Betsy Blair, Steve Cochran, Dorian Gray, Jacqueline Jones, and Alida Valli in Il grido (1957)


(director/writer: Michelangelo Antonioni; screenwriters: Elio Bartolini/Ennio De Concini; cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo; editor: Eraldo Da Roma; music: Giovanni Fusco; cast: Steve Cochran (Aldo), Alida Valli (Irma), Betsy Blair (Elvia), Gabriella Pallotta (Edera), Dorian Gray (Virginia), Lyn Shaw (Andreina), Mirna Girardi (Rosina), Guerrino Campanili (Virginia’s father), Elli Parvo (Matilda); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Franco Cancellieri; King Video/Kino International; 1957-Italy, in Italian with English subtitles)

Steve Cochran gives a superb performance.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Michelangelo Antonioni (“Eclipse”/”Blow-Up”/”Zabriskie Point”) presents a compelling and lyrically affecting tragic romance melodrama in Il Grido (translates as The Outcry). It is a link in the director’s long and distinguished career from the neorealism expressed in his 1955 The Girl Friends and the 1952 The Vanquished toward the more subjectively stylized works of his more productive growth period with his 1959 L’Avventura, 1961 La Notte and 1964 Red Desert.

Michelangelo Antonioni was born in the northern Italian city of Ferrara in 1912, and returns to his native Po Valley region near Bologna to shoot Il Grido. He focuses his attention on the lives of the common classes rather than the bourgeoisie of his later films. The background shots of the bleak industrial landscape matches the inner emotional turmoil all his characters experience, as the film captures the depressing mood of post-war Italy where it is made known that one must go abroad to make some decent money.

Warning: spoilers in the paragraph below.

The narrative chronicles the plight of a young refinery mechanic, Aldo (Steve Cochran, American actor), who when faced with the sudden end of a seven-year affair with an older married woman Irma (Alida Valli), finds himself crushed that she chooses not to marry him. Instead Irma chooses another when she learns her husband died while working in Australia. The confused and broken-hearted Aldo abandons his hometown of Ferrara and takes his young daughter Rosina (Girardi) in tow, when Irma can’t tell him why. She later tells her sister that she fears she’s too old for him. His first stop is to a nearby town to see if he can rekindle a romance with his still unattached old flame Elvia (Betsy Blair), who is glad to see him and makes him and Rosina feel welcome. But Aldo is still in love with Irma and Elvia’s plain looks and dull life no longer attracts him even though she’s a sweet and nourishing woman, who might have been perfect for him. He takes to the road again with Rosina, hitching a ride on an oil truck, and goes on an aimless journey searching for a permanent home. This lands him in a desolate filling station on the side of a highway, outside of Bologna, that is owned by a lonely but sexually experienced widow named Virginia (Dorian Gray). She begrudgingly takes care of her drunken father (Campanili) in the house located next to the station. When Virginia convinces him that this is no place for Rosina and she dumps pop in a nursing home, Aldo responds by sending Rosina by bus back to her mother. But when his daughter is gone, he realizes that he doesn’t love Virginia and deserts her for the road. He lands in an impoverished fishing village and hooks up with a hard-luck prostitute named Andreina (Shaw). Still yearning for Irma, he returns to see her and comes home to a demonstration protesting the building of a jet airfield for the country’s defense on land near the refinery. He also by chance observes through the window of Irma’s new home that she has remarried and given birth to a boy, and this leads him to climb to the top of the refinery and resolve his aching heart and desolate soul by jumping to his death despite Irma’s concerned presence below.

The film encompasses all of Antonioni’s signature themes about socialism, alienation, loneliness, lack of communication and the near impossibility of relationships. Gianni Di Venanzo does a remarkable job with his fluid black and white photography composing each shot as a work of art. Steve Cochran gives a superb performance as the strong physical man torn apart by his emotions and is mentally deteriorating before our eyes. Il Grido arrived shortly before the director found international acclaim with L’Avventura, but this film already packed a wallop that could not be ignored.