The Golden Coach

1952

Action / Comedy / Drama / History / Romance

2
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 78%
IMDb Rating 7.2 10 2112

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1hr 43 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by clanciai 8 / 10

An Italian Commedia dell'arte troupe ends up in Peru to entertain the court of Lima with intrigues and consequences..

This is Jean Renoir at his most gorgeous and playful, although he was already getting old when this was made as an enthusiastic tribute to "Commedia dell'arte" staging Anna Magnani as the ultimate primadonna and diva, who in spite of her over-maturity attracts even a king to court her simply by her stardom as an overwhelming actress. The story is silly, of course, and not at all credible and gets steadily more ridiculous all the time, some scenes are actually quite trying for their tedious imbecility, but all comedies are like that - they are never serious, and in comedy everything is allowed, especially silliness. The outstanding merit of the film is how it brings the Commedia dell'arte alive and seemingly more alive than ever - the first theatre scenes are like fireworks in their ebullient sprightliness and a joy both to the eye and the intellect for being so rich in their apparent improvisations with new whims all the time, but it's actually nothing but mastery of expert direction, and jean Renoir knew all about that. Treat it for what it is, a hilarious comedy out of this world, and forbear with the impossible intrigue and hopeless failures of turn-outs that try your patience - Anna Magnani compensates fully for them all with her delightful troupe, where the children are an additional wonder to a gloriously preposterous performance.

Reviewed by Turfseer 6 / 10

Sumptuous costume drama and unique historical setting not enough to offset silly machinations of jealous suitors

You would think that 'The Golden Coach' has the potential to be a classic. After all, it's directed by the great Jean Renoir, the setting is unique (a Spanish colony in Peru in the 18th century), the plot is unusual (a commedia dell'arte troupe must prove its mettle in a potentially hostile environment) and the protagonist played by Anna Magnani, lends her star power to the proceedings.

I like how the character of Ferdinand the Viceroy (in perhaps Duncan Lamont's greatest role) is not your typical autocrat who is bent on making everyone's lives, miserable. Quite the contrary, the Viceroy is beholden to the aristocracy who eventually decide to vote him out after he chooses to give the Golden Coach to Camilla (Magnani), who he has fallen in love with. I also like the witty banter between Lamont and Magnani, as he tries to seduce the headstrong Camilla.

As the plot develops, the Viceroy isn't the only fellow who has fallen in love with Camilla. There's also Felipe, who's been accompanying the theater troupe in their travels. Felipe flips out after the Viceroy gives Camilla a very expensive necklace and there is a rather unfunny scene (that goes on for too long) with Felipe attempting to take the necklace away from Camilla and give it back to the Viceroy. The brawl between the two, emphasizing Felipe's extreme jealousy, is way overdone. The result in the plot is that Felipe decides to leave the troupe and join the Army.

Then there's Ramon, the bullfighter, who's also smitten with Camilla. And naturally he's the extreme jealous type too. He ends up fighting with Felipe after his return for a visit and we're again expected to laugh simply because of both their jealous infatuations.

Magnani knew no English when she was hired for the role and it's remarkable how fast she learned the language. Nonetheless, I'm not completely sure if she was the best type for the role. The three men are infatuated with her but certainly not for her looks. I guess it's her personality that sways them but in real life, can you imagine all three men going after such a brash (and not that physically attractive) type of woman?

'The Golden Coach' denouement reminds me of the similar denouement in Moliere's 'Tartuffe'. You'll recall that it's the King who makes everything right at the end; similarly here it's the Bishop, who accepts Camilla's gift of the coach and plans on using it to transport sacraments to the sick and dying. Maybe that's Pope Francis' style now but back then, highly unlikely (same for the king in Moliere's day— can you really believe he would have seen through the hypocrite Tartuffe and restored equilibrium to Orgon and his household?). But the ending is designed to reflect the type of drama of that time.

Ultimately, 'The Golden Coach' is a sumptuous costume drama with a unique, historical setting. If you like the commedia dell'arte, you'll certainly be rewarded (in terms of drama, it seems awfully dated to me).

I understand that Renoir himself was more proud of the stage design than the narrative. And what of the narrative? It mainly relies on the comedy of three infatuated men and their extreme jealousy. Funny? Not really. Original? Ditto! There's also a little of Renoir's philosophizing at the end where we're reminded that Camilla really can only realize her true self when she's performing on the stage. Thus the machinations offstage are of secondary importance. This seems prophetic as those machinations do indeed seem trivial at best.

Reviewed by Stephen Alfieri 7 / 10

Not Quite Golden Coach

"The Golden Coach" was an interesting project for Jean Renoir. According to his own biography, this film interested him on more of a design level, than on a story-telling level. He was much more interested in the "look" of the costumes, scenery, wigs and make-up. There have even been stories about how he would have sets built, then when the actors showed up in costume, he would order that the sets were the wrong colors, and needed to be re-painted. And from a technical point of view, the film is a feast for the eyes, and therefore a success.

The cast, especially Anna Magnani as Camilla, is excellent. They play the characters in a commedia dell'arte style production. Since the characters and the actors who portray them are all a little loud and full of energy, I found the "play within a play" structure to be appropriately maddening. I'm not sure what Renoir intended, but I thought that the story, while contrived, was interesting.

7 out of 10

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