A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Story of a Love Affair (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1950)

Ten years before L'Avventura, with its elegantly muddled and elliptically presented relationships, Michelangelo Antonioni was working in a mode clearly influenced by Italian neorealism and American film noir, though one that gives us glimpses of the filmmaker he would become. His first feature film, Story of a Love Affair, takes place in the realms of the wealthy postwar Italian business class. A Milanese industrialist, Enrico Fontana (Ferdinando Sarmi), has come across a cache of photographs of his wife, Paola (Lucia Bosè), and hires a detective agency to find out what it can about her early life. Paola, it seems, was friends with a woman, Giovanna, who died when she fell down an elevator shaft. Giovanna had been engaged to Guido (Massimo Girotti), who, when he learns that Paola's past is the subject of an investigation, goes to see her in Milan. They are both worried that they are under suspicion of causing Giovanna's death, which they witnessed. Guido and Paola fall in love and, realizing she is trapped in her marriage to Fontana, form a plot to murder him. But before Guido can kill him, Fontana dies in an auto accident. When the police arrive to inform her of his death, Paola, fearing that she will be arrested, runs out into the night to meet Guido, who tells her of the accident and agrees to meet her the next day. But when he gets into a waiting taxi, Guido tells the driver to go to the train station. Antonioni admitted that he was influenced by James M. Cain's novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, as well as the 1946 film version directed by Tay Garnett, in creating the lovers' plot to kill Fontana, but the ironic accident is his own invention, as is the mystery surrounding Fontana's death: Although Guido, who has been lying in wait to shoot Fontana, fails in his task, he hears the crash as well as what sound like gunshots, and arrives at the scene to see the body. He later tells Paola that there was a hole in Fontana's neck, as if he had been shot. The inconclusive ending, as well as the unresolved question of whether Paola and Guido were actually responsible for Giovanna's death, foreshadow Antonioni's later enigmatic approach to narrative, as does his use of the urban landscape as a correlative to the often bleak emotional states of his characters. The film shows its age with its shallow sonic ambience, in which scenes shot both indoors and outdoors have the same resonance, a symptom of the post-sync dialogue dubbing characteristic of Italian films of the period

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