries to walk like Sophia Loren. No, there are things that work for Anna Magnani or Sophia Loren, but it's for them, exclusively.

Also, Magnani interacts so beautifully with animals in this movie. The scenes with the horses are just so brilliant and heartbreaking. The wild horses might be the symbols of Gioia's desire for freedom and true love. Gioia is stuck in a marriage where she should replace her dead sister (she also has to deal with her memory) but still, in a way, they love each other with Quinn's character. Or do they? I don't really know but it makes the whole case even more interesting.

So, you may consider me overenthusiastic and too lenient with performances but I was just blown away by Anna, from the beginning to the very end. My overall opinion must also be influenced by her brilliant singing scene but I don't care as this is truly haunting and fantastic work. Anna Magnani creates this beautiful, wonderful character and single-handedly makes the movie. It might be a bit much for many. For me, it worked and I consider this an astonishing performance.

What do you think?

I think my opinion about her was pretty predictable but she's really so great.


Louis Morgan said...

She is terrific and is the reason to watch this technically competent but overly standard film. I really enjoyed her transition from the beginning to end which was wonderful. She manages well all the challenges of the roles, particularly dealing with Anthony Franciosa's laughably bad performance.

dinasztie said...

Totally agree. :D

Anonymous said...

It's become a little obvious she's the standout of this thorny year.

dinasztie said...

Sage: Although there are two other ladies left, I doubt that they can top her.

joe burns said...

She's great in The Rose Tattoo! Never seen this one thogh, where did you find it?

dinasztie said...

Well, it was on TV. But you can watch it on Netflix, I think.

Anonymous said...

The great Anna! Love her.