Le Amiche – The Criterion Collection #817 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
June 18, 2016 by Dennis Amith
“Le Amiche” may be looked at as a different Michelangelo Antonioni film in the fact that it’s less alienating and not about the psychology of people but more of the focus on relationships and detachment. But what can appreciate “Le Amiche” is for its daring approach of being different from the norm of films which were focused on Italian Neorealism during that time. A precursor to Antonioni masterpieces that would come years later, “Le Amiche” is an early Antonioni film worth watching!
Image courtesy of © Titanus 1955. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Le Amiche – The Criterion Collection #817
YEAR OF FILM: 1955
DURATION: 104 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Italian Monaural with English Subtitles
COMPANY: Janus Film/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: June 7, 2016
Based on the Novel by Cesare Pavese
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Screenplay by Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Michelangelo Antonioni
Collaboration by Alba De Cespedes
Story by Dorothy B. Hughes
Produced by Robert Lord
Associate Producer: Henry S. Kesler
Music by George Antheil
Cinematography by Burnett Guffrey
Edited by Viola Lawrence
Art Direction by Robert Peterson
Set Decoration by William Kiernan
Costume Design by Jean Louis
Eleanora Rossa Drago as Clelia
Gabriele Ferzetti as Lorenzo
Franco Fabrizi as Cesare Pedoni, The Architect
Valentina Cortese as Nene
Yvonne Furneaux as Momina De Stefani
Madeleine Fischer as Rosetta Savoni
Anna Maria Pancani as Mariella
Luciano Volpato as Tony
Ettore Manni as Carlo
This major early achievement by Michelangelo Antonioni bears the first signs of the cinema-changing style for which he would soon be world-famous. Le amiche (The Girlfriends) is a brilliantly observed, fragmentary depiction of modern bourgeois life, conveyed from the perspective of five Turinese women. As four of the friends try to make sense of the suicide attempt of the fifth, they find themselves examining their own troubled romantic lives. With suggestions of the theme of modern alienation and the fastidious visual abstraction that would define his later masterpieces such as L’avventura, L’eclisse, and Red Desert, Antonioni’s film is a devastating take on doomed love and fraught friendship.
Before Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni would be known as the “Master of Alienation” and would direct well-known films “Blow Up” (1966), “Red Desert” (1964), “L’Eclisse”(1962), “La Notte” (1961) and “L’Avventura” (1960), he directed his fourth feature film, “Le Amiche” (1955).
An adaptation of Cesare Pavese’s 1949 novel “Tra donne sole”, his film would star Eleanora Rossi Drago (“Violent Summer”, “David & Goliath”, “Dorian Gray”), Gabrielle Ferzetti (“L’Avventura, “Once Upon a Time in the West”, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”), Fabrico Fabrizi (“I Vitelloni”, “Ginger and Fred”, “Death in Venice”), Valentina Cortese (“Day for Night”, “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”, “The Barefoot Contessa”), Yvonne Furneaux (“La Dolce Vitta”, “Repulsion”, “The Mummy”), Madeleine Fischer (“The Day the Sky Exploded”, “Class of Iron”) and Anna Maria Pancani (“The Bachelor”, “Piccola Posta”, “Operazione Notte”).
And now this early Michelangelo Antonioni film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection.
The film revolves around Clelia (portrayed by Eleonora Rossi Drago), a successful woman who is planning to open a branch of a Rome fashion salon in her native city of Turin.
While she is overseeing the grand opening, when she goes to her hotel, her maid tells her that a young woman in the next room is dead. Clelia goes to check on the young woman, Rosetta Savoni (portrayed by Madeleine Fischer) and sees that she tried to overdose on sleeping pills and tried to commit suicide.
While Clelia is being interviewed by police, Rosetta’s friend Momina De Stefani (portrayed by Yvonne Furneaux) comes to visit and finds out that her friend tried to kill herself.
Clelia and Momina become friends and she is introduced to her wealthy friends including an artist named Nene (portrayed by Valentina Cortese) who lives with her less successful fiance, a painter named Lorenzo (portrayed by Gabriele Ferzetti) who envies his girlfriend’s success. But because his jealousy is pushing him away from his wife, he ends up becoming closer to the emotionally unstable Rosetta.
And their other wealthy friend, Mariella (portrayed by Anna Maria Pancani) is flirtatious and just loves the attention of men.
Meanwhile, Clelia starts to fall for Carlo (portrayed by Ettore Manni), assistant of the salon’s architect, Cesare Pedoni (portrayed by Franco Fabrizi). But because Carlo is a member of the working class and Clelia is financially successful, both are from two walks of life.
But with the class of ego’s, unfortunate advice by one of the women would eventually lead to tragedy.
“Le Amiche – The Criterion Collection #817” is presented in 1:33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality is fantastic, the film features great clarity, wonderful detail and sharpness. Black levels are nice and deep, white and gray levels are well-contrast.
According to the Criterion Collection, “Supervised by film historian Carlo Di Carlo in 2008, this 2K restoration was undertaken by L’Immagine Ritrovata, with funding provided by the Gucci and The Film Foundation, from the 35 mm original camera negative.”
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “Le Amiche – The Criterion Collection #817” in Italian LPCM 1.0 Monaural audio. The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue with no signs of major hissing, crackle or audio pops.
According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at L’Immagine Ritrovata from a 35 mm optical soundtrack positive printed from the original soundtrack negative.”
Subtitles are in English.
“Le Amiche – The Criterion Collection #817” comes with the following special features:
- David Forgacs and Karen Pinkus – (27:01) Featuring scholars David Forgacs and Karen Pinkus discussing “Le Amiche” and its themes, visual style and adaptation.
- Eugenia Paulicelli – (22:25) Film scholar Eugenia Paulicelli talking about the significance of fashion in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni.
“Le Amiche – The Criterion Collection #817” comes with a six-page foldout which comes with the essay “Friends – Italian Style” by Tony Pipolo.
A film about friendships, relationships but also a modern and fashionable look of successful independent women.
Unlike other Antonioni films that delves into the psychology of a relationship and the alienation of its character, this film is about independent women making choices, independent and wealthy women and their relationships that appear strong based on their free spirit and lifestyle.
But the more one delves into each of the women’s thoughts throughout the film, you realize they are much different and for some, not as strong-willed as it may seem.
The film follows the character of Clelia, who left Turin to make a life for herself. And she has become successful and now returns back to the city of Turin to open up a Rome fashion salon but to find out how much she has changed from the city she grew up in.
Where psychology is important in an Antonioni film of trying to understand a character’s alienation, “Le Amiche” is different in the fact that it delves into a bourgeois facade of life being much better for those who are wealthy and are able to sport popular fashion brands.
And one should remember that this is all quite fascinating because Italian cinema was focused on humanity and post-war suffering of the Italian people. Italian neorealism showcased many people, many families who had not much to survive.
While “Le Amiche” is much different as it showcased women who were independent, wealthy and successful. But at the same time, their perceptions towards life is less about family and moreso about finding a man, having fun and being stylish.
But Clelia, one of the wealthy, successful women, who is just in the city of Turin to visit, starts to see the bad with these women that she has befriended. Clelia is independent, successful through hard work, other women she has befriended try to find themselves a wealthy man to take care of them. She is not that type of person.
The film also tries to show viewers why, among these friends, the character of Rosetta is suicidal and unstable but why her friends are so uncaring of one of their own.
But things are not all good with only the women, a few of the men have succumbed to their own bouts of insecurity. Lorenzo is a talented painter, but nowhere as successful as his girlfriend Nene. And with Nene’s career blossoming, his jealousy starts to consume him. Pushing him towards the arms of the unstable, Rosetta.
Meanwhile, Clelia starts to fall for Carlo, the assistant to the architect. But Carlo knows that his place in society, is much different than Clelia. And as both do have feelings for each other, both know that they are from two different worlds.
The camerawork and also Antonioni’s choreography of where people should be on film was also great to see, especially being an earlier Antonioni film.
As for the Blu-ray, “Le Amiche” looks fantastic in HD, with the clarity of the overall picture to be wonderfully contrast and sharp. While lossless audio is free of any hiss or crackle. You also get two special features, one that goes into the film and its difference to the novel, while the other featurette focuses on the fashion featured in Antonioni films.
Overall, “Le Amiche” may be looked at as a different Michelangelo Antonioni film in the fact that it’s less alienating and not about the psychology of people but more of the focus on relationships and detachment. But what can appreciate “Le Amiche” is for its daring approach of being different from the norm of films which were focused on Italian Neorealism during that time.
A precursor to Antonioni masterpieces that would come years later, “Le Amiche” is an early Antonioni film worth watching!
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