Ferdinando and Carolina [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (14th September 2017).
The Film

In a series of delirious, unreliably subjective memories of King Ferdinando Barone of Naples (The Perfume of a Lady in Black's Mario Scaccia) on his deathbed, he flashes back to his carefree youth as a young rascal (Ciao, Professore!'s Adriano Pantaleo) leading a gaggle of mischievous boys when he learns that his father Carlo (Gerardo Gargiulo) has been made King of Spain and that he has become King of Naples. Growing into a young man (Inspector Nardone's Sergio Assisi), his only interests are in hunting and fucking, leaving the governing to his underlings ("The advisors advise, councilors council, commanders command…"). His is aware, however, that Queen Maria Theresa of the Austrian House of Hapsburg (Silvana De Santis) is trying to arrange a marriage between him and one of her thirteen daughters (having already lost three to smallpox), and his father Carlo is also advocating the union in the interests of peace; Ferdinando, on the other hand, would rather marry the uninhibited Princess of Medina (Loose Cannons' Nicole Grimaudo) even if it means having her London envoy husband bumped off. After prospective brides Maria Giuseppa (Vanessa Sabet) and Maria Amalia (The Dinner's Lea Gramsdorff) die of smallpox, the superstitious Ferdinando becomes convinced that the queen wants to give him the disease while the next in line Maria Carolina (Crossing Lines' Gabriella Pession) becomes convinced that the king is bad luck. Despite Carolina's inexperience, the couple connect on the level of locking loins and she later starts to pick up his "vulgar" Neapolitan dialect of Italian. Despite blossoming sexually under his tutelage, Carolina is an agent of her mother's machinations, revealing her true colors when her brother Emperor Joseph (Carlo Caprioli) visits the court to find out why they have produced no babies since a stipulation of the marriage contract is that Maria Carolina will be allowed to participate in the State Counsel upon the birth of their first son. Carlo in Spain realizes all too late that the queen is less interested in peace than in Austria ruling Naples as Emperor Joseph has installed masonic lodges throughout the kingdom. When Carlo sends orders from afar to arrest the masons, Carolina accuses him of impugning her own reputation and commands Ferdinando to overturn the orders. When Ferdinando reminds her that he is the one in command, she kicks him out of bed – leading to a sexual and political stalemate that even the queen disapproves of since it hinders efforts to produce a son – and they use other partners (Giovanni Falcone's Paolo De Giorgio and The Nymph's Lola Pagnani) to arouse each other's' jealousy and lure one another back to the marriage bed.

Director Lina Wertmüller (Swept Away) tries her hand at a comedic take on royal court intrigue of Viscont-ian aesthetics and scape but intimate in its episodic scope. Although the film is in keeping with Wertmüller's thematic of "the battle of the sexes as gender politics", the "grotesque" execution is blunted in its earthly carnal displays and the contradictions of the characters spoken aloud (by the characters themselves or others explaining their motives to strangers) more so than shown, lacking the bite and paling in comparison to the likes of Visconti's Ludwig or even more contemporary works of similar settings like Dangerous Liaisons or Queen Margot. It looks handsome as hell with production design by Wertmüller's husband Enrico Job (Blood for Dracula) and the elegant photography of Blasco Giurato's (Cinema Paradiso, but Asissi and Pession seem hemmed in more so than their more caricatured co-stars more so by the script and coverage than their relative inexperience (the film as Asissi's film debut and Pession's first feature lead). The ambiguity as to whether Ferdinando really was just a pawn of his father, his mother-in-law, and his advisors or a cruel ruler who beheaded many enemies (as the priest who resents the king's pagan superstitions assures him) who he believes have come to haunt him at his deathbed ultimately amounts to little while Swept Away fans may be disappointed that the film's sexual politics consist of a woman kicking her husband out of bed and both partners attempting to get over each other by getting under other people. Giallo fans might be interested to know that the film was produced by the genre's reigning queen Edwige Fenech (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh) and her son Edwin.

Video

Previously released by Kino Lorber's previous incarnation Koch Lorber on DVD in 2005 – as well as in The Lina Wertmüller Collection boxed set with Swept Away, Seven Beauties, Summer Night, and The Nymph – in a non-anamorphic 1.64:1 letterboxed transfer of an older digital master rife with the usual issues of mid-2000 Italian digital masters, running at the correct 24fps timing but looking smeary in fast motion and poor in detail due to excessive noise reduction. Kino Lorber's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC widescreen Blu-ray is framed at 1.85:1 and reveals more picture information on the sides than the older master, balancing the more stately compositions and looking more like an actual film while the DVD could pass for a shot-on-film made-for-television production of the nineties. Skintones look more natural while still veering towards the warm – without revealing the seams of Assissi's prosthetic "honker" designed by Gino Zamprioli (The Last Emperor) – while the shadings of Giurato's photography with its heavy emphasis on natural light and studio light-augmented candlelit interiors better served than before.

Audio

The sole audio option is an Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track of this talk-heavy film with directional activity restricted to the score, hoof beats, and angry footfalls across the expanses of the locations. The optional English subtitles appear to be the same as the Koch DVD edition.

Extras

There is no trailer for the film but the disc does include the Italian and export trailers for Swept Away, the Italian and American trailers for Summer Night, an Italian trailer for Love & Anarchy, a promo for the Lina Wertmuller Repertory Film Series (1:04) , and one for the aforementioned Behind the White Glasses (1:42). Simon Abrams provides a brief appreciation for the film in an included insert booklet.

Overall

 


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