Thursday, July 5, 2007
(Directed by Luchino Visconti, 1943, Italy)
"Ossessione", Luchino Visconti's first film is the also the first filmed adaptation of James M. Cain's potboiler "The Postman Always Rings Twice". It is slightly different than the 1946 John Garfield/Lana Turner version or the 1981 Bob Rafaelson/Nicholson/Lange version, but the basic plot stays the same, except moved to Italy. To me it's amazing that this film survives, since it came out during strict Fascistic rule and also Cain's novel was still under copyright at the time, so it was never shown in this country until the 1960's.
The plot (as in the other versions) concerns a drifter Gino(Massimo Girotti) meets and has an affair with a roadside cafe/diner owner's wife Giovanna (Clara Calamai) and after an attempt to run away from the boorish but 'nice guy' husband Giuseppe(Juan de Landa), Gino goes back on the road, only to meet up with the couple and, in the spur of the moment, return back to their diner, and eventually (on Giovanna's egging on) kill Giuseppe and make it look like an accident. Like many twists in classical tragedy, the plot unravels and the adulterous couple meet their doom.
Unlike the 1946 version, this version deals much more freely with sex, between the strapping leading man and his adulterous paramour. Since this was made in 1943 during the height of the war, this sexuality was contained in mainly glances, body language, and very candid sensuality.
It also helped that this is considered the first film for "Italian Neorealism", setting the stage for the post-war Italian classics to follow: "The Bicycle Theif", "Umberto D.", "Bitter Rice", and so many others. This is a haunting film, and still sexy to boot. Unfortunately, the Image DVD release had some problems, (at least mine did), freezing and unfreezing several times at the near end of the film. The print used looks slightly washed out but still clear. This is a landmark not just of Italian neorealist cinema, but also contains some aspects of film noir, if you can see it, by all means do so!