More than twenty years since its original release, Miranda bears some striking similarities to Giuseppe Tornatore's Malèna (2000). There are obvious differences between the two films: when money runs low in WWII Italy, Malèna ultimately prostitutes herself and gains favors from Nazi officers, and is brutalized by angry townspeople after the war for siding with the enemy; in postwar WWII, the titular Miranda willingly prostitutes herself for excitement, some personal gratification, and to earn some extra cash and receive saleable gifts, but she finds true love after three important escapades that are tolerated within her small township.
Malèna is adored from a distance by a boy whose crush and moments of jealousy assist or endanger her, but the boy comes through in the end and restores her dignity and social stature by writing a letter on her behalf of her, which reunites the wife with her formerly lost husband who was living a few trains stops away; Miranda is adored by her younger bartender and co-hotelier who keeps the business running smoothly, watches her romances from afar, and ultimately becomes her husband - something the boy in Malèna certainly wished would happen, but knew couldn't, because of their disparate ages and a grander level of improbability.
In terms of leading characters, however, the two women share a similar conflict: they remain faithful to their missing husbands, but long for companionship & pleasure.
Instead of indulging in moments of personal torment, abusive relationships, public humiliation, and the restoration of personal dignity - plot twists and shocks that radically shifted the light tone of Malèna to cruel drama - Brass has Miranda go through the four seasons of a sexual journey: winter (older gentleman), spring (oversensitive youth), summer (Texas oilman with his own postwar demons), and fall (the loyal bartender, played by The Key's Franco Branciaroli).
The film's inspiration is Carlo Goldoni's 18th century play, La locondiera, which has been produced on stage, film, and the boob tube numerous times. Amid the ass-friendly imagery and the film's padded narrative, the consummation between Miranda and her bartender at the film's end is oddly genteel; the sequence is tempered towards a more soothing atmosphere, and is quite uncharacteristic of the director's usual affinity for zoom-happy, macro shots of crotches and bodily hair. (Brass still adds a shot of a prematurely frosted pickle, but in spite of the shock imagery, the overall tone stays playful.)
Like the character of Malèna, Miranda is played by a voluptuous actress (Serena Grandi) whose own pneumatic attributes buckle the more popular western image of beauty residing in the athletic or spindly shell of a young woman. Though the character of Miranda is younger than Mrs. Rolfe in The Key, both women aren't virginal waifs nor male-dependent wimps: in The Key, Rolfe manages a Venetian hotel, while her much older husband teaches art; one senses that the similarly independent Miranda could've remained a widow, or sought comfort and fun with another woman (hence the adoring chick who follows Miranda up to an attic water closet, but is pushed away when the Texas oilman boffs her hard. Of course, the whole sequence also validates Brass' personal fixation with womanly micturating, as he devotes far too many shots on the act being admired from the shadows; in The Key, the professorial husband quotes historical poetry as he watches his wife trickle by the edge of a Venetian canal).
Fixations aside, Miranda, while a lesser Brass effort when placed beside The Key, has some memorable moments of erotica and Brassian excess, so the director's fans won't be disappointed with Cult Epics' uncut edition of the film. There's only the English dub track, but Riz Ortolani's rich title theme pops up in an okay mono soundtrack mix. Brass re-uses the same wartime jazz piece from The Key (and again over the main titles of Paprika), and typical of his rudimentary musical needs, Ortolani's theme is repeated between several quasi-post WWII and rerecorded period ditties.
While Ennio Morricone moved on to greater productions after scoring The Key (plus a quick return to Brassian terrain in Senso '45), Ortolani composed the theme & variations for Miranda the same year as his underrated music for the Salkind's dreadful Christopher Columbus opus, and the veteran composer would score also Brass' Capriccio (1987), Paprika (1991), The Voyeur (1994), and P.O. Box Tinto Brass (1998).
Similar to Cult Epics' other Brass releases, the DVD includes a trailer gallery, stills, and like The Key, thematically indexed interview material, with the corpulent director providing an amusing anecdote of being burned in effigy by locals.
How many directors enjoy such a career high?
Other Tinto Brass releases from Cult Epics include Deadly Sweet / Col cuore in gola (1967), Attraction / The Artful Penetration of Barbara / Nerosubianco (1969), Howl, The / L’hurlo (1970), The Key / La Chiave (1983), Miranda (1985), All Ladies Do It / Così fan tutte (1992), Voyeur, The / L'Uomo che guarda (1994), Frivolous Lola (1998), Cheeky / Trasgredire (2000), and Private / Fallo! (2003).
© 2006 Mark R. Hasan