Soap Operatics

'Light in the Piazza'

by Michael Barrett

11 November 2011

This beautifully ironic study of politely sinister moral culpability touches on many topics.
 
cover art

Light in the Piazza

Director: Guy Green
Cast: Olivia de Havilland, Yvette Mimieux, George Hamilton

USDVD release date:

Light in the Piazza is a glamorous and ambiguous widescreen soap opera, shot in Rome and Florence, that will remind many viewers of the gorgeous full-throttle ironies of Douglas Sirk. Based on the story by Elizabeth Spencer, it tells of an American woman (Olivia de Havilland) whose adult daughter (Yvette Mimieux) is what would now be called developmentally disabled. She’s diagnosed as having “the mind of a 12 year old.” When the daughter falls in love with an Italian count (a very creepy George Hamilton, relentless and childlike himself), mom wonders if she should conceal the truth from the young man and his father (Rossano Brazzi).

This beautifully ironic study of politely sinister moral culpability touches on many topics, including the value of the bride’s sexual and personal desires, how marriage is a bargain of mutual exploitation and deception between various parties, and the idea that old-school Italian royalty might actually prefer a simple-minded wife as the ideal. A wonderfully sinister ending is right out of Henry James or E.M. Forster, with a mysterious off-screen death while Olivia assures herself “I did the right thing! I know I did!”

You’d think this would have been released on DVD to coincide with the 2005 Broadway musical version that won multiple Tonys, but no, we’ve had to wait for this made-on-demand disc from Warner Archive. Scripted by Julius J. Epstein and scored by Mario Nascimbene, this lush, sly soaper is an undervalued gem of the early Sixties.

Light in the Piazza

Rating:

 

We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong online. Please consider a donation to support our work as an independent publisher devoted to the arts and humanities. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where advertising no longer covers our costs. We need your help to keep PopMatters publishing. Thank you.

 


//comments
//Mixed media
//Blogs

'Who' Will Be the Next Doctor?

// Channel Surfing

"What shall it be? A Doctor with whip-smart delivery of his lines? A woman who will bewitch before she kicks a Dalek's ass? Oh, the possibilities...

READ the article