Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Le Amiche, 1955

From the dvd blurb of LE AMICHE (THE GIRLFRIENDS):

“Michelangelo Antonioni explores women’s evolving role in society and the conflict between love and career in this engrossing drama.
Clelia, a beautiful young woman, who lands her dream job in a glamorous Italian fashion house soon finds herself plunged into a cruel world of phony, shallow people. She joins a rich, snobbish circle of friends, but becomes increasingly disturbed by their spitefulness and insincerity. Clelia finds the only honesty in her life in the pure love offered by Carlo, a young socially impoverished assistant architect. But is it enough?
With its fascinating, ,multi-layered story, rich characterisations, and superb performances, this award-winning film remains one of Antonioni’s most beloved works.”

I would not quite go that far myself, but it is an engrossing, quite lively tale.

This mid-'50s Antonioni film, from a Cesare Pavese story, is set in Turin and instead of those landscapes with characters adrift of the later films, here we have a clutch of city girls, led by Momina (Yvonne Furneaux) the self-centred queen bee of the gang. Clelia (Eleonora Rossi Drago - no Vitti, but she had a respectable career) arrives from Rome to open a branch of the fashion house she works for, and finds the girl in the next room has attempted suicide (an echo of THE PASSENGER there); bossy Momina takes over and tries to find out why Rosetta tried to kill herself - surely over a man? Enter Lorenzo - one of those jaded philanderers who cannot commit to any one woman - living with Nene (Valentina Cortese) but also romancing Rosetta. Gabriele Ferzetti (Sandro in L'AVVENTURA) is just right here. Rosetta recovers, Clelia becomes part of the girlfriends. That long scene by the sea is very Antonioni as the group's tensions surface as they bicker and argue (and again prefigures that boat party exploring the island in L'AVVENTURA). The fashion house opens as tragedy strikes: Lorenzo finally tells Rosetta he does not need her or any woman and she runs away - next scene shows a body being recoved from the river (again, an echo to L'ECLISSE) - Rosetta has succeeded in her suicide attempt this time, as a distraught Clelia rounds on the others at the fashion show. Her own romance with the young architect Carlo collapses as she, rather meanly, decides she cannot settle for a "modest" house and be a suburban wife, but has to return to her big city lifestyle. It ends with her returning to Rome as Carlo watches unseen as the train leaves.

One could also see the girl who "disappears" - Rosetta with her suicide - as an earlier version of the Lea Massari character who leaves the group in L'AVVENTURA., perhaps she too cannot fit in with the other jaded, self-centred characters? This obviously prefigures a lot of the later Antonioni films and the mid-'50s fashions are nicely observed. Suso Cecchi D'Amico co-wrote the script (she died this year, aged 96), music by Giovanni Fusco, camera by Gianni Di Venanzo. Antonioni then went on to the desolate landscapes of the Po river for IL GRIDO in '57 (also reviewed on here) and then to L'AVVENTURA and that Monica Vitti era. Furneaux of course went on to LA DOLCE VITA, REPULSION and others including Hammer's THE MUMMY in 1959, and Valentina Cortese was a big hit in DAY FOR NIGHT in 1973.

No comments:

Post a Comment