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Murder Slim Review: WAIT UNTIL SPRING, BANDINI
A 1989 FILM BY DOMINIQUE DERUDDERE

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WAIT UNTIL SPRING, BANDINI is a strange reunion for actors who have appeared in previous Charles Bukowski and John Fante adaptations. Ornelia Muti (from TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS) is in there as Arturo's mother, Josse De Pauw (Harry Voss/Henry Chinaski in CRAZY LOVE) is the grocer Mr. Voss (why Voss again?), and ooh there's Faye Dunaway (Wanda in BARFLY) playing the rich and randy spinster who tries to lure Arturo's father away from his family.

Fante's original novel was one of the rare books he wrote in the third person. But the book's focus is still firmly on his alter-ego, the young Arturo. In the novel Arturo survives the freezing winter through his unrequited obsession for his classmate Rose and his dreams of becoming a baseball slugger. Those dreams get him through the conflicts with his parents and I always felt the title referred to Arturo. "Wait Until Spring..." for love to grow, for baseball to start.

Well, that's all in the movie but Arturo becomes much more of a background figure. The attention moves to his father Svevo (played by Joe Mantegna). He's also waiting for spring because, as a bricklayer, he can't get the work in the cold. So he jumps on the chance to work for Dunaway's recently widowed but still attractive Mrs. Hildegarde.

Despite the shift in focus, WAIT UNTIL SPRING, BANDINI is still recognisably the book. Deruddere culls most of the middle of Fante's novel but the key themes are all there. Love, family, religion, money, class, desperation. And I know that a movie has to condense its source material to fit into 100 minutes or so. You're deluding yourself if you expect everything to be in there. It's just the choices made and the filmmaking rarely spark into life.

The storyline has too much focus on the tedious love triangle between Svevo, Hildegarde and Maria. (The poster below is a big clue to that.) Unfortunately, Svevo comes across as too much of a comical schlub, as Mantegna overdoes his confused gurning. Hildegarde is a too one-dimensional rich widower, and Maria's feistiness is only evident in one powerful scene when she sticks up to Svevo. Arturo's blind hope and Catholic fears are only clunkily addressed in a daft dream sequence and a couple of confessions. The filmmkers must have balked at the idea of making a grown-up film about a kid, so they took the easy option of focussing on the adults.

Wait Until Spring, Bandini Poster

The main killer, though, is the film looks and sounds listless. It's shot and lit so flatly it could be a TV movie. This is probably intentional by Deruddere, to evoke the dreariness of their winter lives, but a hell of a lot more close-ups would certainly help the drama.

The film briefly kicks into life in a few scenes. Arturo's bickering with his brothers including one who wants to be a priest are funny and ballsy. The shots of Svevo trudging in the snow are relentless and the better for it. And Svevo's friend Rocco (played by the always great Burt Young) brings fun and life into the movie.

WAIT UNTIL SPRING, BANDINI is a pain in the ass to find, and costly when you do. Don't bother. It's not awful - it's a step up from TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS - but it's even more tedious because it's simply mediocre. Give Deruddere's CRAZY LOVE a shot before this. I watched WAIT UNTIL SPRING, BANDINI so you don't have to... it's my good deed for the day.

Review by Steve Hussy
MurderSlim.com