Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lucia Bosˇ, Massimo Girotti, Ferdinando Sarmi, Gino Rossi, Marika Rowsky, Rosi Mirafiore, Rubi D'Alma, Vittoria Mondello
Written by: Michelangelo Antonioni, Daniele D'Anza, Silvio Giovannetti, Francesco Maselli, Piero Tellini
Directed by: Michelangelo Antonioni
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Italian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 98
Date: 10/11/1950

Story of a Love Affair (1950)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Affair of the Head

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In 1950, Michelangelo Antonoini had just finished with a series of short documentaries, and his surprising feature debut Story of a Love Affair (a.k.a. Cronaca di un amore) showed his style almost fully-formed. In a way, it prefigures Antonioni's masterpiece L'Avventura (1960), but it also owes a debt to films noir and crime films like Visconti's Ossessione (1943).

The story involves Paola (Lucia Bosé), the beautiful young wife of a wealthy factory owner, Enrico (Ferdinando Sarmi). Enrico hires a detective to investigate her past, and she comes back into contact with a former lover, Guido (Massimo Girotti). Their old spark reignited, the couple tries to figure out how to meet while under the prying eyes of their significant others. Soon the idea of violence begins to come into play, but at the same time, the lovers find their passion waning.

As with L'Avventura, the supposed searching and plotting doesn't really matter as much as the feeling of isolation, ennui, and disconnect. The director has already learned how to place his lonely figures in forlorn, empty and industrial landscapes, pulling them apart and making them feel lifeless. But Story of a Love Affair existed long before what some 1960s hecklers began to call "Antoniennui," and the film has its moments of crackling passion and secret suspense. It's an amazing film, and one of the great feature debuts in movie history.

Kino has released this movie nicely restored in a two-disc set, featuring two documentaries, as well as a featurette about its restoration. Sadly, it is only available in the "Great Italian Directors Collection" DVD set, not separately, and not on Blu-Ray. Update: Kino has released the two-disc DVD set separately as of February, 2012. Still no Blu-Ray, but this is still an essential release.

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