Any art house patron in the early sixties must have thought modern society was headed toward a complete collapse as witnessed by the emptiness of life and the bored, amoral behavior of characters in films like Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960). That film was mostly a portrait of wealthy, jaded Romans and ambitious social climbers that was probably the most famous in a wave of films that viewed Italian society as a lost and alienated culture. Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961) and L’Eclisse (1962) offered similar views of a world where modern progress and technology had a dehumanizing effect on relationships while Antonio Pietrangeli’s I Knew Her Well (Italian title, Lo la conoscevo bene, 1965) focused on a naïve working class woman who seeks an acting career in Rome but finds herself exploited and eventually discarded by the people that profession attracts. Less well known, Franco Brusati’s Il Disordine (Disorder, 1962) differs from the above films in that it depicts both upper class and economically strapped folks in Milan who share the same sense of disillusionment and despair over their lot in life. Also, it is almost epic in scale and more tragic and heartfelt than the aforementioned titles.Continue reading
Why does it take so long for certain extremely gifted filmmakers to achieve international attention and praise for their body of work? Italian director Antonio Pietrangeli might have been popular and well-known in his own country but not so much in the U.S. where he was almost forgotten until the last decade. Thanks to filmmaker Alexander Payne, a re-discovery of Pietrangeli’s work began in 2012 after Payne hosted a showing of Lo La Conoscevo Bene (English title: I Knew Her Well, 1965) at the Telluride Film Festival that year (The Criterion Collection would later release it on Blu-ray and DVD in 2016). It was also in 2012 that Raro Films released Pietrangeli’s La Visita (English title: The Visit, 1963) on DVD in America and followed it up with a 2014 DVD release of his Adua e Le Compagne aka Hungry for Love aka Love a la Carte (1960).
Retrospectives of Pietrangeli’s work at museums, film festivals and cinema archives soon followed with MoMA presenting 10 of his movies in 2015 (He only directed 11 feature films plus contributions to two anthology films, 1954’s Mid-Century Loves and 1966’s The Queens. He was more prolific as a screenwriter and also worked as an assistant director on films like Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione. It’s a shame Pietrangeli didn’t live long enough to see his work being re-discovered in the U.S. and abroad (he drowned at sea in 1968 at age 49) but renewed interest in his work doesn’t necessarily mean that most of his work is now readily available for viewing. One of his key achievements, La Parmigiana (English title: The Girl from Parma, 1963) is still missing in action but it is an impressive showcase for actress Catherine Spaak and a fine example of Pietrangeli’s unusually effective blend of comedy and drama featuring a female protagonist. In fact, most of his films view Italian society through the eyes of a sympathetic heroine or heroines.Continue reading