A Matter of Time (1976)

PG | 98 mins | Melodrama | 1976

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HISTORY

The original title for the film, according to an 8 Jun 1973 HR news item, was Search for Beauty. Other working titles included: Film of a Memory, according to a 2 Jul 1973 DV brief; Carmela as noted in the 31 Aug 1973 HR ; Camilla, according to an item in the 4 Jun 1975 HR ; and Nina and the Contessa, as stated in the 3 Jul 1975 DV. On 22 Oct 1975, DV noted the final title change to A Matter of Time.
       After the beginning credits, a written prologue appears as follows: “This is a story that really happened a few years ago to a young country girl who one day left her home and her family and came to the big city in search of a new life…What you are about to see may appear like a fairy tale. As we all know some fairy tales come true. Into each life a magic moment comes that changes everything...That magic moment happened for Nina in just…A Matter Of Time.”
       End credits contain the following written statement: "Photographed in Rome, Venice, and at Cinestudi Dear-Rome."
       According to a news item in the 2 Jul 1973 DV, Frederic Raphael was signed to write the script, although Raphael does not receive any onscreen credit. An 8 Feb 1976 LAT feature stated that the character "Contessa Sanziani" was based on the real life Marquesa Luisa Casati, a woman who was an exotic personality of the 1900s. Like her character in the movie, ... More Less

The original title for the film, according to an 8 Jun 1973 HR news item, was Search for Beauty. Other working titles included: Film of a Memory, according to a 2 Jul 1973 DV brief; Carmela as noted in the 31 Aug 1973 HR ; Camilla, according to an item in the 4 Jun 1975 HR ; and Nina and the Contessa, as stated in the 3 Jul 1975 DV. On 22 Oct 1975, DV noted the final title change to A Matter of Time.
       After the beginning credits, a written prologue appears as follows: “This is a story that really happened a few years ago to a young country girl who one day left her home and her family and came to the big city in search of a new life…What you are about to see may appear like a fairy tale. As we all know some fairy tales come true. Into each life a magic moment comes that changes everything...That magic moment happened for Nina in just…A Matter Of Time.”
       End credits contain the following written statement: "Photographed in Rome, Venice, and at Cinestudi Dear-Rome."
       According to a news item in the 2 Jul 1973 DV, Frederic Raphael was signed to write the script, although Raphael does not receive any onscreen credit. An 8 Feb 1976 LAT feature stated that the character "Contessa Sanziani" was based on the real life Marquesa Luisa Casati, a woman who was an exotic personality of the 1900s. Like her character in the movie, she was known for her deathly white face and kohl-lined eyes. She was also famous for her flaming red hair and for keeping pet cheetahs with her at all times.
       A news item in 2 Mar 1976 HR stated that Italian stage actress, Anna Proclemer, was signed to appear in A Matter of Time, but her name does not appear in the credits.
       A few months before production, the 4 Jun 1975 HR reported that American International Pictures bought domestic distribution rights, while 20th Century-Fox acquired foreign distribution. According to a 24 Sep 1975 Var item, the film was budgeted at five million dollars with a fourteen-week shooting schedule in Venice and Rome, Italy. Filming began mid-Oct 1975, as announced in a 27 Oct 1975 LAT brief, and a 17 Mar 1976 Var item reported that principal photography was completed that week in Rome.
       As stated in a 28 Jan 1976 DV news brief, six days of rushes were ruined at the Technicolor Lab. An electric spark in the developing machine caused the accident and required all six days to be reshot at the cost of $250,000. The loss was covered by insurance.
       A review in the 25 Oct 1976 New York stated that Vincente Minnelli’s version of A Matter of Time was cut from three hours to ninety-seven minutes. According to a 1 Nov 1976 New Yorker article, the film was taken away from Minnelli before he could supervise sound dubbing and the musical score, and that the film was recut with stock footage of Rome replacing newly photographed scenes. It also claimed that the recut film’s prologue was originally its epilogue. A full-page letter appeared in the 13 Oct 1976 DV protesting the treatment of Vincente Minnelli over the final cut of A Matter of Time. The letter claimed that the version released was “a re-edited, revised, altered and distorted form that has nothing whatever to do with the original concept.” It went on to say that an artist must be allowed his vision and must be supported after the fact as well as before. The ad was signed by: Robert Aldrich, Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Hal Ashby, Peter Bogdanovich, Clarence Brown, Frank Capra, John Cassavetes, Brian De Palma, Allan Dwan, Blake Edwards, Milos Foreman, Bob Fosse, Samuel Fuller, John Hancock, Elia Kazan, Gene Kelly, Irving Lerner, George Lucas, Sidney Lumet, Alan Pakula, Arthur Penn, Otto Preminger, Jean Renior, Martin Ritt, Herbert Ross, Mark Rydell, Martin Scorsese, Joan Mickland Silver, Steven Spielberg, Billy Wilder, Gene Wilder, and Robert Wise. An article in 16 Oct 1976 LAT stated that Martin Scorsese organized the protests in the Hollywood trade papers that appeared 13 Oct 1976. American International Pictures refused to comment on the dispute, but Rona Barrett of ABC-TV stated that A Matter of Time was a bad film and could not be made into a good one, therefore it was the wrong film on which to take such a stand.
       A 22 Sep 1981 HR brief reported that Poleroy Ltd. Signed an agreement with Miramax International TV for the U.S. and Canada release of A Matter of Time on pay cable and home video.
       The film marked father and daughter, Vincent and Liza Minnelli's first time working together. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Jul 1973.
---
Daily Variety
3 Jul 1975.
---
Daily Variety
22 Oct 1975.
---
Daily Variety
28 Jan 1976.
---
Daily Variety
13 Oct 1976
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Aug 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jun 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Oct 1976.
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Feb 1976
Calendar, p. 34.
Los Angeles Times
8 Oct 1976.
p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
16 Oct 1976.
---
New York
25 Oct 1976.
---
New York Times
8 Oct 1976.
p. 8.
New Yorker
1 Nov 1976.
---
Variety
24 Sep 1975.
---
Variety
17 Mar 1976.
---
Variety
6 Oct 1976.
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Vincente Minnelli film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Pres/Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cam asst
Photographer
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Prop master
Scenic artist
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Miss Minnelli's and Miss Bergman's jewels by
MUSIC
Mus comp
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Hair stylist
Mis Minnellli's and Miss Bergman's make-up des by
Miss Minnelli's and Miss Bergman's hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod admin
Scr girl
Dial coach
Prod secy
Prods secy
In charge of post prod
Prod exec
Prod services by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Film of Memory by Maurice Druon (New York, 1955).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"A Matter of Time," music and lyrics by Fred Ebb and John Kander
"The Me I Haven't Met Yet," music and lyrics by Fred Ebb and John Kander
"Do It Again," music and lyrics by George Gershwin and B. G. DeSilva.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Nina
Film of a Memory
Search for Beauty
Carmela
Nina and the Contessa
Release Date:
1976
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 7 October 1976
Los Angeles opening: 8 October 1976
Copyright Claimant:
American International Productions
Copyright Date:
23 September 1976
Copyright Number:
LP46954
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor®
Lenses/Prints
Camera equipment by Panavision; Movielab
Duration(in mins):
98
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
Italy, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26549
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

As reporters wait for a movie star named Nina to arrive, they watch footage of her latest movie and listen to her rendition of the song “A Matter of Time.” The film’s director, Antonio Vicari, claims that Nina is on her way, but Nina is in the back of a Rolls Royce with her lover. As she checks herself in an ornate hand mirror, her lover asks the story behind the object and she remembers when she was nineteen years old and she took a bus from her hometown to a second rate hotel in Rome, Italy. In the lobby she finds her cousin, Valentina, who has found Nina a job at the hotel as a maid. Starting her new job, Nina cleans the room of a screenwriter named Mario, who screams at her for touching his papers and disturbing him as he is working on a rape scene. Meanwhile, the seventy-two-year-old Contessa Sanziani, arranges for flowers to be sent to her hotel room then sells the last of her jewelry. On returning to the hotel, the Contessa is informed by the manager that she must leave unless she pays her bill. Although she pays, she tells the manager that he is insulting. Upstairs in the Contessa’s room, Nina cleans and finds a box of portraits painted by famous artists, but she hears footsteps, and puts the paintings back under the Contessa’s bed. Later, Count Sanziani visits the Contessa and is appalled by her living conditions. When he tells her that he heard that the she was ill, the Contessa replies that’s she was expecting him. Sanziani ... +


As reporters wait for a movie star named Nina to arrive, they watch footage of her latest movie and listen to her rendition of the song “A Matter of Time.” The film’s director, Antonio Vicari, claims that Nina is on her way, but Nina is in the back of a Rolls Royce with her lover. As she checks herself in an ornate hand mirror, her lover asks the story behind the object and she remembers when she was nineteen years old and she took a bus from her hometown to a second rate hotel in Rome, Italy. In the lobby she finds her cousin, Valentina, who has found Nina a job at the hotel as a maid. Starting her new job, Nina cleans the room of a screenwriter named Mario, who screams at her for touching his papers and disturbing him as he is working on a rape scene. Meanwhile, the seventy-two-year-old Contessa Sanziani, arranges for flowers to be sent to her hotel room then sells the last of her jewelry. On returning to the hotel, the Contessa is informed by the manager that she must leave unless she pays her bill. Although she pays, she tells the manager that he is insulting. Upstairs in the Contessa’s room, Nina cleans and finds a box of portraits painted by famous artists, but she hears footsteps, and puts the paintings back under the Contessa’s bed. Later, Count Sanziani visits the Contessa and is appalled by her living conditions. When he tells her that he heard that the she was ill, the Contessa replies that’s she was expecting him. Sanziani is surprised, considering they have not seen each other for forty years, and the Contessa says that she is not coming back to him as she remains true to Gabriele d’Orazio. Sanziani knows d’Orazio is long dead and realizes the Contessa is delusional. When the Count leaves, he tells the hotel manager that if anything happens to the Contessa, he does not wish to be involved. Meanwhile, Nina introduces herself to the Contessa, who is staring at herself in the ornate hand mirror. The Contessa thinks Nina is a servant she had in the past named Jeanne and tells her that she is pretty. When Nina says that she has a birthmark, the Contessa promises the girl that important men will someday risk damnation just to kiss it, and encourages Nina to grasp what she can from life as life never gives back. The next day, the screenwriter, Mario, has lunch with the director, Vicari, and some reporters. When the Contessa arrives at the restaurant, a reporter asks who she is and Vicari explains that she was once the “love goddess” of Europe and was a muse to poets and artists. Intrigued, the reporter interviews the Contessa about her past and she explains that “no one is dead unless we want them to be.” Later, the Contessa dresses Nina in a bright orange sari and instructs her to flirt with men and to be proud of her body. Although Nina wishes to emulate the Contessa, the Contessa admonishes her to never be a copy because “the world worships originals.” She then tells Nina to find a rich man, take him on a stroll past the jewelry store, and point at a diamond in the shop window; the man will buy it for her. When the Contessa gives Nina the sari, the girl refuses to accept it unless the Contessa stops calling her Jeanne and calls her by her real name. The Contessa smiles and calls her Nina. Nina goes out and imagining that the shabby hotel is elegant and she is a queen. As she returns to the hotel with a wealthy man, she walks past the jewelry store and points to a diamond. The man sends his servant in for the stone, but Nina runs back to her bedroom and hides under the covers, smiling. The next day, the Contessa reminisces about walking into a casino with Tewfik, a rich lover, to play baccarat and seeing an older woman. She wonders if she looks that old now. The Contessa tells Nina that a fortuneteller once prophesized that she would have hardships at age seventy-two, then realizes that she is indeed living in poverty. Nina calms the Contessa, promising that she will never leave her. Just then the hotel manager tells Nina that the Contessa is going to be evicted on Monday night. When he leaves, Nina tells the Contessa how much she means to her and implores her to keep her memories alive. As the Contessa finishes her story about the casino, Nina pictures herself as the Contessa. Later, Nina finds stock certificates in the Contessa’s room and goes to Mario, who throws her on the bed and pretends to rape her for inspiration for his screenplay. Frustrated that he is unable to get the rape scene right, Mario goes back to writing as Nina straightens her dress and shows Mario the stocks. The writer explains that they are from 1903 and are probably worthless. When Nina reports that the Contessa is going to be evicted unless she comes up with money to pay the hotel, Mario is pleased because he finds the Contessa insane, but Nina argues that that old lady has more vivacity than Mario has between his legs. Nina then goes to the bank and finds that the stocks are all worthless except for the shares of the Bank of the Congo. For these, Nina is given a small fortune. She pays the Contessa’s hotel bill, and puts the remaining money in a safe place. Later, Nina goes to a restaurant where Mario and Vicari are discussing their movie. Noticing Nina, Vicari asks her to come to his studio that Thursday for a screen test. Nina returns to the hotel, where the Contessa tells her about a great ball she once threw in Venice and Nina again pictures herself as the Contessa. At the close of a ball, Nina waves goodbye to her friends as they leave by gondola. Kaiser Wilhelm takes his leave and asks if Nina is free the next day. Although she tells him no, she agrees to meet next week. Nina goes into an opulent bedroom to find Charles Van Maar, the richest man in Italy, lying on a round bed. When he asks Nina if she loves him for his money, she says yes, the same way she loves a musician for his music or a poet for his poetry, noting that men should be loved for what sets them apart. She tells Charles that they are allies as they bring something invaluable to the other. That Thursday, the Contessa tells the hotel manager she is leaving for The Hotel Minerva to stay with her deceased lover, d’Orazio. As Nina searches the hotel for her missing friend, the Contessa finds a hotel that she thinks is the Minerva and marches inside, demanding to see d’Orazio as they are leaving for Paris, France. When the clerk tells her there is no guest by that name, she slaps him. A bellman walks by with luggage, which the Contessa mistakes for her lover’s bags. As she rushes outside, she is struck by a passing car. Meanwhile, Nina goes to the studio for her screen test but tries to phone the Contessa at the hotel. Nina’s confusion and anxiety cause her to her freeze up during her screen test, but Mario convinces Vicari to let him direct her. Mario tells Nina the cameras are reloading and asks about the Contessa, provoking Nina to give an impassioned speech about how the Contessa, who never cared about money, worshipped genius, and made men feel like Gods. As Nina breaks down, Vicari is enraptured. Returning to the hotel, Nina learns that the Contessa is in the hospital and she rushes to find her friend, but a nun tells Nina that the Contessa is dead. Remembering the Contessa’s words, Nina says “no one is dead unless we want them to be.” She finds the ornate mirror amongst the Contessa’s belongings and stares at her reflection. Returning to her present life, Nina stares into the mirror as her Rolls Royce drives through a horde of fans. As Nina steps out of her car, a young girl says she wants to be like Nina, but Nina tells her to be herself, “because the world worships the original."
+

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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