Tuesday, May 7, 2013

165. Ossessione (1943)

Running Time: 133 minutes
Directed By: Luchino Visconti
Written By: Luchino Visconti, Mario Alicata
Main Cast: Clara Calamai, Massimo Girotti, Dhia Cristiani, Elio Marcuzzo, Vittorio Duse


The second adaptation from THE BOOK of James M. Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice" comes from Italy and the eye of Luchino Visconti, one of the fathers (along with Rossellini) of the neo-realist movement. By the way, as I write this it's past midnight and I've been up since 6:30am, so bear with me folks...it's been a long day.

Some of you probably read my "The Postman Always Rings Twice" review, back in (I think) May of 2012. Of course, I'm referring to the Tay Garnett, Hollywood version of the film, starring Lana Turner and John Garfield. However, for those of you that missed it, I'll recount the plot. The film opens with a drifter, Gino (Girotti), arriving at a small, roadside restaurant, with no money in his pocket and a hungry belly. The restaurant is run by a husband and wife, Giuseppe and Giovanna (Calamai). The pair is as mismatched as the baker and his wife (of "The Baker's Wife"), with him being a portly, slovenly sort and she being a gorgeous Italian beauty. Right away Gino and Giovanna strike up a romance and Giovanna spills the beans about marrying Giuseppe when she was hard on her luck, no longer loving him and how even his touch makes her skin crawl. The immediately start hatching plans to run away together, but when they finally go through with it, Giovanna can't do it and insists on going back. Gino breaks off on his own, meets up with a street performer named Lo spagnolo (Marcuzzo) and the two work together for about six months, drifting together. By chance, Giuseppe and Giovanna run into Gino and during some time away from the husband, Gino and Giovanna have time to talk. They end up hatching a plan to kill Giuseppe, so that they can be together. They follow through with the plan, staging a car wreck and making it look like all three of them were involved, killing Giuseppe. Following this, Gino and Giovanna have a hard time coping with the guilt and quarreling begins, all the while trying to sidestep the police investigators.

Gonna' try to keep this short & sweet because, like I said, I'm pretty beat at this point in the night. Umm let's see here...oh yes, "Ossessione"! Better or worse than the Hollywood, Tay Garnett version? I'd have to say better and also note that in retrospect I overrated "The Postman Always Rings Twice", which I gave a '7' upon initial review. My main complaint with that version of the James M. Cain work was the circus that followed the murder of the husband. You get Turner and Garfield going through court, ratting on one another and just a big bunch of brouhaha that wasn't needed. I stated in THAT review that everything should've been kept as simple as possible and it would've been finer and dandier! In "Ossessione", this is actually what happens, as everything is kept pretty simple. There's no media or courtroom circus and following the murder of the husband (which wasn't nearly elaborate enough - a big nitpick), they continue on the simple side, by adding in a touch of paranoia and guilt to the characters, which works well. Gino gets fed up with Giovanna, (who has her sex appeal toned down in the second half, to make her less appealing to both us and Gino) and falls for another girl, this time a prostitute. Giovanna gets jealous, threatens to rat him out to the police, but has a change of heart and they make love on the beach. It doesn't matter though, because some passersby, from the night of the accident, come forward to the police and rat them out anyway. So, we skip the circus, get more story, in a more subtler form and it all works out better in the end.

I will say, however, that the film is too long. It runs just over two hours, but it feels like a lifetime, at times. Everything from Point A to Point B to Point C and so on, is pretty straight-forward, but sometimes it feels like it's taking an eternity to get there. For a movie that seemed to be really good and right on the money, it just bored me very much, at times. I also wasn't crazy about the acting, but will freely admit that Clara Calamai looked great! This was one of those movies, where everything (except nitpicky things) came together nicely, that I just didn't like for some reason, because I just couldn't click with it. I can freely admit that it was good and even better than "The Postman Always Rings Twice", but there was just something missing and I'm not sure what.

RATING: 6/10  Decent stuff, but maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it or something and a rewatch is probably needed someday. Until then, call it a '6'.


May 7, 2013  12:46am


  1. I think that this film it's a true masterpiece. The bisexual slant Visconti adds to the character of Girotti is a touch of genius, and the fact that he done it in wartime Italy, yet under the control of fascism makes the film even more interesting and dangerous to appreciate.

    1. Thanks for the comment Oscar, always appreciate a fresh set of eyes.

      I guess I'm just not the guy to be able to appreciate filmmaker's making movies under certain governmental restrictions. Still, I liked this one just fine.

    2. And a warm welcome Oscar, to a new face, from me as well.
      Especially with comments like this.. Whilst I'd hesitate to go as far as 'true masterpiece', I certainly share admiration and award the appellation of genius for slipping a Bi-sexual theme past Fascist censors.
      Hope to see you in here again Oscar


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