Noirvember 2020, Episode 26: Story of a Love Affair (1950)
Story of a Love Affair (Cronaca di un amore, 1950)
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Produced by Franco Villani
Screenplay by Michelangelo Antonioni, Daniele D’Anza, Silvio Giovannetti, Francesco Maselli, Piero Tellini
Story by Michelangelo Antonioni
Cinematography by Enzo Serafin
Edited by Eraldo Da Roma
Music by Giovanni Fusco
Distributed by Fincine
(1:37) Noir City International, AFI Silver, streaming
With Story of a Love Affair, there’s more than a hint of what director Michelangelo Antonioni has in store for audiences with his later films such as L’Avventura (1960) and Blow-Up (1966), works that eschew conventional narrative in favor of a deep dive into the discontented lives of his characters and the seemingly disconnected events around them. Story of a Love Affair, Antonioni’s first feature film, is a more-or-less conventional narrative, but with considerable reflection on the lives of its frustrated, discontented characters.
Suspecting that his wife may be having an affair, ultra-wealthy businessman Enrico Fontana (Ferdinando Sarmi) hires a private investigator to look into her background as well as her daily comings and goings. Yet this is not Enrico’s story; it’s the story of his wife, Paola (Lucia Bosè) and her lover Guido (Massimo Girotti), who share another secret besides their affair.
Paola is cool and beautiful, yet bored with her husband’s riches and her own stellar wardrobe, one that most women would kill to own. At an event where an exquisite evening dress is being auctioned, Paola wins the dress by bidding 300,000 lira (about $500 in 1950, the equivalent of $5,400 today), then gives it to the model, saying she doesn’t want it.
What she really wants is Guido, and she’ll do anything to get him, including concocting a plan to bump off her husband, something Guido is reluctant to do. In fact, Paola begins to suspect that Guido is reluctant to do anything, including continuing the relationship.
We’ve seen this type of thing before (think The Postman Always Rings Twice, which at least partially inspired this film), but in a way, we haven’t. Story of a Love Affair is less about the plan and more about the elusive nature of intimacy, the feeling of existential dread and foreboding that won’t let you go, even when you have everything you could possibly want. Story of a Love Affair is a movie to watch and enjoy, then come back to later, preferably after seeing some of Antonioni’s other work. Don’t miss it during Noir City International.