Created by Michelangelo Antonioni, Daniele D’Anza, Silvio Giovaninetti, Francesco Maselli & Piero Tellini
Wealthy but insecure businessman Enrico Fontana (Ferdinand Sarmi) hires CARLONI, a private detective, to investigate the background of his pretty young wife Paola (played by Lucia Bose, only nineteen at the time, and a former Miss Italy), whom he suspects of possibly cheating on him, in Cronaca di un amore, a 1950 film directed and co-written by future Italian auteur Michelangelo Antonioni.
Carloni (Gino Rossi) starts poking around, and traces Paola’s life back to her impoverished hometown and her freewheeling past, where he learns of a tragic incident from seven years earlier, involving the death of one of her best friends.
This isn’t really a private eye film–Carloni’s there mostly as a framing device, and he doesn’t display much depth. He’s just a hired man, a middle-aged op with “shifty eyes,” just doing a job for the agency, and he flits in and out of the action, more of a catalyst than anything. But it’s his appearance that inadvertently reunites the spotlight couple of Paola and Guido, and sets in motion the plot, that borrows liberally from the classic noir novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. Soon enough, in true James M. Cain fashion, lust rears its ugly head and soon the two are going at it.
Can murder be far behind?
So, sure, we’ve seen this all before, but Antonioni doesn’t seem all that interested in murder or passion, or any of the usual tropes, after all. Truthfully, there isn’t much violence in the film, or even much passion, come to think of it. There’s no denying that the woman who plays Paola is strikingly beautiful, and there are enough tantalizing glimpses of her to raise an eyebrow or two, but don’t expect any torrid scenes between Paola and Guido. The director seems more interested in the chilly, dispassionate and ultimately empty lives of the Fontanas and their upper class friends and associates, as well as everyone’s apparently pointless struggle for any real intimacy.
The sleek camerawork by Enzo Serafin is top notch, and there are some great, noirish shots (those giant bottles of liquor along the highway!) , and some nice contrasts between the worn down world of Paola’s past, and the hollow gloss of her privileged present. There’s a haunting coldness about the film, however–a convoluted tangle of missed signals, missed chances and misunderstandings, with things hinted at but never explained, with everything hit at obliquely and never straight on. It ends with a whimper, not a bang.
Which probably makes it noir, perhaps, but aimed at the head, not the heart.
It was Antonioni’s first film and, for better or worse, it shows.
- CRONACA DI UN AMORE| Buy the DVD | Buy the Blu-Ray
(1950, Villani Film)
(aka “Story of a Love Affair”)
Black & White
Screenplay by Michelangelo Antonioni, Daniele D’Anza, Silvio Giovaninetti, Francesco Maselli, Piero Tellini
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Cinematography: Enzo Serafin
Producer: Franco Villani
Starring Gino Rossi as CARLONI
Also starring Massimo Girotti, Lucia Bosè, Ferdinand Sarmi, Gino Rossi, Marika Rowsky, Rosi Mirafiore, Rubi D’Alma