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Gino, a young and handsome tramp, stops in a small roadside inn run by Giovanna. She is unsatisfied with her older husband Bragana : she only married him for money. Gino and Giovanna fall in love. But Bragana is inhibiting for their passion, and Giovanna refuses to run away with Gino. Written by
Visconti's first feature, Ossessione is an adaptation of James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice. Now, I'm not familiar with that book or the other film versions, but I am a big fan of Cain's Double Indemnity (much more so than I am a fan of Billy Wilder's film version of it, in fact). The two novellas seem like they must be very similar. Both involve an illicit love affair where a ravenous wife complains to a morally weak man that her husband is worthless and mean to her. Giovanna, the woman in this Italian version, played very well by Clara Calamai, is not evil incarnate like the wife in Double Indemnity, but she seems very spoiled. Her husband (a great performance by Juan de Landa) is a bit cruel to her, but she strikes me like she is at least as uncompromising with him. He's older than her and unattractive, so she's rather fickle. When Gino shows up, a young, muscular man, it takes her about five minutes to get him into bed. She sweats she wants to be with him forever, but she's stuck with her husband. They break up at first, but when they meet again, they (apparently, although this is intentionally vague) plan to murder the husband. They are successful, and they move back to the woman's home town to run the bar that her husband owned. Gino is very unenthusiastic about this idea. He wants Giovanna, but the one thing that he certainly doesn't want is to sit around in one place for the rest of his life. Their relationship quickly crumbles. Ossessione is a very complex film with complex characters. It's always fascinating, but it does go on a bit too long. At two hours and twenty-two minutes, I can't, for the life of me, figure out how it took that long! This is partly due to the neorealist stylistics that Visconti was inventing within this film. It was, after all, the first film that won that label. We see a lot of the action prolonged as it would be in real life, without any hurrying to the next plot point. I've seen many of Visconti's films, and the only one I like better than this one is Rocco and His Brothers (1960). His direction is as great as it ever was, with the camera moving brilliantly and the editing perfect. I also feel the need to point out the film's best performance, by Dhia Christiani as a young (exotic) dancer and part-time prostitute named Anita whom Gino meets after he begins to try to break away from Giovanna. She's only in the film for maybe five or six minutes, and she has only a few lines. It's shocking how much Visconti and Christiani are able to do with this character in such a short time. She's absolutely heartbreaking. 9/10.
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