DVD: Wild Blood / Sanguepazzo (2008)

November 7, 2015 | By


WildBlood_2008Film: Good

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras:  n/a

Label:   eOne Films

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  April 27, 2010

Genre:  Drama / Romance / War

Synopsis: The tragic final years of Italy’s silver screen couple Osvaldo Valenti and Luisa Ferida are dramatized in a fractured structure, leading up to their execution during the final days of WWII.

Special Features:  (none)




In April of 1945, two of Italy’s most popular actors were arrested by anti-Fascist partisans, reportedly hurried through a quick sentencing and taken into the street, where Osvaldo Valenti and his pregnant lover Luisa Ferida were executed by gunfire – a brutal event that undoubtedly horrified the pair’s fans, and left a dark footnote in the history of Italian film.

In spite of the film’s high pedigree  – Sangepazzo / aka Wild Blood stars Luca Zingaretti (Il commissario Montalbano) as Valenti, Monica Bellucci (Spectre, Brotherhood of the Wolf) as Ferida, and features Best of Youth director Marco Tullio Giordana – it becomes clear within the first third that Wild Blood is a very mediocre bio-drama that injects more fiction than fact to transform an already compelling moment in Italian film into outright melodrama.

Giordana’s film is also much too long, suffering from a clumsy flashback structure which bounces between post-assassination scenes to fragments of the couple’s burgeoning relationship as Valenti, already a huge star, began to court up-and-coming starlet Ferida. By the time the pair were industry news items, they’d begun to appear in films together, and worked with some of the country’s top directors.

Giordana’s script flows through specific periods which cover the industry’s relocation from Rome’s Cinecitta to Venice, and Valenti’s own peculiar career trajectory, as he shifted from movie star to a position in the military.

According to the film, as a lieutenant he routed out partisans and fraternized with some of the regime’s most brutal figures, including Pietro Koch (terrifying Paolo Bonanni), but either due to a scarcity of details and first-hand accounts or a need to enhance the tragedy of Valenti and Ferida’s demise, Giordana also created the fictional character of Golfiero Goffredi (Alessio Boni), a left-leaning, kind of gay director-producer who becomes an industry outcast and joins the partisan movement.

Reportedly inspired by Luchino Visconti’s wartime involvement, Goffredi’s position as a moderate partisan allows Giordana to needle drop the character into the narrative whenever the star couple are in a quandary, rescuing them from gunfire, and later pleading for a fair trial instead of outright sentencing and execution. Goffredi’s also quietly in love with Ferida – an impossible situation in the film, given her devotion to Osvaldo, and an impossible situation for audiences when it’s clear Goffredi never existed.

The creation of a singular fake character designed to function as some history marker to allow audiences to track dramatic events ultimately robs the central true-life characters of their charisma and depth, lessening their impact on audiences, and reducing what should’ve been a woeful tale of bad choices and wartime insanity into slow-burning melodrama.

Bellucci is beautiful but always grave, rarely smiling and providing little insight into Ferida’s own charisma which impressed movie audiences of the era. Zingaretti’s version of Valenti is broad and fiery, and it’s a characterization that substitutes emotional volatility (a trait enhanced by Valenti’s heroine and cocaine addictions) when there’s little personal details or reasoning as to why a top star would involve himself in ground-level policing. The implication is Valenti was an opportunist akin to German Third Reich stars – enjoying a career under the protective cover of a self-professed eternal and powerful regime and its propaganda machinery.

Ferida occasionally mutters statements that attempt to characterize Valenti’s fascistic slide and associations as partly ego-driven, as a means to access drugs, and ‘playing’ a lieutenant as a character within a warped, long-form historical drama with an unwritten finale, but none of it satisfies our curiosity.

Positives include gorgeous production design, striking locations, lush cinematography by Roberto Forza, and a sparse score by Franco Piersanti, but Wild Blood only clicks when the disturbing aspects of Valenti’s life are presented in banal circumstances, such as movie-loving Koch giving Valenti a tour of his dungeon after a jovial dinner, and the feted actor confronting human misery in person rather than on a sanitized film set.

For all the criticism flung at Wild Blood, it’s a more than functional melodrama, but Giordana’s decision to cinematize reality and create historic junctures using jarring flashbacks makes the experience a bit ponderous. In addition to learning very little of the star couple, it’s also disappointing few of their films exist as Region 1 DVDs, as Valenti was a talented actor who appeared in several important films. His version of former servant-turned-vengeful manipulator in Alessando Blasetti’s The Jester’s Supper (1942) is outstanding, and it’s his performance that makes the film an iron-clad classic.

Films in which Valenti and Ferrida co-starred include Un’avventura di Salvator Rosa (1939), La corona di ferro (1941), Fedora (1942), I cavalieri del deserto (1942), La bella addormentata (1942), La cena delle beffe (1942), Orizzonte di sangue (1942), Harlem (1943), La locandiera (1944), and Fatto di cronaca (1945).



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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