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Posts Tagged ‘Jessica Cressy’

Luca Marinelli

“MARTIN EDEN”  My rating: B- (Ooens Oct. 16 at the Kansas City Tivoli at the Nelson Atkins’ Virtual Cinema)

129 minutes | No MPAA rating

Most of us know Jack London for  his perennially popular adventure yarns The Call of the Wild and White Fang.

But London scholars — and the author himself — have always gravitated to the 1909 novel Martin Eden as the ultimate Jack London statement.

In this semi-autobiographical story an impoverished young man educates himself, emerges as a writer of note,  and ultimately kills himself when he finds hollow the success he has always sought. (The novel has been viewed by some as a prediction of London’s mysterious death in 1916).

The book was set in turn-of-the-last-century Oakland.  Director Pietro Marcello and co-writer Maurizio Braucci have transplanted the yarn to Naples.  The change isn’t just geographical…this “Martin Eden” unfolds in two phases, the first a non-specific early 20th century milieu, the second an apparently modern one.

The resulting film is gripping in its first hour, thanks largely to star Luca Marinelli, who oozes early Sam Shepard machismo/sensitivity. The second half, though, bogs down in political navel gazing.

We encounter Martin first as a sailor working on a freighter. He’s a charming fellow, popular with the ladies, and exhibits a good heart, as when he rescues a young man from a brutal dockside security guard.

That act of kindness leads to his introduction to the wealthy Orsini family and their beautiful daughter, Elena (Jessica Cressy). Even Elena’s bourgeoise parents are charmed by this hunky proletarian — especially when he reveals behind his workingman exterior a probing mind, eager for education.

Bent on self-improvement, Martin takes on Elena as his tutor.   Romantic attraction follows — though the movie is coy about whether the relationship is overtly sexual.

All this takes place in a setting that could be anywhere from the 1920s to the early ’50s…the costumers and production designers are intriguingly nonspecific.

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