A Matter of Time (1976) Poster

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A tantalizing what-might-have-been
Capboy22 September 1999
Ingrid Bergman is excellent in this unfortunate misfire, gruesomely "re-edited" by the clueless American-International studio. Vincente Minnelli disowned the finished project, and other directors (such as Martin Scorsese) took out ads in Variety protesting the re-cutting of the project. Liza's performance is all over the place, although she does have a few affecting moments. Overall, an intriguing mess.
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Take with a grain of salt
gentoo8 January 2001
If you're not a Liza Minnelli fan, don't even bother because despite the other talent involved, this is her show (and not a very good one -- father Vincente Minnelli, the director, very wisely disowned the edited picture). This isn't one to watch for Minnelli's acting (like "The Sterile Cuckoo" or "Cabaret") or even her charm ("Arthur," "Stepping Out"), but her voice is incredible. While the songs (except for Gershwin's "Do It Again") are middling, Minnelli's delivery makes you forget how silly the story and her character are. Mother Judy had better songs to sing, but Liza's instrument was phenomenal at its peak.

On the plus side is Ingrid Bergman as the aging contessa. She's so at ease and has so much fun as the grande dame that it's impossible not to love her -- again. Reunited briefly with Charles Boyer more than 30 years after their first pairing (in "Gaslight"), she has on-screen history working for her in her playful scene with him. (Watch the melodramatic "Arch of Triumph" if you really want to see Bergman and Boyer connect.)

Another reason to watch is for the film debut of Bergman's daughter, Isabella Rossellini. She's barely in "A Matter of Time" -- and you can barely tell it's her under her nun's habit -- but seeing her luminous face next to her mother's has the feeling of the passing of a torch, or at the very least a blessing. To give you an idea of the kind of cornball humor at work here, Rossellini's character is called Sister Pia; the actress's real-life sister, of course, is Bergman's daughter Pia Lindstrom.
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Do it Again
cameo-kirby6 June 2007
I saw this when it first came out and haven't seen it since. I do remember that some of it was typically Minnelli-beautifully composed and gorgeous, other parts were obviously stock footage and not very attractive at all. The whole film had a disjointed air to it which wasn't surprising since it was well known before the movie was released that "the powers that be" took the film out of Minnelli's hands in post-production. What a shame-even if the film wasn't first rate I certainly would've preferred to see Minnelli's version. I vividly remember the "Do it Again" number. I thought it was beautifully done and the equal of Minnelli's work in his heyday. I've never seen it included in any of the documentaries on Minnelli's work and it should be. Just because the movie as a whole isn't perfect it doesn't mean that some parts aren't worthwhile.
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Be swept away to a world of fantasy
hepworth229 January 2001
The biggest tragedy of this film is that American Independent Pictures pulled the rug on the ageing Minnelli during his directorial work. Rumours abound about how much over budget he was - but then AIP always funded cheap productions - and this could never be.

The original French novel is languorous, passionate, compelling and exciting, telling the story of how a country girl goes to work in a hotel and meets the Countess Santziani, a legendary star in her day, but who has fallen on hard times.

Bergman plays the role of the Countess with all her usual dignity, but having to let go to be the near-mad Countess. She is fabulously over the top and Liza plays the awe-struck Nina with her usual flair, finally rising to the stardom that comes her way. The cameo role of Charles Boyer adds a touch of period nostalgia.

When seeing the film, it is easy to see Minnelli's rich direction, what a pity that it is intercut with stock footage, which clashes horribly with the passion that Minnelli could still bring to directing his daughter and Bergman.

The story is fantastic - but so is the novel. With a couple of songs by Kander and Ebb, it's a pity that it could not have been completed by the late master.

Still, it is a rare treat - and beats a number of other musicals from that same period.
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More interesting for the actors than the plot
historian127 June 2004
It is not hard to understand why this movie has never been released on anything but 16mm, which is how I came to see it. This movie is a bit too eccentric to actually accomplish it's purpose. The acting is much too stylized and emphatic with the plot rather weak. The interest in this film lies in the fact that has many firsts and lasts. It is Charles Boyer's last film, and Isabella Rossellini's first. It is also the last film that Vincent Minnelli directed, and close to the end of Ingrid Bergman's career. Other than that there is little to recommend it, but it does have some interesting footage of Rome. It is about a chamber maid who gains employment in Rome taking care of a declining socialite who once strutted across the world stage but who is now on the rocks. She is unable to accept being a has-been and continues to live in her mind as though she is still the consort of emperors. Her new chamber maid Liza Minnelli tries to support her as well as she can, although it is a hopeless task.
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Beautiful and haunting music score by Nino Oliviero
fab_max1 February 2004
Nina, as it is known in Italy, is probably not a masterpiece, but it is full of enchanting and affecting moments, mostly involving Bergman's grand countess. There's a number of concessions to the fashionable cinematic effects of the time (the '70s weren't the best of times for period recreation unless you were Visconti or Kubrick) but this is a film with a genuine and generous heart - best expressed by the beautiful, moving and haunting score composed by the great Nino Oliviero (of MORE fame). It's one of the best music scores for a film ever and a particular favourite of mine: it will stay in your heart and memory long after you have seen NINA.
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There's a good movie in here SOMEWHERE
moonspinner5523 February 2001
Director Vincente Minnelli's final bow--one that was taken out of his hands by nervous studio chiefs and rearranged completely, resulting in disaster. The main plot, about an eccentric Contessa taking an Italian chambermaid under her wing, is fairly intriguing and well-performed (especially by a luminous Ingrid Bergman). However, the film, as it now stands, stupidly uses all the main action as a flashback, framed by useless footage of the chambermaid--now an international celebrity--riding around in limos and giving gooey advice to fawning youngsters. It's a near-travesty. I did enjoy the bits of fantasy that allow Liza Minnelli's character to travel about in her imagination, putting herself in the Contessa's place; and much of Geoffrey Unsworth's cinematography is truly evocative (like all those black birds taking flight at once as seen from Bergman's window). But the bungled editing doesn't allow this thing to ever come together or absorb the audience. It's no wonder this was a box-office failure. *1/2 from ****
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You so want to love it, but.....
mark.waltz31 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I recall seeing this film years ago on home video in its Magnetic Video release that wasn't a great transfer. Seeing this now on television, I felt like I was seeing it for the first time. It starts off really promising with a memorable Kander and Ebb title song for Liza to sing over a montage of her in some bedazzling costumes. There is some incredible art decoration, lovely use of location footage, and the presence of not only the unstoppable Liza Minnelli but Ingrid Bergman as well. Bring in Charles Boyer for a cameo as well as Bergman's lovely daughter Isabella Rosellini as a nun, and you have at least an artistic curio. This is the equivalent of "Yolanda and the Thief" for Fred Astaire and "The Pirate" for Gene Kelly and Judy Garland as another one of director Vincent Minnelli's artistic flops.

The story surrounds an Italian movie star who while gazing into a looking glass reflects on what brought her the fame she has received. It is all owed to an eccentric countess played by Ingrid Bergman who took an interest in Minnelli's young chambermaid on her very first day working at a rather delapedated Rome hotel. Ingrid makes Liza very glamorous and ultimately changes her life. This is combination Cinderella Story and Fellini movie. I can see why it flopped, but I also think it is a bit of a sleeper, a film of much artistic merit that had it been the film of Minnelli's dream it could have been clearer and less choppy. The real problem though is the sound recording which actually makes it sound as if it could have been dubbed. It's like a birthday cake with candles but no frosting. I don't think it warrants the disaster status it had at the time, or as a film that endangered Liza's film career. Made between the funny but sometimes overly silly "Lucky Lady" and the slightly overstuffed "New York, New York", I feel it came to movies at a time when a Vincent Minnelli movie was simply too old fashioned for movie viewers who wanted stuff like "Rocky", "Network", "Taxi Driver", and even Barbra Streisand's remake of "A Star is Born". I feel Liza should be proud of what did come out of this film as while it may not be what her father endeavored, she looks lovely and acts wonderfully, and Bergman is also wonderful as well. It appears that much of 1979's Billy Wilder film "Fedora" could have been influenced by this much as it was by his "Sunset Boulevard".
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An unfortunate wrap up for Vincente Minnelli
jjnxn-112 September 2015
So much talent behind and in front of the camera to lay such a big egg. The whole thing reeks of decay and that seeps into the tenor of the film. There's no strong narrative flow to the film just a collection of scenes that lead nowhere. Liza is all over the place and only registers in a positive way twice, in the final hospital scene and most of all during the musical performance of the song Do It Again-really her only powerful moment. Of interest more for its cast of second generation performers than any merit or entertainment value of the actual film. Beside Liza there's a brief appearance of Isabella Rossellini in her screen bow and as Liza's cousin Tina Aumont, who was the daughter of B movie star Maria Montez and Jean-Pierre Aumont. Nonsensical mess was the unfortunate swan song of both Vincente Minnelli and Charles Boyer. Such a missed opportunity.
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WORTH A LOOK, With All That Talent
Harold_Robbins17 December 2010
A big disappointment, but with the talent involved, this movie couldn't not be worth a look - Bergman, the Minnellis, Boyer's brief cameo, a John Gay screenplay (which evidently went awry and became something of a muddled mess) and Geoffrey Unsworth (though time hasn't been kind to his cinematography, which looks murky now). Something was definitely missing here, and I had trouble keeping track of who was who among several of the characters. Bergman was an interesting combination of Auntie Mame and The Madwoman of Chaillot. Liza's in great voice here: the two Kander and Ebb songs aren't bad at all, and "Do It Again" was superb (we know who she must have been thinking of), but where do the songs fit into this muddle? Was it intended as a semi-musical? And why does Liza Minnelli (as Nina) suddenly take Bergman's place as the Countess in the 'flashbacks' - are these supposed to be scenes from Nina's film, or merely in Nina's head? Also, the movie is supposedly set in 1949 but has no period feel or look at all - it looks like 1976. The soundtrack - music and dialog both - sounds like it was almost entirely post-synched, and is reminiscent of one of those bad Italian sword-and-sandal or horror movies of the 1960s or, what's worse, like one of those imported "art films" (the X-rated variety).
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Is a wonderfull and poetic history! a magical picture!
patricio69ar10 December 2001
A matter of Time (NINA) is a film for dreamers. Yes, the originals reviews was bads, maybe because there not a film for this time. Is a magical movie without age, with a terrific performace of Liza Minelli and Ingrid Bergman. I have the luck to see the film in cinema in a retrospective of Vincent Minelli and I love the film. Maybe the films is not a jewel of the cinematography, but have all the magic of greatest talents like Liza, Ingrid and Vincent.
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Vincente Minnelli's A Matter of Time with daughter Liza is well worth a look despite flaws
tavm19 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Okay, after years of reading how Vincente Minnelli's final movie, which happened to star his daughter Liza, was taken out of his hands by the powers-that-be at American International and resulting in a mess panned by critics and ignored by the public, I finally DVRed A Matter of Time from the THIS movie channel and having watched this, I have to say that while there are some flaws, it was still fascinating to view and I was pretty entertained by it. Reminiscing in flashback as a now popular movie star, Liza plays a newly arrived maid in a formerly grand hotel who gets acquainted with a former countess played by Ingrid Bergman who seems to live in the past. Other notable appearances include Charles Boyer as Bergman's former husband and, in her debut role, Ingrid's daughter Isabella Rossellini as a nun who presides over her as she dies. I did get a little confused when I realized that the flashback was supposed to take place in the mid-20th century yet I see mostly modern cars and hairstyles of the '70s during that time and afterwards. Despite this-not to mention some of the Rome scenes that looked like inserts since Liza doesn't appear in them-her father's touches still show through as recognizably his. And it's always a pleasure to see Ms. Minnelli singing whether new tunes by John Kander and Fred Ebb or a classic one by George Gershwin and Buddy DeSylva called "Do It Again". I also thought Liza was quite good under her father's direction and was made to look great with the clothing she wore. The print I saw wasn't great looking and the dubbing seemed a little off at some points. Still, if you're a film buff curious about this last work from Vincente Minnelli and Charles Boyer, I do recommend-with some reservations-A Matter of Time. P.S. As a native of Chicago, Ill., I have to acknowledge Mr. Minnelli's roots there as well.
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The Oscar curse struck Liza pretty quickly, it would seem
efitness18 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
It took Merchant-Ivory several decades before they were able to reassemble their original cut of 1975's "The Wild Party" after American-International Pictures butchered it. Vincent Minnelli's last film, "A Matter of Time" suffered a similar editing fate at the hands of the almost pathologically self-destructive American-International, but I seriously don't think choppy editing is the only thing wrong with this film. Nostalgia aside, Minnelli was clearly losing his touch and his later films doggedly ignored the reality of film styles changing. "A Matter of Time" looks like it was made in 1956, not 1976.

Hamstrung by very very bad and intrusive post-dubbing that makes all the actors sound like robots and the dialog ring like clanging tin to the ear, "A Matter of Time" also boasts some wildly uneven performances, questionable aesthetic choices (that's an awfully tailored suit for a peasant girl to be heading off to Rome in, and what's with Ingrid Bergman's raccoon eyes?) and a storyline that is not nearly as interesting as the director seems to think.

This one-time-only collaboration between Liza and her esteemed father provides Liza with one of her worst screen performances ever. All wide eyed and photographed unflatteringly (the camera is kinder to her in "New York, New York") Liza plays a mousy chambermaid in 1946 Italy who comes under the wing of a batty Countess (Ingrid Bergman) who, through her reveries and ramblings, inspires Liza to be a swan. Aside from quick flashes of her flawless comedy timing, Liza's performance has virtually no emotional authenticity.

The countess' life is presented as an example of one lived fully, but honestly, the film plays like a cautionary tale against wasting your youth coasting by on your looks and latching onto talented, rich men without ever developing any talents or riches of your own.

The acting is all over the map, the characterizations are inconsistent, plot points are distasteful (what's up with the screenwriter character and his rape movie?), and the songs by Kander and Ebb are most unfortunate (though the musical score by Nino Oliviero is terrific). Even the much beloved "Do it Again" sequence, the lone flash of inspiration in the entire film, is marred by Liza in a black Little Orphan Annie wig and groaning embarrassingly and making bug-eyed faces while conveying sexual ecstasy.

The one thing that seemed to keep Minnelli's attention is the art direction, which is sumptuous.

Even films that are grand miscalculations can be interesting, and while not very good, "A Matter of Time" is certainly fascinating for its cast, missed potential and flawed legacy.
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As others have explained; it is a wonderful campy mess.
charlesw-17 May 2011
All of the production problems and the casting peccadilloes not withstanding A Matter of Time – 1976, is fun, fun, fun. This is really the highest form of camp. Sally Bowles as the sterile cuckoo goes to a fancy dress ball with bits of existentialism sprinkled hither and yon which was the angst, albeit upbeat, style of the mid-1970s. It is as if everybody is in on it except these condemnatory reviewers and possibility anyone under thirty-nine-years of age. We have to know that Vincent Minnelli and his daughter at some point knew exactly the effect this would have on all. I can't be sure it started out with this in mind but at some point during production camping it up became the intention of the day. Was it subconscious? We could try to get a perspective from Miss Minnelli but there is no need to bother her, really. It's thirty-five-years later and I am surprised you guys don't get it. It is quite simply, the highest of ball-gowned-Marie-Antoinette-wigged-Erte-donned, high camp.
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A Matter of Time...Until this Film Ends *
edwagreen15 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Even Vincente Minnelli disavowed this mess. He claimed that the editing was botched. Ditto for the entire film.

Were the characters dubbed? The sound made it appear that way.

Minnelli recounts how she made it big, starting off as an upstairs maid and meeting up with the Contessa, played by Ingrid Bergman. The Contessa's life has passed her by, but she takes an immediate liking to the Minnelli character and teaches her about life through her perspective. "Don't copy one's life. Be original," she states. If they thought this film were original, forget it. The Contessa is in the throws of dementia and she acts that out all the way, with a tragic ending resulting.

Charles Boyer, as the Contessa's ex-husband, appears in one scene with Bergman. They must have both thought they were back in the throws of 1944's "Gaslight." For that one, Bergman copped an Oscar, for this she went out with a colossal mess!

A lot of the film's fault is with continuity. I guess that was what Minnelli was referring to with editing.
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Dreams and charity
bkoganbing6 March 2018
Vincente Minnelli in his farewell film as director got to direct daughter Liza. When the film opened up with Liza doing a full production number, I thought we had another Cabaret for Liza. Sad to say that that number and another one Liza did are the highlights of the film. When the players stop singing and dancing and get down to dialog, the film becomes rather pedestrian.

I don't think Ingrid Bergman ever got a handle on her character as the eccentric countess living on dreams and charity. Possibly Minnelli was concentrating too much on his daughter. Minnelli a country girl from rural Italy comes to Rome and gets a job as a chambermaid in a posh hotel courtesy of her cousin Tina Aumont. There Ingrid Bergman playing a slightly daft countess kind of takes her under her wing. Liza blossoms but Ingrid becomes more daft, Ingrid is just this side of Norma Desmond. Minnelli goes up and Ingrid goes down.

In addition to being the last film Vincente Minnelli directe this was also the farewell performance of Charles Boyer who co-starred with Bergman in Gaslight and Arch Of Triumph when they were big box office. Boyer plays a brief role as a former husband of Bergman, stopping by to see how she was doing.

See this one for Liza and her numbers.
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liza minelli in "a matter of time"
kogerswifey795 January 2011
"if you're not an original, you are nothing." OK, so i don't remember if that was word for word but hands down, the best quote ever. i loved it! but that being said, i do think this movie could've been done a little better. yeah, we get that nina got to be as great as the contessa said she would be from how the beginning of the movie starts and through various flash-forward clips throughout, but i would've liked to see how nina got to be that way after the contessa died. or even to just see more moments of nina and the contessa together, the contessa teaching her "the ways," because there weren't really enough scenes or incidences that showed the two together, only that nina grew to love and really care for the contessa. but i did love the movie none-the-less. i want to be a contessa when i grow up!
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