Francesca Bertini

It was nearly midnight, on the Art Showcase on the cable access channel that nobody watches. Wedged between the 1950’s symphony videos they show was The Last Diva about Italian silent movie goddess Francesca Bertini.

Amazing! She must have had a cast iron constutution. She made dozens of movies in the 1910’s & 20’s - a considerable feat since, unlike character actors who have similar numbers, she was the star and sometimes even the director. Then, at the time of the documentory (1982) when she was 90 years old, she climbed onto the parapets of Castle San Angelo in Rome to recreate a scene that she’d done over 60 years earlier.

But best of all was that there wasn’t a bit of Norma Desmond in her. When the documentarian made a minor error while interviewing her, instead of rebuking him for sloppy research on what any reasonable person would admit was arcane in 1982, her response was “Don’t you read the papers? Don’t you keep up with what’s been going on?” Like Norma Desmond, the world revolved around her, but unlike Norma Desmond, her personal world didn’t revolve around her movies: it revolved around her herself.

Netflix has The Last Diva in a double feature with her 1915 movie Assunta Spina. Y’all can just wait 'til I’m done with it.