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A usually neglected Michelangelo Antonioni early film, "The Lady without Camelias" is a caustic story about a beautiful Milanese shop clerk (Lucia Bosé) who briefly becomes a movie star. She soon discovers than she is fenced in and humiliated, with a new and rich husband who can't tolerate her romantic scenes -- he prefers her to play Joan of Arc, with disastrous consequences.
It is actually one of the cruelest and most accurate portraits of studio film-making and the Italian movie world. As the film develops, it only gets better, the last scene being a little masterpiece of its own. Michelangelo Antonioni, who had already worked with Bosé on "Chronicle of a Love Affair", offered her the part of Clara after Lollobrigida (and, it is said, Loren) had turned it down, and she does wonders in one of her best parts on the silver screen. I have never been really touched by Antonioni's (much more famous, much more serious) Trilogy, but I have enjoyed this "minor" work. Compared to later Antonioni, the film feels crowded, yet some of the director's favorite themes are already there (most notably, misunderstanding between men and women, and masculine weakness). For those (like me) who always found Antonioni quite hard to follow in his later films, try this bitter tale in post-war Italy, I think it gives a different and lighter approach to this director's work.
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