Thursday, March 28, 2013

Michelangelo Antonioni: Il Grido (Take III)

Now for the basic set-up of Michelangelo Antonioni's Il Grido (1957). In the small Italian village where Aldo (Steve Cochran) works as a mechanic at the local mill less than a dozen years after the end of the Second World War, Irma, his seven-year paramour, learns that her absentee husband has died overseas. Turns out she has another man, too, Luigi (though we never see him). With her husband dead, she breaks things off with Aldo, despite the fact that they have a young daughter (Rosina).

Aldo freaks out, and after trying to change Irma's mind, quits his steady job and heads out for a vagabond trip with Rosina to parts unknown. Along the way, they have adventures involving an ex-paramour and a new one (Virginia -played by Dorian Gray aka Maria Mangini, pictured above), before he decides to send Rosina back. Aldo then vaguely hooks up with a freelance prostitute (Adreina -- Lynn Shaw) who is struggling to survive. 

My favorite section is Aldo and Rosina's stay with Virginia and her boozing father Guerrino. Here we learn more of representative socioeconomic changes already noticeable in earlier parts of the film. Guerrino is losing his farm to development, and Virginia has taken him to a house/petrol station on a pre-superhighway transportation route where she can eek out a living and give him a place to stay. Virginia's husband is dead (possibly as a result of the war), as well as her mother. Aldo helps out -- for a while. We come to understand all of them better from this experience. Poor drunken Guerrino tries to throw rocks at developers as they are cutting down some of his trees. This "Myth of Sisyphus" moment is repeated on a grander scale in the final section of the movie. 

Even though from the retelling Il Grido may seem like a pitiful tale, it has a stark beauty to it, almost like a mix of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and a Thomas Hardy novel. It contains both tragedy and straight realism. Too, Aldo at times appears almost comic in his brooding, which adds another dimension to the film. All five of the major women characters seem to "get" him better than he understands himself. Aldo and Irma's daughter Rosina adds urgency and poignancy to the story, raising the stakes. The way she sees things (including many strange people) is made clear, drawing one's attention to various additional social details.

Poor Aldo. But in the end, my favorite characters are Virginia, Guerrino, Rosina and Adreina. This inspires a question: what makes certain characters more appealing than others? 

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune.     

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