Vittorio De Sica surely remembered Brief Encounter and The Clock, though the ticket depot scene he played opposite Danielle Darrieux in Earrings of Madame de... that same year may have been just as decisive an influence. Trains and train stations are among the most cinematic things, for evidence look no further than the curving track that follows Jennifer Jones and Montgomery Clift as they push through the crowd waving at a departing express. She’s a Philadelphia housewife out on a nervous Rome adventure, Clift as her lover tries to get her to not board the train back home, their last hour or so together is documented in real time. The ebb and flow of a curtained affair: When it looks like Jones’s brush with a pregnant proletarian Madonna has convinced her to return to her husband and daughter, Clift leaps past a charging locomotive, and the two are caught smooching in a deserted railway compartment. "Adultery is the drama of the rich," De Sica is to have said, the tension between romantic passion and familial duty is the center of his analysis; Cesare Zavattini, Truman Capote and Ben Hecht worked on the script, which one wrote that "a woman is like another heart inside a man, he knows when that heart stops"? Around this anxious duet De Sica weaves a swarm of Roman life, a classroom of deaf kids and a carload of singing tourists, a spheric passenger squeezing through passageways, the raucous sendoff to a sad-eyed couple of newlyweds, the pantomime of a middle-aged Don Juan’s misfired flirtation. Most of it sheared in David O. Selznick’s version of the work, shortened and re-titled Indiscretion of an American Wife. Bowdlerized or not, the aching pathos of two aging ingénues huddled over a restaurant table and pouring over their mutual fragility remains intact. With Richard Beymer, and Gino Cervi. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce