Story of a Love Affair
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From acclaimed two-time Academy Award Nominated director Michelangelo Antonioni (Blow-up, The Passenger)! Paola (Lucia Bose) is the beautiful and jealously-guarded younger wife of a shady factory owner, Enrico Fontana (Massimo Girotti). In order to investigate her romantic history he hires a private detective, which ironically brings Paola back into contact with former lover Guido, with whom she resurrects a lost passion. Dogged by the suspicions of their respective mates, they are drawn closer to each other in the face of adversity, and begin to plot Enrico's demise. But when the challenge of being together falls away, will the passion start to wane?
Before becoming the poster child for the extreme arty, slow paced foreign films of the '60s, Michealanglo Antonioni actually developed his craft on very straightforward, neo-realistic films. Story of a Love Affair (1950) was Antonioni's first feature-length dramatic film, and much to his critics' chagrin, it is extremely linear, it has limited drawn out, "real time" shots, and his actors actually project more emotion than the typical "Antonioni apathy." Enrico (Ferdinando Sarmi) is an extremely wealthy and jealous husband who suspects his young, beautiful bride, Paola (Lucia Bosé), is unfaithful. Instead of confronting her directly, he hires a private detective (Gino Rossi) to investigate her past. While checking up on the mysterious death of Paola's friend, the private dick indirectly puts one of Paola's old lovers (Massimo Girotti) back in contact with his client's wife. Though originally separated due to the death of their close friend, seeing each other sparks up some buried passion that ironically will put Enrico and Paola's marriage to the test. Like his contemporaries' earlier works, Story of a Love Affair is a must for cinephiles who love to see all those "Antonioni-style" trademarks in their infancy. Of particular note is the typical Antonioni shot, in which where the two main characters have a full conversation with their backs to the camera. Though Story of a Love Affair does not pack the historical punch of L'Avventura or Blow Up, it is definitely more approachable for the general public and an excellent neo-realistic film in its own right. --Rob Bracco --This text refers to an alternate DVD edition.
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"The Story of a Love Affair" is structured as a noir/thriller. At the beginning, a jealous wealthy businessman in Milan hires a detective to find if his wife (Lucia Bose) is unfaithful and by doing so unwittingly rekindles her love for another man (Massimo Girotti), who may have been complicit with her on the death of her former best friend (who was also his fiancee). As their love affair progresses, the reunited lovers ponder killing the husband.
Although set up as a thriller, Antonioni is less interested in crime than in the psychology of the leading couple: an unhappily married society wife (Bose) and a down-on-his-luck former WWII soldier (Girotti). Lucia Bose, then only 19, is not a very good actress, but she's striking to look at, and Antonioni makes the most of her beautiful face. Girotti is not that great either, but he's also perfectly cast. The merits of this film really have to do with great visuals, not with great acting, so in that respect they're both excellent in their parts.
While not as great as other noirish debuts by great European directors, like Visconti's Ossessione or Malle's Elevator in the Gallows, "The Story of a Love Affair" is definitely worth checking out for fans of film noir or Antonioni.
The film looks pretty good on the DVD, but the extras disc was somewhat disappointing for me, though, especially the cheesily edited and rather cruel (namely the moment when an elderly Lucia Bose hugs a wheelchaired Antonioni) short about the release of the restored film. I would have preferred to see and hear more from Antonioni himself in the extras.
When a wealthy businessman finds some old photographs of his wife Paola (Lucia Bose), he gets to wonder about her past. They have been married for seven years, since they met in 1943 during the war, but her history was always a mystery. Instead of asking her directly, he hires and investigator to look into what kind of woman she was before they met. He is partially motivated by curiosity, but mostly just jealousy.
And Paola's past certainly is mysterious. The story slowly unravels her past by the details the investigator uncovers by interviewing her former friends. The investigator's inquiries alert Paola's old boyfriend and actually brings him back into her life after all these years. Ironically, Paola's husband brings about trouble for himself with the investigator and helps his wife find the road to infidelity. We cannot help but see how much Paola must have changed in these seven years. She now lives the life of luxury and has no financial obstacles, while those she knew still struggle with daily living.
There are some subtle details that give this movie a deeper meaning weaved throughout the entire story, giving it a sophistication that will make this film appealing to those with fine taste. There is a strange balance of opposites in nearly everything that happens. When Guido reaches for Paola, she withdraws from him; when Paola reaches for Guido, he withdraws from her. Their love for each other always seems to be a beet or two off and they are never in synchrony. Their love for each other may be deep and strong, but it is a tormented one that never finds peace.
There is also a greater irony to the story. Paola can have the life of extravagance, but not a life with happiness. Paola could have a life with love, but not with lavishness. She is faced with these choices and it isn't too difficult to figure out which path she chooses.
While there are crimes of action or omission, is just thinking of a sin a crime as well? As we find out, Paola and Guido commit al three, but are any one of them less traumatic on their psyche? As you will see, Story of a Love Affair isn't a simple tale of adultery.
But after graduating from his years of being a documentary filmmaker, Every filmmaker has their beginning in making full feature films and for legendary filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, that film was "Story of a Love Affair" (1950, also known as "Cronaca di un amore").
The film was inspired by the real-life 1948 murder of a wealthy silk company owner, a man that Countess Pia Bellentani was having an eight-year affair with. Despite the Countess being married to a wealthy Milanese industrialist and having two children, the case shocked Italy at the time as someone of wealth and stature was convicted of murder and also because the murder took place at a high society party.
Bothered and intrigued by the Bellentani case, Michelangelo Antonioni would write and direct "Story of a Love Affair".
A film that is part romance film and the other half that is film noir, the film is definitely not your typical banal noir film. It's Italian noir at its finest!
It is important to note that while many Italians were working on Italian neorealist films, "Story of a Love Affair", the first film of Antonioni goes to show how he never followed traditional standard nor was he compliant of other filmmaking styles of what other filmmakers in Italy were doing at the time.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"Story of a Love Affair" is presented in 1:33 Full Frame, black and white. It's important for people to know that this 1950 film had to go through great lengths for digital restoration as the original negative were destroyed and other negatives featured major damage and scratches. So, there was a major digits restoration effort to fix the film by eliminating the scratches and any haloing effects.
After knowing that the film was riddled with scratches and damage and watching the restored version, I have to say that Cinecitta Studios did a fantastic job in removing all defects. The picture quality is clean and while there is some mild flickering, the damage that was present before the restoration is gone. There are no white speckles, dust or scratches after the restoration.
As for audio, "Story of a Love Affair" is presented in monaural 1.0. And similar to the video, there was major restoration done by Cinecitta to fix the audio and make it cleaner. I detected no hiss, pops, crackle or anything negative when it comes to the audio of the film.
Overall, a wonderful restoration was done by Cinecitta Studios!
"Story of a Love Affair" comes with the following special features on disc 2:
Identification of a Masterpiece Documentary - (1:53:38) A documentary on the making of "Story of a Love Affair" and why it is important for Italian cinema and why the film is considered a masterpiece. Featuring interviews with people who knew Antonioni, film critics and historians familiar with his work but also those who had worked with him.
Story of a Peculiar Night Documentary - (28:31) Featuring celebrities attending the restored premiere of "Story of a Love Affair" including the filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni and celebrities, filmmakers and others in the audience discussing why they love the film and its impact for audiences today and future generations.
Fragments of a Love Affair - (5:31) Visiting the home where Michelangelo Antonioni grew up and getting to learn more about the filmmaker and his life growing up.
Restoring a Masterpiece - (8:25) A featurette about the restoration of "Story of a Love Affair" considering the original negative was destroyed and the challenges of repairing the film that had major problems, including plenty of scratches.
Poster Gallery - With your remote or keyboard arrow key, you can cycle through various poster images.
Stills Gallery - With your remote or keyboard arrow key, you can cycle through various still images from the film.
"Story of a Love Affair" comes with two other DVD's that fit into a slipcase for "Great Italian Filmmakers".
Before I begin my review of "Story of a Love Affair", let me first preface with a mention of Kino Lorber's "Great Italian Directors Collection" and that any Italian cinema collection must come with an Antonioni film.
While Italian cinema is notable for Italian neorealism, what makes Michelangelo Antonioni stand out is his unwillingness to follow trends, to follow traditional cinema and literally, he does what he wants and with his artistic creations, there is unique symbolism and his version of romance films are unique, alienating and wonderful.
But with that being said, his films are not for everyone who are used to traditional cinema. Man loves woman. Women loves man. Happy ending.
As we know, love is complex and complexity is what Antonioni tends to interject his vision, his style with absolute efficacy.
With "Story of a Love Affair", this is Michelangelo's first full-length feature film. While many Italian filmmakers were showcasing the struggle of Italian citizens via post-World War II, the filmmakers in the "Great Italian Directors" collection such as Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica and a few others were known for showcasing the struggling working class, for Antonioni, the Bellentani murder case of 1948 which shocked Italians was big news and according to Assistant Director Francesco Maselli, it was an inspiration for this melodrama/Italian noir film.
But the characters and the whole entire situation is nothing about the Bellentani case. If there was any close relation, its the fact that the main character Paola is married to a wealth industrialist and has an affair with another man. Where Countess Bellentani was a socialite and poet, Paola is a woman who just thrives on her husband's money but really shows no care in their relationship.
So, there is no surprise that her husband Enrico would do an investigation on his wife's past life. After all, he married her not too long after he met her and the fact that she is quite distant, years before prenuptial agreements, one had to watch their finances, especially from one that may be a gold digger.
So, when her husband hires an investigator to look into her past, needless to say, when his wife Paola finds out from Guido, a former flame that an investigator was looking into her past, she thinks its because of the death of her best friend Giovanna.
She becomes paranoid that the investigator would think that she and Guido are involved in Giovanna's death, mainly because Paola's best friend was engaged to Guido and that she was secretly having a sexual relationship with him at the time.
But when both Paola and Guido finally see each other, their passion once again reignites. And while Guido keeps his cool that Paola is married to a wealthy man, Paola shows her jealousy towards Guido whenever he's with a beautiful woman. Naturally, she wants Guido all to herself and would go as far as to ask him to kill her husband.
The film was shot in Ferrara, where Michelangelo Antonio lived and the film would feature Antonioni's girlfriend, Lucia Bose (Miss Italy 1947) as Paola; actor Massimo Girotti, best known for his role in Luchino Visconti's "Obsessione" (1943) and "Senso" (1954) ; and fashion designer Ferdinando Sarmi as Paola's wealthy industrialist husband, Enrico Fontana.
While "Story of a Love Affair" is unlike his alienation films that Antonioni would be known more than a decade later, but yet a troubled relationship is showcased, as well as the well-situated shots that would become a big part of Antonioni's oeuvre.
While "Story of a Love Affair" would be looked at as a bold film for its time in Italian cinema, its a magnificent first film for Antonioni and would lead him to create wonder films such as "L'avventura", "La Notte", "L'Eclisse", "Red Desert" and "Blowup", to name a few.
And this film looks absolutely great on DVD, considering how much damage the film was in and the original negative no longer being used, Cinecitta did a wonderful job in the restoration of this film.
As for the DVD release of "Story of a Love Affair", the fact that there are four lengthy featurettes, I was very excited that Kino Lorber included many special features with this classic film. It is important to note that "Story of a Love Affair" is available on DVD and also included with the "Great Italian Directors Collection" box set.
Overall, a fantastic inclusion to the "Great Italian Directors Collection" and a magnificent first feature film by Michelangelo Antonioni. Highly recommended!