"Il dolce e l'amaro," women and men under the Antonioni microscope. Luxury wraps anguish from the beginning, the posh Turin hotel has the lady from Rome (Eleonora Rossi Drago) in one room and the distraught young mistress (Madeleine Fischer) stuffed with sleeping pills in the other. In town for the fashion boutique opening, the visitor is swiftly pulled into the upper-crust circle of friends: The acerbic socialite (Yvonne Furneaux), the anxious ceramist (Valentina Cortese) and the flirty chiclet (Anna Maria Pancani), plus the fellas orbiting around them. Infidelity is the favorite theater of the wealthy, as De Sica would have it, thus the painter (Gabriele Ferzetti) envious of his successful fiancée while stringing along the suicidal lass. Meanwhile, the Roman swan steps out with the construction foreman (Ettore Manni), perhaps love will blossom amid modern concrete, in Italy "we specialize in miracles." The deft crisscrossing of affairs showcases a sharpened mastery of Hollywood technique (Lubitsch's That Uncertain Feeling and Cukor's A Life of Her Own are especially visible), the silken and brutal gradations of "social diplomacy" are just the grist for Antonioni's mill. Deep-focus groupings through a mobile camera, in and out of drawing rooms and up and down class strata—a search for antique furniture leads to tucked-away slums, a tilt from the penthouse reveals the maid's beau pacing into the night. The centerpiece is a windswept beach outing, a nimble delineation of glances, spats and kisses before an uninviting ocean that's clearly a run-through for L'Avventura, along with the girl who yearns to vanish and the wary Ferzetti embrace. (The train-station rendezvous for hesitant lovers is but one melodramatic tradition analytically updated, the missed date is apocalyptically dilated in L'Eclisse.) "Can't we leave you girls alone for one moment?" The question is one of understanding between the sexes, on to Allen (Husbands and Wives) and Farhadi (About Elly) it ripples. Cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo. With Franco Fabrizi, Maria Gambarelli, and Luciano Volpato. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce