Antonio Pietrangeli’s “I knew her well” is tragic comedy of a young woman slowly consumed and suffocated by society. And it’s one of the two finest films created by the Commedia all’italiana filmmaker. Recommended!
Image courtesy of © 1965 Titanus. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: I knew her well – The Criterion Collection #801
YEAR OF FILM: 1965
DURATION: 115 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, Italian Monaural with English Subtitles
COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: February 23, 2016
Directed by Antonio Pietrangeli
Written by Ruggero Maccari, Antonio Pietrangeli, Ettore Scola
Produced by Turi Vasile, Luggi Waldfeitner
Music by Benedetto Ghiglia, Piero Piccioni
Cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi
Edited by Franco Fraticelli
Production Design by Maurizio Chiari
Set Decoration by Bruno Cesari
Costume Design by Maurizio Chiari
Stefania Sandrelli as Adriana Astarelli
Mario Adorf as Emilio Ricci aka Bietolone
Jean-Claude Brialy as Dario Marchionni
Joachim Fuchsberger as The WRiter
Nino Manfredi as Cianfanna
Enrico Maria Salerno as Roberto
Ugo Tognazzi as Gigi Baggini
Karin Dor as Barbara, the lady friend of Adriana
Franco Fabrizi as Paganelli
Following the gorgeous, seemingly liberated Adriana (Divorce Italian Style’s Stefania Sandrelli) as she chases her dreams in the Rome of La dolce vita, I Knew Her Well is at once a delightful immersion in the popular music and style of Italy in the sixties and a biting critique of its sexual politics and the culture of celebrity. Over a series of intimate episodes, just about every one featuring a different man, a new hairstyle, and an outfit to match, the unsung Italian master Antonio Pietrangeli, working from a script he cowrote with Ettore Scola, composes a deft, seriocomic character study that never strays from its complicated central figure. I Knew Her Well is a thrilling rediscovery, by turns funny, tragic, and altogether jaw-dropping.
Filmmaker Antonio Pietrangeli (“The Bachelor”, “Phantom Lovers”, “The Girl From Parma”, “The Visit”) is best known for the work as a film reviewer for Italian cinema magazines such as “Biano e nero” and “Cinema” but moreso as a writer for other well-known filmmakers.
From “Obsessione” directed by Luchino Visconti, “Fabiola” by Alessandro Blasetti, “Europa ’51” by Roberto Rosselini and “La Lupa” by Alberto Lattuada.
But he will be known for his two films: “Adua e le compagne” (1960, a.k.a. “Adua and her friends”) and “Io la conoscevo bene” (1965, a.k.a. “I knew her well”).
A filmmaker who was known for his films and working with female talent in the commedia all’italian genre, Antonio Pietrangeli will be known as a director with so much potential, but also as a filmmaker who died while working on a film (his 1968 film, “Come, quando, perche”).
And now, “I knew her well” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection.
The film stars Stefania Sandrelli (“Divorce Italian Style”, “The Conformist”, “Seduced and Abandoned”), Mario Adorf (“The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum”, “The Tin Drum”, “Rossini”, “Lola”), Jean-Claude Brialy (“A Woman is a Woman”, “Claire’s Knee”, “The Phantom of Liberty”), Franco Fabrizi (“Fellini i Vitelloni”, “Ginger and Fred”, “Death in Venice”, “Il Bidone”), Nino Manfredi (“Ugly, Dirty and Bad”, “Bread and Chocolate”) and many more.
“I knew her well” is a film that follows a young Italian woman named Adriana and her dreams of becoming a movie star.
And like her clothes and hairstyle, the men often change as she moves from job to job, from man to man and we watch this beautiful young woman slowly becoming devoured by the world that she thought she had desired.
“I knew her well – The Criterion Collection #801” is presented in 1:85:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition. The film looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray!
White and grays are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and the detail and sharpness is fantastic. I did not notice any issues with the picture quality with blurriness or any scratches or dust during my viewing of the film.
According to the Criterion Collection, “this 4K digital restoration was created in partnership with the Cineteca di Bologna from the 35 mm original camera negative and a 35 mm fine-grain positive.”
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “I knew her well – The Criterion Collection #801” is presented in Italian LPCM 1.0 without any buzzing or crackle.
According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the soundtrack negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and Izotope RX 4.
Subtitles are in English.
“I knew her well – The Criterion Collection #801” comes with the following special features:
- Stefania Sandrelli – (9:24) Featuring a Sept. 2015 interview with actress Stefania Sandrelli.
- Luca Barattoni – (21:51) Film scholar Luca Barattoni examines the career of filmmaker Antonio Pietrangeli.
- Sandrelli’s Audition – (5:17) Stefania Sandrelli’s audition for the role of Adriana in “I knew her well”.
- Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “I knew her well”.
“I knew her well – The Criterion Collection #801” comes with a six-page foldout with the essay “city girl” by Alexander Stille.
In some ways, “I knew her well” is reminiscent of stories of starry eyed Hollywood hopefuls who unfortunately get caught up in the wrong things and end up destroying their lives in some sort of way.
For the main character Adriana of Antonio Pietrangeli’s “I knew her well”, the beautiful young woman is stylish and every man is attracted to her.
The problem is that Adriana looks withdrawn and with each glimpse of her life, from her alcoholic father and her passionless visit to her home on the farm, to the many men who seem to want to be with her, but in essence, want to only have sex with her.
There are too many moments of where we see Adriana switching from man to man, with almost a new look each time.
Living a facade of luxury and happiness, but each time, we know she is not happy. She is fueled by temporary happiness, but long-term happiness does not exist with her.
And one can call her naive, but the more we see her move from man to man, the more we feel bad for her because she is often used in some sort of way. She only lives for the moment, nothing more and nothing less.
As the film features numerous songs of Italian classics from Mina, Peppino DiCappri, Mia Genberg, Sergio Endrigo to name a few. And the music lends to the vibrancy of the film and often enhances the moments that Adriana takes part in, the film goes from vibrant to slowly transitioning to alienation, taking a page from Michelangelo Antonioni and we eventually witness a young woman slowly being compromised by her unhappiness.
The film is rather interesting when compared to Pietrangeli’s “Adua and her Friends”, as the characters try to escape their lives as prostitutes and try to start a new life running a hotel and eatery, but their past catches up to them. But with each of the women featured in that film, there is hope. With Adriana, we’re not even sure if she is hopeful for anything in life, because she just lives for the now and whether becoming an actress or some man’s sexual object, we don’t know what is in her mind set until the film gets closer to its ending.
But fortunately, Piatrangeli slowly gives us information with super quick flashbacks that come from nowhere to show us a life that she had lived. Meanwhile, Stefania Sandrelli does a magnificent job of becoming Andriana and wearing the many emotions and society that slowly consumes the young woman.
The Criterion Collection Blu-ray looks fantastic as the film features wonderful contrast and sharpness. No sign of banding, artifacts or any video or audio problems. You get a few featurettes including a recent interview with Stefania Sandrelli plus an interview with film scholar Luca Barattoni about the career of Pietrangeli and more.
Overall, Antonio Pietrangeli’s “I knew her well” is tragic comedy of a young woman slowly consumed and suffocated by society. And it’s one of the two finest films created by the Commedia all’italiana filmmaker.
“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is among the most memorable films from filmmaker Antonio Pietrangeli. Featuring a fine cast of actresses and an entertaining and enjoyable storyline, if you are a fan of ’60s Italian cinema, you owe it yourself to own this wonderful Blu-ray release! “Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is recommended!
TITLE: Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)
FILM RELEASE: 1960
DURATION: 129 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (1:65:1 aspect ratio), Original Italian, PCM Linear Dual Mono, Subtitles in English
COMPANY: Raro Video
RATED: Not Rated
RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2015
Directed by Antonio Pietrangeli
Story by Ruggero Maccari, Antoni Pietrangeli, Ettore Scola
Screenplay by Ruggero Maccari, Antonio Pietrangeli, Tullio Pinelli
Produced by Moris Ergas
Music by Piero Piccioni
Cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo
Edited by Eraldo Da Roma
Production Design by Luigi Scaccianoce
Simone Signoret as Adua Giovanetti
Sandra Milo as Lolita
Emmanuelle Riva as Marilina
Gina Rovere as Caterina Zellero, detta Milly
Claudia Gora as Ercoli
Gianrico Tedeschi as Stefano
Antonio Rais as Emilio
Marcello Mastroiani as Piero Salvagni
A rare masterpiece and a wonderful example of Italian Cinema starring two European film icons, Simone Signoret and Marcello Mastroianni, Adua and her Friends tells the story of four prostitutes forced to fend for themselves when a new law closes the bordellos of Rome. They pool their savings to open a trattoria, but find they cannot get a license. A prominent fixer with connections obtains the license for them, on the condition that they conduct their old business upstairs and pay him an exorbitant monthly fee. The works of Pietrangeli, one of the most talented members of the Italian neo-realism movement and capable of delivering gems such as Adua and her Friends and The Visitor definitely deserves to be revisited and to be exposed to a larger international audience.
A filmmaker who was known for his films and working with female talent in the commedia all’italian genre, Antonio Pietrangeli will be known as a director with so much potential, but also as a filmmaker who died while working on a film.
In his 15-years as a filmmaker, among his highlights in his oeuvre is his 1960 film “Adua e le compagne” (also known as “Adua and her Friends”). A film co-written with filmmaker Ruggero Maccari, Ettore Scola and revered screenwriter and Federico Fellini collaborator, Tullio Pinelli.
The film would star well-known talents such as French actress Simone Signoret (“Casque d’or”, “The Crucible”, “Room at the Top”, “Ship of Fools”), Italian actress Sandra Milo (“8 1/2”, “Juliet of the Spirits”), French actress Emmanuelle Riva (“Hiroshima mon amour”, “Amour”), Italian actress Gina Rovere (“Big Deal on Madonna Street”, “Life is Beautiful”) and actor Marcello Mastroianni (“8 1/2”, “La Dolce Vitta”, “Divorce Italian Style”).
And now Pietrangeli classic “Adua e le compagne” will be released on Blu-ray in North America courtesy of Raro Video.
The film begins with a brothel shutting down and prostitute Adua Giovannetti (portrayed by Simone Signoret) coming up with a business plan to create a brothel but in order to get clients, for her and her business partners to start off by creating a restaurant.
But in order to make this plan work, she needs business partners and she enlists the sexy and bubbly Lolita (portrayed by Sandra Milo), the often stressed out single mother Marilina (portrayed by Emmanuelle Riva) and the quiet, yet fiery Milly (portrayed by Gina Rovere).
The four pool in their money and purchase a run down building but yet rebuild it to become a beautiful restaurant.
But as the four of them want to escape their former lives as prostitutes, the more they miss the life of making money by sleeping with men.
And as the plan is to create the atmosphere of starting their own restaurant and bringing patrons through their door, their goal is to slowly attract the male visitors for their brothel. But will their plan work?
“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is presented in 1080p High Definition (black and white, 1:66:1).
The film is well-contrast as black levels are nice and deep, whites and grays are presented also with very good clarity. I didn’t notice any glaring problems with prominent artifacts, nor did I see any major film damage such as scratches or stains.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is presented in Italian linear PCM 2.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear via center channel. I didn’t notice any hiss, crackling or pops during my viewing of the film. Piero Piccioni’s score sounds crisp and clear, as well as the dialogue.
“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” comes with the following special features:
- Introduction by Maurizio Porro – (6:57) Featuring an introduction by cinema journalist Maurizio Porro.
- Short film: “Girandola 1910” – (10:31) A short by director Antonio Pietrangeli.
“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” comes with a slipcover and a 12-page booklet featuring essays such as “Prospectus” by Bruno di Marino and also an introduction by Lara Nicoli which was for the original VHS release of “Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” from Minerva Classic.
“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is an Antonio Pietrangeli film that has captivated Italian cinema fans for decades.
Often called a feminist film as four women try to become independent and run a professional business was against the norm of what was released in Italian cinema during the ’50s and ’60s, but to also show a sign of desperation as four of the women are prostitutes who want nothing more but to live a different life but can they?
The film features two well-known actresses from French cinema, Simone Signoret and Emmanuel Riva who give a wonderful performance along with Sandra Milo and Gina Rovere as four women who must take their lives into a new direction as their brothel was closed due to the Merlin Law of 1959.
While the Italian Cineaste may remember Federico Fellini’s “Nights of Cabiria” of 1957 as a film that showed audiences about the challenging life of a prostitute, but yet feels liberated because of the independence the job brings to her. The emotional discontent of the prostitute is further more captured in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film “Accattone” which showed that Italian society must conform to modern consumerist culture. Pasolini called it “cultural genocide”.
And the same can be seen with Antonio Pietrangeli’s film “Adua e le compagne” (also known as”Adua and her Friends”) as four prostitutes, forced out of their job due to the Merlin Law band together, pool their money to rent a flat and in order to avoid the law, create a restaurant.
And it’s through the restaurant that these women start to see a sign of their own success but also a place of safety.
Their restaurant allows them to befriend a monk from the nearby Catholic monastery, the restaurant allows the women to meet men who respect them, the restaurant allows a single mother to reunite with her son that she never sees.
But as the restaurant brings them to peace, safety and success, not all is good as the women start to miss their old life and making money through sex.
The goal of having a restaurant to entice men and to have a hidden brothel becomes problematic when their old customers start arriving to the restaurant with their families. Their guilty conscience starts to get the best of them when they meet well-mannered, loving men but to not know how a man would react to their past life.
“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is a film that is not as deep or dark as a Fellini or Passolini film about prostitution but it ranks high up there because it is a film that presented hope, but similar in the fact that to these women, there is no escape. And Pietrangeli is able to bring out human emotion, the anguish of a life that one wanted, what one hoped for, but to see it destroyed.
There is no doubt that “Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” will be seen as one of Antonio Pietrangeli’s finest films from his oeuvre, next to his Berlin International Film Festival award winning 1964 film “La Visita” and his 1965 Silver Ribbon award winning film “Io la conoscevo bene”. While he directed 14 films and wrote screenplays for many, unfortunately, the Pietrangeli would die in a drowning while filming “Come, quando, perche” in 1969.
As mentioned earlier, the film does star quite a bit of talent including Marcello Mastroianni who plays a seedy salesman/playboy. But the film entices you with its four female talent. Simone Signoret plays a strong character, Adua Giovannetti, who tries to keep the business together and making sure the women don’t stray far from what they agreed upon. But her final scene is heartbreaking considering you want to root for Adua because she was able to create a major business but unfortunate situations happen.
Sandra Milo is the film’s bombshell with her flirty, bubbly attitude. Emmanuelle Riva plays the single mother who has her own personal issues, part of her wants to be a mother to her son, while part of her misses the life of a being a prostitute. And you have Gina Rovere, the person who has the opportunity to live a normal life with a man, but feels to guilty because of her past.
You want to root for these women to be successful but like other Italian films about prostitution, unlike America’s “Pretty Woman”, there is not always a happy ending or a fairy tale… just reality.
The film looks very good on Blu-ray as I didn’t see any major film damage during my viewing. The soundtrack was also crisp and clear with no signs of popping or crackling. And you also get a few special features and a 12-page booklet which are included.
Overall, “Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is among the most memorable films from filmmaker Antonio Pietrangeli. Featuring a fine cast of actresses and an entertaining and enjoyable storyline, if you are a fan of ’60s Italian cinema, you owe it yourself to own this wonderful Blu-ray release!
“Adua e le compagne (Adua and her Friends)” is recommended!
Among the Italian filmmakers of the ’50s-’60s that were forgotten and have now been rediscovered by today’s cineaste, Antonio Pietrangeli’s “La Visita” is true commedia all’italiana. Featuring a wonderful performance by Sandra Milo and Francois Perier, “La Visita” is an enjoyable comedy that takes on a disillusioned point of view of life between two lonely individuals who meet each other after corresponding by mail. Captivating, fun and highly recommended!
©RAROVIDEO 2012. All rights reserved.
DVD TITLE: La Visita (The Visitor)
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1963
DURATION: 111 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: B&W, 1:85:1, 4:3 Letterboxed, Italian Digital mono 2.0 with English subtitles
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: March 13, 2012
Directed by Antonio Pietrangeli
Story by Gino De Santis, Ettore Scola, Ruggero Maccari
Written by Ruggero Maccari, Antonio Pietrangeli
Produced by Moris Ergas
Music by Armando Trovajoli
Cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi
Edited by Eraldo Da Roma
Production Design by Luigi Scaccianoce
Set Decoration by Sergio Dona
Costume Design by Margherita Ferrone, Piero Tosi
Sandra Milo as Pina
Francois Perier as Adolfo Di Palma
Mario Adorf as Cucaracha
Gastone Moschin as Renato Gusso
Angela Minervini as Chiaretta
Didi Perego as Nella
Thirty-something stunning beauty Pina (Sandra Milo) takes out an ad in the personal column hoping to find a man to take her away from the tiny Italian village where she lives. For months now she has been trying to find the right one – a man with a solid career, a family in mind, and plenty of stamina. Adolfo (Francois Perier) lives in Rome running a profitable business. Looking to share his life with that special person willing to raise a family Adolfo replies to Pina’s ad. The couple arrange to meet in the village where Pina lives. Incorporating flashbacks that highlight Pina’s and Adolfo’s lives, the complexity of the characters are slowly revelaed and when the two finally meet Pina quickly concludes that Adolfo is the one. He appears noble, cultured, and ready for a serious commitment – Pina can hardly believe her luck!
I spoke with a friend on the phone the other day and a friend who is absolutely passionate about cinema. I told him about a film that I watched recently, “La Visita” directed by Antonio Pietrangeli.
My friend replied with, “Who is Antonio Pietrangeli?”.
And I’m sure that within the last few decades, many have replied similarly when hearing about this director for the first time.
But it’s not surprising. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, there were Italian filmmakers who were known for their post-war Italian neorealism films or sexual comedies. Similar to other countries in Europe, there was a huge growth of filmmakers and writers who worked on cinema and very few were known for their work in the genre.
Others were forgotten until now. Among those filmmakers who were forgotten was Antonio Pietrangeli (“March’s Child”, “I Knew Her Well”, “Empty Eyes”), a filmmaker known for Commedia all’italiana (Italian style comedy) and worked in the Italian neorealism movement.
While Pietrangeli is also known in Italy for his cinema articles for “Bianco e Nero” and “Cinema” magazines, his films didn’t garner too much attention as his other associates were creating films with deep storylines and films that had the best actors or actresses of that era in time.
But in 1963, Pietrangeli would go on to create a film known as “La Visita” (The Visitor) that was truly Commedia all’italiana and have not only captured the attention of today’s cineaste but also for many to recognize Antonio Pietrangeli as one of Italy’s finest filmmakers. The film would also go against other Commedia all’italiana films in terms of structure and instead of focusing on a male character, “La Visita” would feature a strong female character who was independent and also self-sufficient, which was rare to see in Italian cinema.
The film would star Sandra Milo (“Il generale della Rovere”, “8 1/2”, “Juliet of the Spirits”, “Classe Tous Risques”) and French actor Francois Perier (“Nights of Cabiria”, “Le Samourai”, “Z”, “Orpheus”).
“La Visita” would be nominated for a Golden Bear Award at the 1964 Berlin International Film Festival and would win the FIPRESCI Prize.
And now, “La Visita” will be released on DVD in March 2012 courtesy of RaroVideo.
“La Visita” is a film that focuses on two individuals: Pina (played by Sandra Milo) and Adolfo Di Palma (played by Francois Perier).
Pina is a 36-year-old woman who lives in a small town. She lives alone with her parrot, a dog and a turtle and put an ad in a personal column hoping to correspond with a man who is wanting to raise a family, has a career and is healthy.
And sure enough, the man that responds to her ad is Francois, who lives in the city of Rome and the two begin corresponding with each other via letters.
And now, it’s the big day as Pina has invited Francois to her village to stay with her at her home for a few days. Hoping that he will be “Mr. Right”.
As the two meet each other, Adolfo is taken by Pina’s beauty (and big derriere, which he likes). But immediately when he goes to her home, he starts to impress her with his city knowledge and how much things cost. And as the two try to become acquainted with each other, we start to see flashbacks of their lives prior to the two meeting with each other.
For Pina, she is a lonely woman and she has been having an affair with a truck driver named Renato Gusso (played by Gastone Moschin). He is happily married with two children but he looks at Pina as a woman he can have sex with during his truck stops in her village. But for Pina, she wants a relationship, a man that she can love, have a family with and if needed, take her away from her small village if needed.
While Renato does know this, he wishes her the best in finding a man that will treat her right. Even though he knows that Pina would love to be with him.
As for Francois, we find out that he works for a book store and is not well-appreciated by his boss. In fact, his boss enjoys him more when he’s not working. Unlike the kind man that he portrays himself, he is rude, a chauvinist and a racist. He is also living alone and lonely. Even though he has sexual experience with a woman who cleans his clothes.
And whenever Pina leaves the room, his thoughts are more of how he can move his antique furniture to her home and getting rid of her pets (which is like family to Pina).
As Pina tries to get him used to her small village, Francois runs into a few people such as the town lunatic named Cucaracha (played by Mario Adorf). Cucaracha loves to dance and he also likes Pina and hates Francois.
Another person that Francois meets is the beautiful teenager Chiaretta (played by Angela Minervini) who likes to use her sexuality to get Francois’ attention. And for Francois, being the man that is constantly thinking about sex, he even is allured by her.
And as Pina and Francois talk about their life together, both start to wonder if its impossible for them to find true love.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“La Visita” is presented in 1:85:1 black and white and in Digital Mono 2.0 Italian with English subtitles.
The following DVD features a new digitally restored transfer from the original 35mm negative print. I was pretty amazed by how beautiful the film looks, considering it is 50-years-old. There is no sign of aging, contrast is amazing as black levels are deep, whites and grays are well-done. There is some scratches and a scene with a few damage but it’s only a few seconds long but the entire film looked magnificent. In fact, I was hoping this was one title that would receive a Blu-ray release from RaroVideo, but for the most part, this film looks fantastic on DVD.
As for audio, dialogue is clear and understandable. I didn’t hear any hiss or clicks or any crackle during my viewing of the film. Subtitles are easy to read.
“La Visita” comes with the following special features:
- Interview with Ettore Scola – (18:37) Director writer Ettore Scola talks about perceptions of Antonio Pietrangeli than and how people are discovering his work now.
- Interview with Armando Trovajoli – (9:49) Interview with composer Armando Trovajoli who talks about working with Pietrangeli.
- Interview with Paolo Pietrangeli – (14:45) Interview with director and musician Paolo Pietrangeli about his relationship with his father and how he has been forgotten in Italy but probably be remembered if he directed in other countries.
- PDF Booklet – Featuring a wonderful 16-page booklet which includes a film analysis by Gabrielle Lucantonio, “Comments of the Director” by director Antonio Pietrangeli (“Bianco e Nero, 1967) and “Comments of the Leading Actress: Sandra Milo” by Patrizia Pistagnesi, “Hommage a Anna” (1989).
“La Visita” comes with a slipcover case.
Among the Italian filmmakers of the ’50s-’60s that were forgotten and have now been rediscovered by today’s cineaste, Antonio Pietrangeli’s “La Visita” is true commedia all’italiana. Featuring a wonderful performance by Sandra Milo and Francois Perier, “La Visita” is an enjoyable comedy that takes on a disillusioned point of view of life between two lonely individuals who meet each other after corresponding by mail.
But I have to admit, even I have not heard of Antonio Pietrangeli and this is rare considering he has made films that were nominated for awards, he was a film critic for major Italian magazines, he helped jumpstart the career of Sandra Milo and for a filmmaker and screenwriter of this caliber, how is it that his name has been forgotten?
The fact is that with Italian cinema, there was always a focus on Italian neorealism and commedia all’italiana and very few filmmakers were remembered because their work played worldwide. They were written about in cinema magazines all over the world but access to films, especially during that era in time when so many were being released and only the films by notable filmmakers were being focused on, a number of Italian filmmakers fell through the cracks to never be remembered.
But that was then, this is now.
Like in America who many had forgotten actor Harold Lloyd, who is one of the three kings of comedy of silent film, Lloyd started to receive recognition nearly 50-years after his films were released. While Lloyd’s awareness was low because he had control over his films, in Italy, Pietrangeli was forgotten because his films were unlike Fellini, Mastroianni, De Sica, Rossellini. In fact, unlike France where many film critics for Caheres went on to write and direct their own films, it was not really appreciated in Italy.
And thus, many people ask, who is Antonio Pietrangeli? And now, here we are with RaroVideo’s release of a digitally restored “La Visita”, one of the cinema highlights in the career of Pietrangeli but also talents such as Sandra Milo and Francois Perier.
For some, the whole storyline may seem banal. Two lonely people who have corresponded with each other and are perhaps destined to fall in love. But this is not an Ersnt Lubitsch “The Shop Arround the Corner” type of film. These characters are flawed, disillusioned and total opposites and there is no “opposites attract” and trying to sugarcoat it.
Sandra Milo does a fantastic job playing Pina, a woman that is well-known for her posterior that she puts Kim Kardashian to shame. Pietrangeli was especially hard on the actress in order to get her character right, especially having to wear so much butt padding that she eventually realized that the reason why the director was tough on her is because he wanted to get that sense of delusion, that sense of loneliness and she succeeds. She is 36-years-old, absolutely beautiful but perhaps her standards are too high? Or perhaps she needs to travel and find herself elsewhere. But instead, she tries her chances on a newspaper ad.
But unlike female characters in Italian cinema, this woman doesn’t rely on her man. She is self-sufficient, she is independent, has her own house, servant and vehicle. So, her character was quite different than what was usually seen in Italian cinema during that era.
Francois Perier is equally wonderful as the disillusioned Francois. A man who lives a ho-hum life, no excitement and because he is treated like a nobody, he has a negative outlook on his life and when he arrives to meet Pina, immediately he looks at her as a plaything, her home as his place to do what he wants. An arrogant man who thinks he can spank any woman’s behind whenever he wants, speaks what he wants and eventually the more we get to know him, we are turned off by his attitude.
Which leads us to the director Antonio Pietrangeli. We know that filmmakers Michelangelo Antonioni who take on relationships focus on alienation. Pietrangeli doesn’t go for alienation but he does share his disillusion of society with his two characters, two total opposites that don’t deserve each other. As Hollywood was about total opposites finding love, this was not going to follow that banality of regurgitating storylines. Nor was this film going to have the same supporting characters. Who would imagine that you would have a character named Cucaracha who is a buffoon that is constantly dancing or tries to wash Pina’s car in the rain, who would expect to see a teenager named Chiaretta trying to use her sexuality and see if she can get Francois all hot and bothered.
You just don’t come across films like “La Visita” that often and for me, it was refreshing to watch a film and really enjoying it, despite knowing that these two characters are flawed.
As for the DVD release, RaroVideo has done cineaste a great service in releasing this digitally remastered version of the film. For a film that is 50-years-0ld, it looks fantastic on DVD but with that being said, having gone through digital restoration, I really do feel that this film should be released on Blu-ray. It’s too beautiful of a film to be only on DVD, so I hope RaroVideo considers an HD release in the near future.
As for special features, you get three interviews that try to focus on how can a filmmaker such as Antonio Pietrangeli be forgotten. Interesting and intriguing interviews and also a wonderful booklet via PDF.
Overall, “La Visita” is captivating, fun and highly entertaining! “La Visita” is true commedia all’italiana, a rare gem that you rarely come across and should be recognized as a masterpiece by Italian filmmaker/writer Antonio Pietrangeli.