L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Monday, December 9, 2013

The sad, tender beauty of Elio Marcuzzo, Ossessione, 1943

Elio Marcuzzo (July 27, 1917, Treviso - July 28, 1945, Breda ), Italian actor.

He is best remembered for his role in Visconti's first film, the gritty Ossessione, 1943.  The screenplay was based on The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain, but his character, lo Spagnolo - "the Spaniard" - was not in the original story.  The film's main protagonist, the impoverished drifter Gino (Massimo Girotti), has fled a tortured, doomed relationship with the married Giovanna (Clara Calamai) and is befriended by lo Spagnolo.  On the train to Ancona, lo Spagnolo, a street performer, buys Gino, a complete stranger, a train ticket.  He rents a room for the both of them when they get to town, and they share a bed.  He rolls cigarettes for Gino and buys him clothes and shoes, and gives him a job promoting the street performances.  Their time spent together, before Gino and Giovanna meet again, is a lyrical, happy interlude in the otherwise bleakly tragic story.  I don't know what audiences of the time thought about the sweet friendship between the two men, but to modern eyes it seems fairly clear that lo Spagnolo's generosity toward and care of Gino are expressive of feelings that are more of romantic love than friendship.  Marcuzzo was apparently gay, and Visconti certainly was, so it seems reasonable to assume that this reading was what they actually - though discretely - intended.

Marcuzzo only appeared in fourteen films and died an early, terrible death.  In the tumult surrounding the end of World War II, as various factions in Italy scrambled for power and retribution, he and his brother Armando were wrongly accused of being pro-fascist and abducted by former partisans.  They were taken by truck to Breda, were hanged and, as the medical report later noted, buried alive.  It isn't known if his sexuality was in any way a motivating factor in his murder.  He died one day after his twenty-eighth birthday.

Marcuzzo and Visconti.

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