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STORY OF A LOVE AFFAIR (Cronaca di un Amore) (director/writer: Michelangelo Antonioni; screenwriters: Daniele D’Anza/Silvio Giovannetti/Francesco Maselli/Piero Tellini; cinematographer: Enzo Serafin; editor: Eraldo Da Roma; music: Giovanni Fusco; cast: Lucia Bosé (Paola Molon Fontana), Massimo Girotti (Guido), Ferdinando Sarmi (Enrico Fontana), Rosi Mirafiore (Barmaid), Rubi D’Alma (Paola’s friend), Marika Rowsky (Joy, the model), Vittoria Mondello (Matilde), Gino Rossi (Carloni, the detective); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Stefano Caretta/Franco Villani; New Yorker Films; 1950-Italy-in Italian with English subtitles and dubbed in English)
“A remarkable film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

After making documentaries, Michelangelo Antonioni (“L’Avventura”/”Blow-Up”) makes a film noir gem as his debut feature. It’s an austere, starkly beautiful minimalist psychological drama that will present the themes of alienation, loss, decadence, ennui and loneliness that would stay with the director through his great career. It’s co-written by the director, Daniele D’Anza, Silvio Giovannetti, Francesco Maselli and Piero Tellini.

It’s set among the upper class of Milan. Wealthy industrialist Enrico Fontana (Ferdinando Sarmi), who might not be on the up and up, hires a private detective (Gino Rossi) to do a background check on his much younger beautiful but spoiled wife Paola Molon Fontana (Lucia Bosé, a Miss Italy turned actress), whom he married on a whim seven years ago during wartime and though he has no reason to suspect her of infidelity he realizes he knows nothing of her past and is a very jealous man. The detective returns to where she went to school in Naples to question those who knew her and follows up a lead on her two best school girlfriends. In Ferrara, he learns from the husband of Paola’s friend (Rubi D’Alma) that their third friend died more than seven years ago in an elevator accident. Paolo’s friend writes to Guido (Massimo Girotti), Paolo’s former lover, to tell him about the snoop. The detective learns on further investigation that at the time of the accident Guido was with his fiancée and Paolo, and when his fiancée fell down the elevator shaft neither warned her that there was no elevator there even though both saw her stepping into an empty space and had time to say something. Feeling guilty, they parted company and haven’t seen each other since. The lower-class Guido is now penniless working as a car salesman in another city, but is concerned about the snoop and visits Paolo in Milan. The bored 27-year-old housewife, who climbed up a notch or two in class, makes herself happy dressed in furs and buying the latest styled gowns. But Paolo finds her love rekindled for Guido when they meet again. The irony is that the affair is renewed as a result of the husband’s actions. It’s only a question if she can give up her life of luxury for a romance with someone who has little chance of supporting her in the style she’s grown accustomed to and to what extent will she go to ease her empty life with a romantic fix.

It’s a remarkable film for its brilliant mise-en-scène, its mobile camera innovatively following around the restless characters, the instinctive performances achieved by the entire cast despite their wide differences in experience and for the director’s maverick approach to the popular aesthetic postwar Italian films. Antonioni remains the cool non-judgmental observer focused in on the discontent of the young with their contemporary scene and fills the screen with empty compositions of the rich at play while those envious of them sweat hard to hustle for their money.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”