From the Chicago Reader (8/21/92). — J.R.
Essential viewing. Anna Magnani plays the head of a commedia dell’arte troupe touring colonial Peru in the early 18th century who dallies with her three lovers (Paul Campbell, Ricardo Rioli, and Duncan Lamont) in this pungent, gorgeous color masterpiece by Jean Renoir, shot in breathtaking images by his brother Claude. In fact, this filmic play-within-a-play, based on a play by Prosper Merimee, is a celebration of theatricality and a meditation on the beauties and mysteries of acting–it’s both a key text and pleasurable filmmaking at its near best. (Widely regarded as the first in a loose 50s trilogy of Renoir films with related preoccupations, followed by Only the French Can and Paris Does Strange Things, it may well be the best of the lot.) Though this is widely known as a French film, its original and better version is in English, which is the version showing in this restoration supervised by Martin Scorsese. With Odoardo Spadaro, Nada Fiorelli, and Jean Debucourt (1953). (Music Box, Friday through Thursday, August 21 through 27)