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Essential viewing. Anna Magnani plays the head of a commedia dell'arte troupe touring colonial Peru in the early 18th century who dallies with three lovers (Paul Campbell, Ricardo Rioli, and Duncan Lamont) in this pungent, gorgeous color masterpiece by Jean Renoir, shot in breathtaking images by his nephew Claude (1952). In fact, this filmic play-within-a-play, based on a Prosper Merimee stage work, is a celebration of theatricality and a meditation on the beauties and mysteries of acting—it's both a key text and pleasurable filmmaking at its near best. Though generally regarded as a French film, the original and better version is in English, which is almost invariably what gets shown in the states. With Odoardo Spadaro, Nada Fiorelli, and Jean Debucourt.

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