The Lady Without Camelias (1953)

25 07 2008

Like most of Antonioni’s pre-Il Grido features, this is a curious piece of filmmaking but unfortunately, nothing really special on it’s own. It’s a step up for Antonioni from his overwhelmingly unremarkable debut Story of a Love Affair but that isn’t really saying much. Like that film, one of the few positives is Lucia Bose, who once again, is trapped in a narrative that is far below her acting capabilities. It’s too bad that she had to be Antonioni’s early muse, if you can even call her that, because she would have fit in perfectly with his much more accomplished work.

A young and naive shop clerk named Claire comes to Rome and in the process, inadvertently becomes an Italian movie star. Her newfound stardom is mostly due to the efforts of Gianni, a film producer. He inevitably falls in love with Claire and ultimately, forces her into a marriage. Once they are married, Gianni becomes more and more controlling and it seems to directly effect Claire’s movie career. She appears in a “Joan of Arc”-esque film that is met with a very negative response and now, Gianni doesn’t even want her to appear in any more movies at all. Things begin to look hopeful once she meets and subsequently falls for Nardo, but their affair is still plagued by certain personal obligations.

While the narrative is pretty standard “rise and fall” fare, it is at least a bit more daring than the setup of Antonioni’s previous film, Story of a Love Affair. Some of the “insightful” film making process stuff is a little funny, but saying comedy was Antonioni’s strong suit would be pretty silly. Most of the film’s positive attributes come from Lucia Bose, who is as stunning as ever. Again, her role isn’t even good enough for her, as she breathes life into a character that is otherwise, very one-dimensional. I have a strong feeling I wrote almost the exact same thing about Death of a Cyclist but that just goes to show how many mediocre roles she took. It really is a shame that she was never able to collaborate in a project that could compliment her beauty and grace.

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