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Ossessione – 1943 Visconti
- An important film in the history of film noir, Italian neorealism (even if it doesn’t fit most of the characteristics of the movement), and Italian cinema in general
- The beginning of Luchino Visconti’s distinguished career as auteur- and despite fitting into (or starting) these genres and movements, it is his fully his film—a Visconti film—and has much in common with Senso and Death in Venice for example.
- Visconti seems to have arrived as a fully formed mature voice as an artist- this is an accomplished work and one of cinema’s great debut films. Visconti did work as an apprentice under Jean Renoir in the 1930’s (on the underrated Toni in 1935 for sure)—and this film has as much in common with Renoir’s La Chienne (1931) as anything else
- Giuseppe Rosati operatic and menacing score is a perfect match for Visconti’s vision— it hits you will full force as you start the film inside the truck that drops Massimo Girotti’s Gino off, fatefully, at Clara Calamai’s Giovanna’s (and her husband) shop
- After he gets off the truck, Visconti elevates the camera in a crane shot to reveal the setting for the remainder of the movie— like a horror film revealing the haunted house—the shop where Giovanna’s character lives
- Visconti is graceful in his camera movements, gliding to catch the unspoken flirtation (which quickly turns to lust between the two).
- In his sweat and dirty sleeveless undershirt—Girotti’s aggressive Gino is Brando in Streetcar 8 years before that film
- In the scene where the two plot the murder- Visconti pushes the door with the mirror on it open – fantastic little show off touch
- There’s an entire paper to be written here on whether this is neorealism or not. It is about the desperation of the poor like Bicycle Thieves. But this isn’t overtly (or overly) sociopolitical. This could be set anywhere at any time (this is an authorized adaptation of James Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice in the US). This is before De Sica’s masterpiece (1948) and before Rossellini’s war trilogy (1945, 46, 48) though both had directed films before. It is the first great Italian film of the 1940’s and Visconti’s next film is neorealism—so I think it gets lumped it.
- It is much closer to film noir—and I think another paper could be written here. Obviously this film (with Cain’s title sticking) is done again with Lana Turner and John Garfield (and years later with Nicholson) but this is very close to Wilder’s Double Indemnity (which would come in 1944- the following year).
- Love, lust, passion – all apparent in many of Visconti’s ladder films- from Senso to Death in Venice– the harmful self-destructive sexual mania
- The opera contest at the fair (Carmen I believe) is no mistake. Visconti a great admirer of the opera, worked in opera, and includes it in many films. The scene is masterfully constructed – the husband singing in the background, silent glances and intense conversation—and Visconti with the camera- almost an instinctual ability to know when to go in for close-ups
- Most of Visconti’s work after his 1940’s films would lean towards the aristocracy
- A gorgeous shot of Gino walking away after punching his friend (and the moral compass of the film) and the night is over. He’s riddled with guilt. The empty road—empty glasses on the table. Only a few minutes later we get a twin shot of Giovanna’s loneliness- she falls asleep surrounded by a pile of dishes as the camera tracks out
- One of the single greatest shots in the film is near the end when Giovanna is sitting at the restaurant and she sees Gino is with a new girl. Visconti shows this on Clara Calamai’s face. The camera rotates behind her as she stalks him—genius
- Of course the ending is noir (and again- this may be the first film noir), the grizzly final accident. Fate strikes her down and the camera tracks in on a close-up of his face—bloody and beaten—FINE
- Lawsuits kept the film out of theaters in the US until 1976
- A Masterpiece