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Affairs of Cellini, The
They just don't make romantic comedies like they used to. And while Gregory LaCava's The Affairs of Cellini is probably more of a romantic dramedy, or absurdist take on romance and intrigue in Italy, it has a flair and sophistication that is sadly lacking in much of what passes for romantic fare these days.
A big part of that flair is due to the cast: Fredric March is beguiling and poetic as the salacious artist Cellini; Frank Morgan as the bumbling and lascivious Duke is great; Constance Bennett is conniving and suave as the Duchess. Plus Fay Wray as and naïve social climber Angela and Louis Calhern (who you might recall from playing Trentino in Duck Soup, as well as many other parts) is stern and monomaniacal as Cellini's bitter enemy at court.
With that cast it's hard to go wrong, but the film also has some sharp writing. Not in the sense of the plot, which is thin, but in the witty dialogue and the efficiently yet fully fleshed out characters, who act exactly as we'd expect them to. The writer doesn't waste any time in getting these people squared away and letting the farce begin. There's lots of sneaking into and out of bed chambers, chance meetings on the balcony, and misunderstanding of motives. But it's all fun, and constructed fairly well. The bit at the end where the Duchess can't seem to see the predicament that Cellini is in seems a bit forced, but that's a quibble in a film of this sort.
Cellini is constantly fighting duels over his honor, and seducing some woman or other, or at least reading them poetry and hypnotizing them with his dashing good looks and rakish manner. But he's just such a talented and likeable rogue that the Duke just can't bring himself to execute him, though he comes close a few times. But can Cellini manage an affair with the Duchess, while juggling his other intimate entanglements and dodging the murderous intent of Ottaviano? The gentle viewer will have to watch the film to find out.
This is a Fox Cinema Archives disc, and looks quite good, considering how old the film is. It was released in 1934, but the print holds up. This is no meaty drama with world cinematic import, but it is a quite enjoyable film that's worth a look. Recommended.
The film is presented in 4:3 full frame, but still looks good. There are the usual issues with a film of this age, but nothing outrageous. If you're used to seeing films of the thirties, you will have no problem watching this with enjoyment.
The audio is Dolby digital 2 channel, with no subtitles. It sounds good. I didn't have a problem picking out the dialogue, and there is no significant hiss or other problem.
There are no extras on the disc.
If the viewer doesn't expect an earthshattering work of art, and is rather content with a light and charming comedy of manners then The Affairs of Cellini is just the ticket. It never fails to grab the interest and hold it. What else is necessary?