Diva Dolorosa (1999)

5.0 out of 5

While it is the case that Diva Dolorosa is not in itself an Italian production the film is made up entirely of an assemblage of clips from the Italian diva movies of the silent era cut together as a thematically organised montage of such titles as the near perfect Rapsodia satanica and the tragic Il fuoco.

Genre themes of madness, love and death in the bourgeois parlour are explored along with the other key tropes of this fascinating period of cinema history.

Not to take any credit away from Lyda Borelli, or indeed the other greats of the genre, but it is the striking, quirky and spasmodic style of Pina Menichelli that particularly holds the attention as she jerks about, rolls her eyes, flops and flails as if acting under the influence of overcharged vibrating Ben-Wa Balls. This is hypnotic.

The film is essential viewing for those who wish to dip a toe in to the cool pleasant waters of early Italian cinema and some fine cinematography and outlandish yet compelling performances make the project far more than a mere curiosity. Highly recommended.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics