The Barefoot Contessa
Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1954
USA | Format: 35mm | 128 minutes
Mankiewicz’s pitiless take on the dissolute, dispiriting world of international filmmaking, a veritable film à clef, was his first fully independent production. In one sense, with its multiple points of view and epigrammatic dialogue, it looks back to A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve; on another, perhaps deeper level, the film’s aura of profound and limitless disenchantment looks ahead to La Dolce Vita and Contempt. Ava Gardner is Maria Vargas, the Spanish dancer lured into the not-so-magical world of movies (Mankiewicz based the character on Margarita Cansino, aka Rita Hayworth); Humphrey Bogart, in his last great role, is the director who bears witness to the tragic progression of Maria’s life; Edmond O’Brien is the sweating, motor-mouthed publicist Oscar Muldoon—three of Mankiewicz’s most memorable characters. The Barefoot Contessa has another powerful element that makes it unique in the director’s body of work: the great Jack Cardiff’s glowing Technicolor cinematography.
Venue: Walter Reade Theater