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, 31 March 2011

Those first two Antonioni films ...

CHRONICLE OF A LOVE AFFAIR – Antonioni’s debut in 1950 turns out to be a variation on a favorite noir theme – that of two lovers planning to dispose of her wealthy husband who stands between them. Here the husband brings it on himself by deciding to investigate his young wife’s mysterious past, as they married hurriedly during the war. She is Paola - Lucia Bose [a former Miss Italy, who went on to marry bull-fighter Luis Dominguin], a very attractive young beauty of the time, pre-Lollobrigida and Loren or Antonioni's later muse Monica Vitti.

Those expecting the usual Antonioni ennui won’t find it here, as it is a fast-moving melodrama with great black and white images, as well as that score by Giovanni Fusco. The private eye traces Paola’s friends and her previous lover Guido (Massimo Girotto) and it turns out they have a guilty secret over the death of his then girlfriend whom they did not help when she fell down a liftshaft. Guilt had driven them apart, but they now come together again and resume their passion – she though is rich, he is poor. Finally they decide to kill the husband but they vacillate over it so much, and then he has an automobile accident … will they be able to get away with their intention or does fate conspire against them? It is nicely resolved and a pleasure to see now. Lucia Bose is a fascinating presence. Set around Antonioni’s home town of Ferrara it is another fascinating example of early 50s cinema in post-war Italy.

THE LADY WITHOUT CAMELIAS, Antonioni’s second film in 1953 is even more fascinating and is one of the cruellest and most accurate portraits of studio film-making and the Italian movie world with all the double-dealing producers and directors, and starlets on the make. Lucia Bose stars again and here is the helpless pawn Clara Manni, who is a washed-up star by the age of 22. She plays a Milanese shop-girl discovered for the movies and has some success but her passive nature is taken advantage of as she is rushed into a marriage she does not want, and then her new husband does not want her to continue in popular movies, so he puts her in a disastrous new version of “Joan of Arc” which premieres at the Venice festival.She has to sit there hearing the adverse comments. Meanwhile a diplomat, Ivan Desny, pays her attention but it turns out that while she is willing to leave her husband and the big new house he has built for her, he just wants “an adventure with an actress”. Lucia looks terrific suffering in furs – she leaves her husband anyway and imagines she can study for a few months and become a “serious” actress … but producers, including her husband, only see her in frivolous movies like “Slave of the Pyramid” which she wearily signs up for at the end, as she is trapped by her superficial fame.

Again there are some great black and white images and those Antonioni landscapes the characters wander in, when not at Cinecitta! Giovanni Fusco again provides the score, and Suso Cecchi D’Amico is again one of the screen-writers. Bose cropped up in later movies like Fellini’s SATYRICON, NATHALIE GRANGER and has been working until recently. The new “Masters of Cinema” edition contains a booklet on Antonioni in the ‘50s.

Those other '50s Antonioni films LE AMICHE and IL GRIDO as well as the later classics are also reviewed at Antonioni label.

1 comment:

  1. I recently saw 'Story of a Love Affair' and, pun intended, fell in love with it. Not since 'L'Avventura' (or my complete indulgence into the cinema of Rainer Werner Fassbinder) have I been so captivated by a filmmaker.

    I recently got a copy of 'The Lady without Camelias', but need to get it on DVD.

    Netflix recently put 'I Vinti' on the streaming. Even today, the only segment that remains popular is the English one. But the whole film is a true treat; Antonioni's versatility between France, Italy, and the UK is interesting as it is entertaining. The prime example of this comes from his musical transitions between each episode.