La Moglie Piu' Bella

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday August 29, 2016

La Moglie Piu' Bella

When Vito (Alessio Orano), an up and coming member of a mafia family in Sicily, settles on Francesca (Ornella Muti), a 15-year-old girl from his village -- the daughter of a family of poor farmers -- to be his wife, he expects the girl and her family to be elated and honored. At first, they are... until the savage nature of Vito's work becomes evident to Francesca, and she spurns him. That's when he resorts to a local tradition, abducting and raping Francesca ignored to ruin her future prospects and put her in the position of requiring marriage to rehabilitate her.

Naturally, Vito expects Francesca to capitulate and agree to the wedding. Who else will marry her? But Vito doesn't reckon on Francesca's indomitable will. She won't give in to him because of force or threats; she won't even give in once her family starts pressuring her, lest Vito and his goons take punitive actions against them. Francesca is determined that if she chooses Vito, it will be on her terms, and she won't simply be his property; he will respect her.

Though based on the true story of a young woman named Franca Viola, Damiano Damiani's 1970 film "La Moglie Piu' Bella" ("The Most Beautiful Wife") plays out like an opera, with larger-than-life passions clashing and extreme results shaking out. The film's two stars are utterly magnetic, their characters bound up in love and rage and a contest of wills. Ennis Morricone scores the film, and his rhythmically complex soundtrack -- full of springy effects that pop up when things get drastic -- gives the movie verve. So does the dramatically kinetic camerawork by Franco Di Giacomo.

The score is featured on an isolated track, as is usually the case for a Twilight Time release; Julie Kirgo's liner notes are piquant, illustrative, and entertaining; and there's a making-of featurette titled "Sicily, Ornella, the Mafia, and Beyond," that features the director, cinematographer, editor, and Alessio Orano, and which goes into the film's production with quite a degree of detail (and more than a few juicy anecdotes). A separate introduction, from director Damiano Damiani, is quite brief and wholly extraneous.

The film itself looks amazing (aside from a few brief moments of blurriness and a couple of scratches -- flaws in the source print). The 1080p hi-def transfer is so clean you can see the film's grainy structure, such that it almost looks, here and there, as though the movie was shot through muslin; nevertheless, the colors are vibrant, which is a plus given the piercing blue eyes of both of the leads, not to mention the dramatic Sicilian landscape.

Twilight Time delights in reissuing all sorts of cinematic wonders, from off-the-wall oddities to under-appreciated classics. This time, they've unearthed a true gem.

"La Moglie Piu' Bella"



Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.