Le Amiche (1955)

Le Amiche220px-Le_Amiche_Poster
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Alba de Cespedes from a novel by Cesare Pavese
1955/Italy
Trionfalcine
First viewing/Netflix rental

One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood. — Lucius Annaeus Seneca

How refreshing to find a 1950’s movie in which the career woman is the most balanced and admirable character!  I liked this early Antonioni offering a lot.

Cleilia (Eleonora Rossi Drago) comes to Turin to prepare for the opening of a new studio of the Rome fashion house she works for.  She finds the project almost hopelessly behind schedule and must take charge of the lackadaisical workmen.  One morning, a maid runs into her room at the hotel announcing that the woman in the next room is dead.  It turns out that the woman, Rosetta, is not dead but nearly so due to a suicide attempt.  She recovers.  Gradually, Cleilia becomes part of Rosetta’s circle of friends.  She takes pity on the young socialite and gets her a job at the studio to distract her from her worries.

le amiche

All of Rosetta’s friends have one type of man trouble or another.  The principal story involves Lorenzo, a painter, and his wife Nene (Valentina Cortese), a potter.  Lorenzo shows a portrait he painted of Rosetta at a show.  The show is not a success.  In the meantime, Nene is invited to show her ceramics at a celebrated gallery in New York.  Part of Rosetta’s problem is that she fell in love with Lorenzo while he was painting her.  After her recovery, she instigates an affair.  We continue to follow the friendship and romantic lives of our protagonists.

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This has some of the familiar Antonioni themes of alienation and upper class ennui but there is also a sense of agency in these women that is very good to see for the period.  The men are really secondary.  For me the outstanding performance was that of Valentina Cortese who is being torn up by the conflict between her art and her love for her cheating husband.  I loved the ending as well.  Recommended.

Trailer (French subtitles)

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