Sons and Lovers (1960)

Sons and Lovers
Directed by Jack Cardiff
Written by Gavin Lambert and T.E.B. Clarke from the novel by D.H. Lawrence
The Company of Artists
First viewing/YouTube rental

“That’s how women are with me ” said Paul. “They want me like mad but they don’t want to belong to me.” ― D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers

This handsome film is a well-acted adaptation of Lawrence’s classic novel of desire, both repressed and unleashed.

Paul Morel (Dean Stockwell) is a rebellious artist living in an impoverished English mining town.  His mother (Wendy Hiller) dotes on him and his drunken miner father (Trevor Howard) fails to understand him.  Paul has had a long-term relationship with Miriam.  She loves him deeply, but religion as preached by her mother forbids her from letting him get physical.  Paul’s mother disapproves of the friendship and seems likely to frown on any girl Paul gets serious about.  This is not a real problem since he has vowed never to get married while she is alive.

Paul’s filial devotion prevents him from accepting an offer to study painting in London. Instead, he goes to work at a corset factory.  There he meets Clara Dawes (Mary Ure), a suffragette who has separated from her husband due to his infidelity.  Clara is open to “free love” and she and Paul begin an affair.  But Paul’s heart really belongs to mother.

All the acting is of a very high standard but I thought that Hiller, who failed to snag a nomination, was the best thing about this movie.  The story is interesting and the visuals are simply gorgeous.  Recommended.

Freddie Francis won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White. Sons and Lovers was nominated in the categories of Best Picture; Best Actor (Howard); Best Supporting Actress (Ure); Best Director; Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.


L’Avventura (1960)

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Written by Michelangelo Antonioni, Elio Bartolini, and Tonio Guerra
Cino del Duca/Produzione Cinematografiche Europee/Societe Cinematographique Lyre
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Sandro: Why should we be here talking, arguing? Believe me Anna, words are becoming less and less necessary; they create misunderstandings.

The adventure in this hauntingly beautiful film is a young woman’s journey of self-discovery.

Anna (Lea Massari) is young, beautiful and rich.  She is also bored, dissatisfied, and conflicted about her engagement to Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti).  Sandro works as some kind of building consultant, having abandoned actual architecture.  The two have meaningless sex in lieu of communicating.  It’s hard to communicate with Sandro, who is seemingly a very simple sort of guy.

Anna’s friend Claudia (Monica Vitti) will accompany the couple on a yacht trip.  Along for the ride are two other couples, both of whom also have deeply conflicted relationships. Claudia is the witness to all this emptiness and despair.  She will be the only authentic human being we will meet in the course of the film.

The party visits a deserted rocky island where they continue to play out their psychodramas.  Suddenly, Anna has disappeared  Everyone looks for her with varying degrees of intensity.  Claudia is the most frantic.  But Anna is nowhere to be found.

Sandro comes on to Claudia before the yacht has even departed the island.  She flees to continue the search on the mainland.  He follows her.  Then they start searching together. Claudia eventually reciprocates his attentions but loving Sandro will not be easy.

This was my third viewing of L’Avventura.  The first time through I was just puzzled.  After a couple more tries at Antonioni’s films, I concluded that he made boring films about boredom.  The second time something clicked in me and I found the film fascinating and meaningful.  On this viewing, I was somewhere in between my two reactions.  The film seemed to drag on and on, yet every image was captivating and moving.  I love the ending when two characters seem able to grieve their losses.

I don’t know how fair it is to let a commentary influence one’s opinion about a film.  The one on the Criterion version is fantastic and explains so much.  It turns out that you have to pay attention to just about every detail in every frame to get the most out of this.  Nothing is there by accident.  When I watch the movie through this film historian’s eyes, it turns into a masterpiece.

Re-release trailer