Story of a Love Affair (Michelangelo Antonioni / Italy, 1950):
(Cronaca di un Amore)

Michelangelo Antonioni's debut, and already an identification of a woman: "No, it's not the same old story" mused over glamour snapshots of Lucia Bosť, a raven-haired beauty. A police sleuth is hired by her husband, a much older industrialist (Ferdinando Sarmi) with suspicions about her past; the snooping exhumes an old affair with a car salesman (Massimo Girotti), previously capped by the unresolved death of a woman. Bosť, swathed in white furs after a concert, spots Girotti and feigns illness, a wife's love is measured in migraines, Sarmi quips: their clandestine affair is restarted after seven years of separation, meetings follow in a planetarium, a cabin by the train lines (chugging heard outside), strolls in the park during overcast days. The tone is despairing poetry, consciously modern -- the heroine crying in her luxurious Art Deco bedroom and picking up her lover's call is a telefoni-bianchi memento, a bit of Camerini with a reminder of Magnani in L'Amore, yet Antonioni's melodrama points toward a new beginning in Italian film history. The main event is the director's discovery of the long-take, the camera's analytical mobility tracing a brooding curve through the plot: Bosť sailing anxiously through a posh party, contemplating Sarmi's death with Girotti, circling first vertically up a hotel's staircase and then horizontally around a bridge. Bosť makes a bid for a gown during a nightclub auction, the model blithely doffs it off and strides away in her undies ("A whim. Can you explain that?"); mega-sized, bottle-shaped advertisements loom over opposite sides of the road in the following shot, a car zips between them and past the lovers -- the irony of the husband's inquiry precipitating the affair is not lost, though the narrative's investigative format is soon revealed as a doomed attempt to impose sense onto a universe turning increasingly uncertain and inexplicable. The genre expectations of the thriller dissolve, the characters succumb not to the illicit passion of noir but to the heft of their despair, not to mention the sublimely numbed feelings of Antonioni's vision. With Gino Rossi, Marika Rowsky, and Rubi D'Alma. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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