Michelangelo Antonioni didn’t start as the Prince of Disconnected Modernism & Existential Ennui, but rather, made his debut helming this effective, if somewhat conventional, love-triangle film noir. Something of a roman-a-clef, it’s a scandal-infused tale of a loveless marriage between a rich Milan industrialist and his lovely young wife whose small town past is being investigated as the film opens. When an unexplained death is uncovered by a Private Detective, the wife’s long lost love shows up in Milan to warn her. Handsome as ever, he sparks their old affair back to life and they dream of running off together. But what chance have they got while her rich husband lives? ‘Toto, I think we’re back in Kansas, after all.’ Actually, it’s James Cain territory, POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE territory. And Antonioni pushes the idea by casting Massimo Girotti in more-or-less the same role he played for Luchino Visconti in his superb, unofficial POSTMAN adaptation, OSSESSIONE/’43. Antonioni moved away from that film’s Neo-Realistic proletariat background to the swank of pre-Il Boom Milano, and the plot has new turns, but the tidy genre packaging doesn’t entirely convince.
DOUBLE-BILL: While there are intimations of the mature Antonioni style in some of this film's empty urban street compositions, IL GRIDO/’57, his last release before his breakout pic L’AVVENTURA/’60, is just as interesting, especially for the continuing influence of Visconti’s OSSESSIONE.