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
Fascinating retelling of a James M. Cain noir classic.
I'll be upfront - I know nothing about Italian neo-realism, and the only Visconti movie I'd seen prior to this was his silly but enjoyable nazisploitation classic 'The Damned'. But I'm a great fan of James M. Cain's pulp crime classic 'The Postman Always Rings Twice', and this superb retelling of it fascinated me from beginning to end. A few crucial plot points are changed, an interesting supporting character ("The Spaniard") has been added, and the movie has a very different tone from what Cain fans might expect. The original novella, and the subsequent Hollywood versions of it (in '46 and '81) are thrillers, 'Ossessione' isn't. It's more of a story of a doomed love affair. The basic plot is the same - a drifter has a passionate fling with an unhappily married woman and helps her murder her husband - but Visconti approaches the material in a very different manner. The movie is brilliantly filmed, and the acting by the three leads are first rate. You really get a genuine insight into 1940s Italian working class life. The character of The Spaniard adds an interesting touch to the story with a possible homosexual relationship between Gino and himself. It's very subtle but it's there if you look. I thought making Giovanna pretty but not a complete bombshell like Lana Turner added to the realism and credibility of the story. I also was impressed by the small role played by the dancer/part time prostitute Gino buys an ice cream for towards the end of the picture. She doesn't get much screen time sadly, but she is really wonderful. The movie is surprisingly frank for the time and period (Mussolini's Italy), much more realistic and earthy than Hollywood movies of the same period. If you are looking for a straight forward thriller then the Lana Turner/John Garfield version of 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' is probably the better place to start, but if you want to see a brilliant drama then this is the superior movie in my opinion.
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