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.

Friday, 3 February 2017

New year re-views 1 - Journey To Italy

Widely misunderstood and shamefully ignored at the time of its original release in 1954 (though filmed in 1953), but now recognised as simply not one of Rossellini’s greatest films, but as one of the key works of modern cinema, JOURNEY TO ITALY is a deceptively simple piece, all of 80 minutes. There is little plot to speak of: a marriage is breaking down under the strain of a trip to Italy as we watch. But in its deliberate rejection of many aspects of ‘classic’ Hollywood narrative and its stubborn pursuit of a quite different aesthetic, its mesmerising storyline creates space for ideas and time for reflection, as we follow the wife on her travels around Naples and that Pompeii site.

Catherine and Alexander, wealthy and sophisticated, drive to Naples to dispose of a deceased uncle's villa. There's a coolness in their relationship and aspects of Naples add to the strain. She remembers a poet who loved her and died in the war; although she didn't love him, the memory underscores romance's absence from her life now. She tours the museums of Naples and Pompeii on her own, immersing herself in the Neapolitan fascination with the dead and noticing how many women are pregnant; he idles on Capri, flirting with women but drawing back from adultery. With her, he's sarcastic; with him, she's critical. They talk of divorce. Will this foreign couple find insight and direction in Italy?
This is so influential in lots of ways. Bergman's anguish and feelings of isolation summon up Monica Vitti on that island in Antonioni's L'AVVENTURA, and the couple drifting apart remind us of Mastroianni and Moreau in LA NOTTE - also Antonioni, like the sequences of Moreau drifting alone around Milan. Rossellini has an ideal location here too, overlooking the Bay of Naples, Sorrento, Capri etc. The early 50s Italian chic is to the fore too in those hotels where the couple idle their time. Sanders is terrific here, in one of his best films - as of course is Bergman.
I actually saw this initially as a kid, when most of it would have been over my head, but remember being fascinate by that Pompeii site and the statues of the volcano victims being redisovered.

These Rossellini films were hard to see for a long time, before the video age and the dvd revolution. I remember Ingrid telling us at the London BFI/NFT in the early Seventies (when I practically lived there) how important these films were in the development of Italian cinema, paving the way for Antonioni and the others, and how they were being rediscovered. She was right about that. More on VOYAGE TO ITALY at labels. It is also covered in Martin Scorsese's essential MY VOYAGE TO ITALY documentary.  It is engrossing to see again and perhaps the most modern of the other Rossellini-Bergmans: STROMBOLI, EUROPA 51, FEAR and the comic episode of SIAME DONNE

Next up: L'AVVENTURA, PLEIN SOLEIL, DESERT FURYTHE CHAPMAN REPORT, LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT, BLOW-UP, and some French double-bills, and more Deneuve and Aimee .... 

1 comment:

  1. Firstly let me say what an excellent review overall. I have VOYAGE IN ITALY in my collection but have yet to watch it. I may save it up until I get to R for Rossellini in my auteurist history of film as I have a few more to catch up with.