Ossessione (Luchino Visconti / Italy, 1943):

Pound puts Jefferson in conjunction with Mussolini, Luchino Visconti brings James M. Cain to the Po Valley, a poetís trasmutazione. The camera follows the strapping drifter from the back of a truck into the roadside tavern and then dollies in for a close-up of Massimo Girotti, and there you have Neo-Realism out of a Hollywood movie-star intro. The innkeeper (Juan de Landa) is a former Bersagliere turned rotund petit-bourgeois, his young wife (Clara Calamai) dangles her slippers while watching the sexy stranger in the kitchen, poking his fingers in the grease: "Whatís a little heat to you?" This all benefits greatly from the Renoir influence, open-air lenses taking in a bocce ball match between lumpy locals or a chummy padre astride a bicycle with a belt of bullets strapped across his cassock, culminating in Girotti and the gay traveling artist (Elio Marcuzzo) tramping like Gabin and Dalio in Grand Illusion. (The two share a honeymoon bed in the film's most evocative shot, the leading manís bare shoulder illuminated by a flickering match and the same yearning gaze later explored in Death in Venice and Conversation Piece.) When Girotti and Calamai are reunited, Viscontiís operatic side takes over: A raucous portside carnival gives way to competing arias at an amateur contest, though not before a circular panning shot introduces a smoky cafť roughly the size of a skating rink. The husbandís murder is cogently imagined as the distance between headlights disappearing into the darkness and the overturned vehicle on a winding ditch, and from then on itís the clammy chiaroscuro of guilt and suspicion for the couple. "Keeping guard on a dead manís house" is just the beginning of the lovers' penance, their penultimate instant is not a dip into the ocean but a desperate embrace amid muddy flatlands -- the hardboiled appetites of The Postman Always Rings Twice brushing against European anguish. Tay Garnett has the official version in 1946, but itís Antonioni who assumes the fatalistic mantle in Cronaca di un Amore. Cinematography by Domenico Scala and Aldo Tonti. With Dhia Cristiani, Vittorio Duse, and Michele Riccardini. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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