In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_men_women_and_children

Men, Women & Children

A potentially interesting premise is handled so badly that what might have been a provocative drama quickly and irrevocably devolves into the technological equivalent of…

Thumb_5kljgdiaf9qbg0wqbxhfsoemmrz

Time Is Illmatic

An excellent documentary that focuses more on why the Illmatic album came to be than how successful it became. Prepare to be schooled in many…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

A Matter of Time

  |  

"A Matter of Time" is a fairly large disappointment as a movie, but as an occasion for reverie, it does very nicely. Once we've finally given up on the plot - a meandering and jumbled business - we're left with the opportunity to contemplate Ingrid Bergman at 60. And to contemplate Ingrid Bergman at any age is, I submit, a passable way to spend one's time. 

I think she's my favorite movie actress. I've seen her again and again in "Casablanca" and "Gaslight," and so many times in "Notorious" (1946) that I suppose I could describe the movie shot by shot. She made her best films in the 1940s, but even today, and even in a mess like "A Matter of Time," she possesses a radiant screen personality. This time she plays a contessa, the impoverished but proud Contessa Sanziani, who lives on pawned jewels in a seedy Roman hotel, circa 1949. In her time, she was the most famous beauty in Europe, and her affairs ranged from the world's richest men to a gondolier in Venice. Now all that is behind her, and she's receded into a sort of stubborn truce with the past: She will remember it if it will forget her. Into her life comes a young chambermaid, played by Liza Minnelli. She grows to know the countess and to share her memories, and eventually to be absorbed by them. And here it's worth wondering, why so many actresses are pushovers for roles like the Minnelli role in this film. The plot's an old and familiar one: The poor young girl, the ugly duckling from the streets, becomes transformed into a ravishing beauty. And the transformation is almost always revealed in a scene where the heroine descends a flight of stairs. Think of Sophia Loren in "Lady L," or Liza Minnelli in this film, or Bette Davis (older, and descending fewer stairs) in "A Pocketful of Miracles." 

Maybe actresses like transformations because they reflect what's happened in real life. Nobody is born a movie star, but a handful of people eventually get to be stars - and that status must sometimes be astonishing even to them. To enact on the screen what's already happened in life provides a sort of double fantasy. It's a rite of passage, maybe, and it's appropriate that Ingrid Bergman should be conducting Liza Minnelli through it. 

Maybe those were Vincente Minnelli's thoughts as he prepared the picture and cast his daughter in it. Sentiment must have also led to the casting of Charles Boyer (who played opposite Bergman in "Gaslight") as the contessa's estranged husband here. For people who love movie romance, "A Matter of Time" must have seemed like a dream project. 

And yet the movie just doesn't hold together. The contessa seems too crazy to give much useful advice, Liza's character seems too scatterbrained to remember it and the plot has been so hopelessly mangled (apparently in the post-production editing stage) that Minnelli himself has disowned it. What a waste. And yet we sit in this failed movie and give our attention to Ingrid Bergman, and there is a certain consolation.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Unloved, Part Ten: "The Village"

Part ten in Scout Tafoya's The Unloved series tackles "The Village."

Why my video essay about "All that Jazz" is not on the Criterion blu-ray

Bob Fosse's masterpiece "All That Jazz" jumps back and forth through the past and the present, and through memory and...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus