OF A THOUSAND DELIGHTS (Vaghe Stelle dell'Orsa)


special-event-of-a-thousand-delights-feb-17thVisconti tells the tale of a family brought together by the death of their father. A re-working of the Electra myth made two years after The Leopard, it sets the family story in the context of Italian history from Mussolini onwards. With Claudia Cardinale and Jean Sorel. (Cert X)
Dir: Luchino Visconti 96 mins Itay 1965
We welcome back Alex Marlow-Mann, a specialist in Italian cinema, for the third time, to introduce this evening’s screening, which will start at 7.30 p.m.

Programme Notes

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Special Event:
(Sandra or Of a Thousand Delights)

Italy 1965 100 minutes Cert. X

Tonight’s film is introduced by Dr. Alex Marlow-Mann of the University of St Andrews, where he is research co-ordinator in the department of Film Studies. He previously taught at the Universities of Reading, Cardiff and Leeds and worked for several years as theatre manager of Reading’s only independent cinema, the Reading Film Theatre. He has written on numerous aspects of Italian cinema, from the silent era to the work of Paolo Sorrentino, a screening of whose Il Divo he introduced here one year ago.

Sandra and her American husband return to her family home in the fortified town of Volterra in Tuscany. Her relationships with her brother, her mother and and her step-father are dynamite-laden, and this in turn is rooted in recent European history. The whole echoes the Greek myth of Electra as represented by Sophocles.

Sandra Dawson – Claudia Cardinale
Gianni Wald-Luzzati – Jean Sorel
Andrew Dawson – Michael Craig
Mrs Gilardini, mother of Sandra – Marie Bell
Antonio Gilardini – Renzo Ricci

Director – Luchino Visconti
Screenplay – Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Luchino Visconti, Enrico Medioli
Cinematography – Armando Nannuzzi
Editing – Mario Serandrei
Producer – Franco Cristaldi



“Absolutely outstanding! A+”

“Visconti’s best film – magical”

“Great – the best Visconti I’ve seen. Melodrama, chiaroscuro [but] dreadful subtitles – Hebrew confused with Latin!”

“Classy in every sense [with] tremendous lighting that enhanced the theatrical drama.”

“Melodrama, of course but a real sense of Greek tragedy.”

“The most dramatic film we’ve had for ages – shades of Greek tragedy with overtones of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights!”

“Masterly. The print was a bit dark but so was the film [story].”

“This film has become more pertinent than when it was first made – it was courageous and powerful. Claudia Cardinale’s performance was also powerful.”

“Amazingly atmospheric with music to match the theme. Initially the dialogue seemed very stilted – perhaps a reflection of the time. Don’t blame this on the subtitle translators!”

“Visually compelling but I was surprised that the political context seemed just a pretext for the melodrama. Not much of a social canvas.”

“A for the speaker [Alex Marlow Mann].”

“Alex’s talk gave a good insight into what to expect from the film. However, the incest story arc felt heavy handed amongst all the film’s other grim melodramas.”

“Intriguing to say the very least – dark and incestuous. The camera certainly loved Claudia Cardinale but I’m not sure how good an actress she is, her main expression seeming to be [that] of a spoiled child. The [dialogue] language was confusing as well, being all dubbed into Italian. (Was I the only one to be reminded by the housekeeper of the same character in Father Ted?)

“Claudia Cardinale’s magnificent bosom seemed to be displayed rather inappropriately for some of the sombre dialogue! As a period piece – A: as a drama for modern tastes – C.”

“A sombre set ‘Of a Thousand Delights’!”

“Almost too powerful – one felt very involved/committed. The important Holocaust effect was intermittent; incest [was] too much to the fore. A tremendous film but out of balance, I’d say.”

“A touch one-track and overblown but it looked great.”

“Too melodramatic for me but some stunning visuals – particularly at the water tower. Compression of dynamic range in projection from DVD must have lost some detail. Score incongruous in the non-Fauré parts. Lack of any real connection between Claudia Cardinale and Michael Craig.”

“Very dramatic but such a long tale of who knows what – the [subtitle] ‘Speaks Hebrew’ bit was surely Italian?”

“It was interesting to have seen this classic but altogether too ambiguous for me. I enjoyed some of the camerawork and special effects but not the melodrama.”

“A sixties outlook from Visconti on a Greek melodramatic tragedy – it almost had the feel of a sixties road movie.”

“Dare one say “Un poco melodramatico”?”

“I liked the scenes but the story was a load of tripe!”

“So dated and [with] little to redeem it”


A:14, B:19, C:14, D:2, E:0 to give 73%