A decade before Michelangelo Antonioni would be known as "the Master of Alienation", before the Italian filmmaker would be known for his films such as "L'Avventura", "La Notte", "L'Eclisse" and "Red Desert", the Italian modernist director, who would be known for his radical style of not following any conventions of filmmaking, was a director of documentary films.
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!