Story of a Love Affair (Cronaca di un Amore) (1950)

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Released 29-Mar-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Gallery-Photo
Gallery-Poster
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1950
Running Time 98
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Michelangelo Antonioni
Studio
Distributor
Stomp Visual Starring Lucia Bosé
Massimo Girotti
Ferdinando Sarmi
Gino Rossi
Marika Rowsky
Rosi Mirafiore
Rubi D'Alma
Anita Farra
Carlo Gazzabini
Nardo Rimediotti
Renato Burrini
Vittorio Manfrino
Vittoria Mondello
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Giovanni Fusco


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Story of a Love Affair (Cronaca Di Un Amore) was produced in 1950. It was Director Michelangelo Antonioni's first feature. The film would be interesting to cinema buffs for that point alone but Story of a Love Affair stands up as a confident and exciting work in its own right.

    Michaelangelo Antonioni would be best known to most filmgoers for his trio of classic 1960's art films L'Aventura (1960), La Notte (1962)and Blow-up (1966) as well as the 1975 classic Professione: Reporter (The Passenger) with Jack Nicholson. Through these films Antonioni established a unique style of filmmaking, concentrating on minimal plots and dialogue lazily painted on a dream-like film canvas. Antonioni has his critics who consider his work pretentious and lacking in real meaning but at his best his films capture the unique sense of disappointment and the emptiness of modern life.

    But this was in the 1960's. In 1950 Antonioni created Story of a Love Affair with one eye on the future and the other on his previous work creating documentaries. This accounts for the rigorous (by his standards) plotting and a greater emphasis on dialogue. It is also an important step in Italian cinema after the neo-realism years of such films as Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thieves and Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City which concentrated on the struggles of the poor.

    Enrico Fontana (Ferdinando Sarmi) is a wealthy Milanese industrialist. He is married to the beautiful Paola Molon Fontana (Lucia Bose) who is young, beautiful and bored. Jealous of her past he engages a private investigator to enquire into her history. Though unhappy in her marriage Paola enjoys the trappings of wealth and is faithful to her husband. During the course of his enquiries the private investigator stumbles upon a past love in the form of Guido (Massimo Girotti). He discovers that Paola and her best friend were rivals for Guido's affection, however, the best friend died in mysterious circumstances.

    In a master stroke of irony the investigation causes the past lovers to panic and then be drawn together into an adulterous encounter. What follows is the developings of a noirish thriller with each scene taking the couple inexorably towards a tragic outcome.

    Story of a Love Affair works on several levels and crosses different genres although it is never a comfortable fit for the audience. Fans of Antonioni's later “poet of malaise” style might find the abrupt story changes to be off putting whereas those who like a good thriller may find the lack of tension confounding. Lucia Bose makes a cold yet beautiful Paola. Recently crowned Miss Italy she gives probably the best performance of her long career. With Antonioni, however, the performances are not usually the heart of the picture. It was a strong rumour at the time that Ferdinando Sarmi was only cast in the movie because he was a fashion designer with access to the high fashion worn by Bose throughout the film. Whatever the truth, the costumes are gorgeous and help amplify the model/ice-queen that is Paola.

    What is truly notable of Story of a Love Affair is the way Antonioni uses setting and stylised cinematography to establish mood and meaning. Although not immediately apparent, this distinctive style becomes evident at 11:24 when the camera moves past the character to look out a window and then slowly draws back to follow the character as she returns to a table to write a letter. Throughout the remainder of the film characters are often shot in isolated surrounds, rain drenched but empty streets, empty and soulless buildings and bare cross-roads with leafless trees. The environment matches and accentuates the detachment of the characters.

    In the recent documentary by Martin Scorsese on the history of Italian cinema he rated Story of a Love Affair one of his all time favourite movies. It is not hard to see why. It has style in abundance and an understated violence that blurs the lines between desire and death. It is a classic underrated film containing moments that linger long in the memory.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The history of the restoration of Story of a Love Affair for DVD is worthy of a film in itself. In fact, if you purchase the Region 1 DVD (which comes on 2 discs) you can find out about the long process involved in restoring this film from a seemingly irrecoverable negative. Sadly, the version released in Region 4 (although it is a Region 0 copy) has none of these features. Indeed, it is difficult to tell whether this is a restored copy at all. The absence of any mention on the case of the origin of the source print suggests that it is unrestored.

    The film is transferred in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio which is close to its 1.37:1 original aspect ratio.

    The film was shot in black and white. The image quality would be satisfactory were it not for the serious flickering which carries on through the entire movie but is most noticeable in the gloomy outdoor scenes. The image is a little soft and there is a suitable amount of grain which is testimony to the fact that this movie was made on a low budget not long after the end of the War. The print itself is relatively artefact free, however, the credits have a distinct wobble.

    It is a disappointment that the film comes to us with such a distinctive flicker and those who are keen on the film would probably do well to purchase the Region 1 version which is apparently pristine in look. There are English subtitles which are a little small to read at times.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Story of a Love Affair is delivered in its original Italian mono. My researches suggests that the entire film was post-dubbed and this is apparent in the somewhat wayward audio sync and the strange emptiness behind the dialogue. Often Antonioni will deliver just one other backing sound in a scene, such as a passing train, which can be quite strange at times.

    There are two pops at 24:50 and 34:40.

    The surrounds and sub-woofer get no use.

    It is worth commenting that Story of a Love Affair features a saxophone and piano score combining in a jazzy if somewhat discordant fashion. It does add to the noir feel of the movie.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    As said, the Region 0 version available in Australia is missing the features from the Region 1 DVD.

Gallery-Photo

    The photo gallery is just a short sequence of stills from the movie.

Gallery-Poster

    The poster gallery is a selection of posters used to promote the movie. It is interesting to see the variety of poster styles but the extras experience is over in a few seconds.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As previously said, this is the area where this release falls down. The Region 1 release features an extra disc including: Story of a Particular Night - the screening of a restored print in Rome, featuring director Antonioni and interviews with various film business people.

    Also there is a feature Identification of a Masterpiece with the Assistant Director and film critics which weighs in at a whopping 114 minutes (longer than the feature).

    Finally there is Restoring a Masterpiece which consists of a short interview with the original cinematographer and post-production technicians as well as a collectable booklet.

    Although some commentators have suggested that the feature length documentary is a little too long, it is a great disappointment that these features and the restored print itself are not available in our Region release. Sadly I must recommend the Region 1 release to anyone with a keen interest in Antonioni, Italian cinema or film buffs.

Summary

     Antonioni's Story of a Love Affair is justly regarded as an early classic from the master of mood and detachment. Compared to his later movies it is brisk and energetic. It is not just a piece of film history but an exciting revelation. It is therefore a great pity that this disc is hard to recommend when a comprehensively restored and packaged edition is available to the lucky fans in Region 1.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, May 19, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP300, using Component output
DisplayNEC PlasmaSync 42" MP4 1024 x 768. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJBL Simply Cinema SCS178 5.1

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