Daisy Miller (Peter Bogdanovich / U.S., 1974)

The first shot (shoes waiting to be polished in a hotel's cavernous halls) establishes the Henry James texture, Peter Bogdanovich then purposely rattles it via American screwball-comedy tempo. The touring Yanks stroll the veranda of Old Europe, young Randolph Miller (James McMurtry) is a tough brat in search of sweets, Daisy Miller (Cybill Shepherd) drops by packing parasol and Katherine Hepburn's gibbering from Bringing Up Baby. Winterbourne (Barry Brown) is beguiled, as a dandy who's "lived too long in foreign parts" would be, though his aunt (Mildred Natwick), thoroughly well-versed in the rules of the game, warns about mingling with a girl "of the last crudity." Daisy is the garrulous force of vulgarity storming a procession of Vermeer tableaux, indifferent to Byron and delighted by society parties; Winterbourne can't decide if she's innocent or a tease, the camera dollies in for an evanescent exchange of looks at the Pinchio plaza, where Renoir's puppet theater makes a telling appearance. No less than The Last Picture Show, this is a lament for an age couched in a cinephile's memory -- a song for "the days that are gone," fitting that the protagonist resembles both Bogdanovich and Proust. The heroine's entrance into aristocratic doyenne Eileen Brennan's drawing room is composed in deep-focus and reflected in a mirrored wall, her malarial demise is acknowledged from a distance through a scrim; Visconti and Wyler are the presiding models, Welles is also present in an angle or two. Reviewers decided that the director had had enough acclaim and focused on the dilemma of a wunderkind toying with an underwhelming Galatea, in the process missing Cloris Leachman's fluttery hypochondria, Duilio Del Prete's mangling of "Pop Goes the Weasel," Shepherd's intonation of the word "poky" and swift flash of hurt in the dark at the Coliseum. A slender recital, yet more affecting than the entire Merchant-Ivory canon. With George Morfogen.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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