Their performances are like songs and only in Italy could you really get away with such melodramatic musicality and yet, always, there was Bertini’s calculated glare, Borelli’s sneering intensity and Menichelli’s selfless smile, to lift us above the act: artifice completely under-cut by abandon.
|Giorgio is transfixed, but Pastrone shows reaction then action|
The two’s first encounter leaves Giorgio besotted and unable to comprehend Natka's seeming indifference. She promises him a dance – marking his card – but he looks up to see her leaving before they can meet on the dancefloor.
Giorgio is injured in a duel and receives an encouraging note from Natka to speed his recovery. A game of frustration begins before Giorgio can be certain that his feelings are reciprocated; Natka leaves just as he arrives, breaks arrangements, pulling away in her limousine just before he can reach her – she’s always just out of reach yet reaching out enough to keep him coming (we all know how that feels don’t we?).
|Natka spots Giorgio in the wing mirror|
|Natka and the love of her life|
Meanwhile Georgio lives on learning to love a new woman, the wealthy Erminia (Valentina Frascaroli). They plan to marry but at their engagement party he receives a letter from Natka… who must see him again.
|"Natka's voice has something enigmatic and fatal about it..." ran the original title card|
Smoke billows, flames rise higher… is Natka even alive? Can the lovers escape… how many operas have a happy ending?? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Tigre Reale is another extraordinary tone poem from this golden age of Italian cinematic expression. It may be too emotive for some tastes and yet, once you get the style and the method it makes for captivating viewing. It’s interesting how early cinema was so clearly an extension of existing cultural styles in each country but you would expect no less with a new medium that could only be informed by theatrical method as it forged a new identity within increasingly-porous national boundaries.
|Pina sets the tone|
|The Fire Dance and the fire|
|Cinema in the theatre|
There are rough copies on youTube but this film deserves the same sort of attention as Sangue Blue and Ma l'amor mio non muore both of which are on DVD from Cineteca Bologna.
Diva Dolorosa is available along with Angela Dalle Vacche's excellent Diva, Defiance and Passion in Early Italian Cinema or on its own from Amazon.
|Floral fetish: Natka nibbles the flowers in her cab...|