Well, as wise women and men have been known to say throughout history, you just can’t have it all. As you probably know by now (if you read this blog regularly anyway), The Autry Museum’s Tribute to Sergio Leone kicks off the Saturday after next at the Alex Theater with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and that following Wednesday there will be a screening at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood of Once Upon a Time in the West, starring Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson and, of course, Claudia Cardinale. As you probably also have figured out by now, there is a certain level of anticipation of this event on my part that is, shall we say, elevated.
So I opened up my new calendar from the American Cinematheque last night and began perusing the usual assortment of delightful rarities and old favorites that the AC routinely offers, when my eye came to a dead halt on one item in particular:
“Please join us for the first event in this ongoing series sponsored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a rare opportunity for Los Angeles audiences to see the finest work by some of the leading performers of international and American cinema, and to hear these actors and actresses discuss their craft in a relaxed and informal setting. We’re thrilled to welcome to the Egyptian Theatre legendary Italian actress Claudia Cardinale…”
Ms. Cardinale will be there to introduce and discuss two of her lesser-known, but still terrific, movies: the rarely-seen Luchino Visconti drama Sandra (1965), which I have dreamt about for close to 25 years after having seen it in college, and Alexander Mackendrick’s Don’t Make Waves (1967), costarring Tony Curtis, a very underrated wide-screen romp which I was lucky enough to scoop off of Turner Classic Movies a few months ago.
Maybe you didn't get that. I'll say it again. She’ll be there, for rice cakes!
I was halfway out the door to race to the Egyptian Theater box office to get my ticket (It was 11:30 p.m., and the box office had long been closed for the night, therefore the previous half of this current sentence should be taken strictly as editorial elaboration for entertainment purposes only—Ed.) when I stopped to take note of the date of this engagement which I had no intention of missing.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005.
The same night as the screening of Once Upon a Time in the West, for which I already have tickets.
I had to wonder, was this some conspiracy of counterprogramming on the Cinematheque’s part to undermine the kick-off to the Autry festival? How could these two events be taking place on the same night without some evil influence at play somewhere behind the curtains?
But then I realized that it was merely a coincidence, bad timing for a bounty of cinema riches, and maybe those who missed out on tickets to see Leone at the Arclight would get to salve their wounds in the presence of Ms. Cardinale herself.
Now, some might say that the choice of seeing Claudia Cardinale on a giant silver screen, looking the way she looks as she informs the feminine aspect of Leone’s great movie-fevered western, is probably the better choice, rather than to have one’s fantasies interrupted, or perhaps dashed, by seeing the great beauty in person and bearing witness to the inevitable impressions that Time will have left on that beauty (and if you’ve seen the many interviews on the bonus disc of the Once Upon a Time in the West DVD you’re already familiar with what she looks like these days). And there’s no argument that Once Upon a Time in the West is a far better movie than either Visconti’s searing drama or Mackendrick’s wacky surf satire.
But if Cardinale’s looks are your main inspiration for seeing her films, then you’d be indisputably in as much clover with Sandra or Don’t Make Waves as you would with Leone’s masterpiece. Plus, you’d get to hear the actress speak about her career—a rare-enough privilege, to be sure— and see for yourself that, though even great beauties are not immune to the aging process, great beauty often has a way of shining through and transforming the inevitable into the insistently enviable.
In other words, Claudia Cardinale may be 67 years old, but she’s absolute proof, as is my mother-in-law (78), that beauty has no age limit, as long as we have eyes wide enough to take it in.
If you get to the Egyptian that night, bask in it, won't you, and leave me a note as to what it, and she, was like. Not that I won't have a pretty good idea already...