The Stranger – Luchino Visconti (1967)


“Beware the movie based on literature, or, in that showbiz term of art, a ‘literary property.’ Not because adaptations are an inferior form of cinema—I don’t believe that for a moment—but because they create an added layer of copyright issues for the film. When a movie stays long out of sight, and the studio still has prints, very often the reason you’re not seeing it has to do with the rights to its literary source. This is most likely why Lo Straniero, from 1967, directed by the great Luchino Visconti and starring Marcello Mastroianni and Anna Karina, has gone missing for so many years—never on VHS, never on DVD, unseen on TV, and infrequently revived in cinemas. It’s based on The Stranger by Albert Camus, and it has what J. Hoberman calls ‘complicated rights issues.’ (In the 1990s it was reported that Camus’s daughter dislikes the film.) Consequently an extremely rare screening as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 28-film Mastroianni series was mobbed. Whatever is keeping The Stranger out of American hands, it isn’t lack of quality. I wouldn’t rank it with Visconti’s greatest films, but the first half in particular gets under your skin, and stays there. Shot in Algeria, where the novel was set, it’s a sun-soaked movie, with exteriors in harsh yellow and glaring white that look as if they were filmed entirely at high noon. The buses, the cars, the cramped apartment buildings all seem to have temperatures and textures. Mastroianni sweats clear through his linen jacket; other characters mop their brows incessantly. The only one uncrumpled and perspiration-free in the heat is the perpetually cool Karina. The adaptation is highly faithful to the book (reportedly at the insistence of Camus’s widow), even keeping the temporal setting of the 1930s. Mastroianni plays Meursault, a clerk whom we first see going to Marengo to bury his mother after her death in a nursing home. The home’s locked-in atmosphere and addled residents seem more akin to an asylum, but it doesn’t affect Meursault, who settles in next to her coffin, drinks coffee, and smokes cigarettes until the funeral the next day. Meursault, it seems, has very little in the way of ordinary human feeling, and zero desire to fake it. Visconti’s camera shift to close-ups again and again, of Meursault’s blank expression, of the lively and mobile faces around him. Algiers, where Meursault lives, is an intoxicating city, but he is immune. There is an extended shot of Meursault walking home at night, a hundred different noises swirling around him, detached from them all. … ”
Film Comment
W – The Stranger (1967 film)
senses of cinema – To Shoot at the Impassive Stillness: Marcello Mastroianni in Luchino Visconti’s The Stranger (Lo straniero, 1967)
L’Etranger (Lo straniero, 1967) – Review by Margaret Tarratt
W – Luchino Visconti
NY Times: ‘The Stranger,’ Made All the More So in the Person of Mastroianni – J. Hoberman
YouTube: The Stranger(movie footage) based on Albert Camus’ masterpiece
YouTube: “The Stranger” by Albert Camus – 1967 – Dir. Luchino Visconti 1:42:52

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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