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The Film “I Knew Her Well” plus Live Music by Baci e Ceci
Saturday, February 9 @ 8:00 pm - 11:00 pm$10
I Knew Her Well
(Io la conoscevo bene, Antonio Pietrangeli, 1965, 115 minutes)
Movie still picture from I Knew Her Well (Io la conoscevo bene, Antonio Pietrangeli, 1965, 115 minutes).
Plus live music performed by
1960s Italian-style pop trio Baci e Ceci
(Kristin Gilmet, lead vocals; Cathy Carfagna, accordion/keyboards/back-up vocals; Jesse Reiter, electric guitar/back-up vocals/bass. With special guest Dave Meinzer on percussion. All songs sung in Italian!)
$10 general, $8 students/seniors, $6 Hallwalls members
Acting in effect as guest-curator, Baci e Ceci vocalist Kristin Gilmet (Global Village Idiots, After Hours, Bipolaroids) approached us with the idea for this film/live music program, and selected this little-known mid-’60s Italian film with its Euro pop-infused soundtrack, Mod style, and eye-popping performance by the 19-year-old Stefania Sandrelli (Divorce Italian Style, The Conformist, We All Loved Each Other So Much, 1900, and many other films of the 1960s, ’70s, and early ’80s).
“Antonio Pietrangeli’s I Knew Her Well deserves to take its place in the canon of classic cinema that defined Italy in the 1960s, alongside such films as Federico Fellini’s La dolce vita, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Mamma Roma, Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’eclisse, and Dino Risi’s Il sorpasso. Like those others, it describes the country at a moment of crucial transformation—a period of economic boom in which a poor agrarian society found itself becoming a richer, urban one. The peripheries of cities mushroomed with anonymous-looking high-rise buildings, and Italians, enjoying the sudden wealth, zipped around in flashy convertible sports cars, in a moment of dizzying, disorienting freedom. There is Vittorio Gassman giddily passing cars on Rome’s new ring road, Marcello Mastroianni wooing Anita Ekberg in his Triumph convertible, moving between the Baths of Caracalla and the Trevi Fountain. The Alain Delon character in L’eclisse is epitomized by his Alfa Romeo Giulietta, which is stolen and has to be fished out of the Tiber. In I Knew Her Well, we are presented with this same world in transformation, but from a different angle. And so, early in the film, we see Adriana, played by Stefania Sandrelli, sitting in an armchair atop a car belonging to a furniture company, moving at full speed, feeling the exhilaration of the night air rushing by…
“Coming upon I Knew Her Well is like rediscovering this moment in Italy through a new and singular sensibility—La dolce vita but following a young woman of modest origins. The film was well received when it came out in 1965 and was placed on the list of ‘100 Italian Films to Be Saved’ at the 2013 Venice Film Festival. Still, for most of the intervening half century, it has been forgotten by the wider public. And yet there are scenes in it that are so iconic and arresting that you feel certain you have seen them before: a convertible ride down a Rome staircase; Ugo Tognazzi, playing a washed-up actor, tap-dancing to the point of collapse in an attempt to win a part in a film. They remain in your mind as indelibly as Ekberg’s wandering into the Trevi Fountain in La dolce vita, the wedding of a Rome pimp in Mamma Roma, the pandemonium at the Rome stock exchange in L’eclisse…
“Pietrangeli’s career began—like those of many of his generation—in the world of Italian neorealism. He worked as a screenwriter on numerous films in the 1940s, including a couple of the early films of Luchino Visconti (1943’s Ossessione and 1948’s La terra trema), and made his own debut as the director with Il sole negli occhi (1953)… Many of Pietrangeli’s films also fall into the broad category of commedia all’italiana, the popular Italian comedies of the 1950s and 1960s that combine humor and light satire of Italian society with darker notes—the most famous being Mario Monicelli’s Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958) and Pietro Germi’s Divorce Italian Style (1961). Pietrangeli’s The Bachelor (1955) is a classic Alberto Sordi comedy about an inveterate playboy who decides he wants to marry. The Magnificent Cuckold (1964), with Ugo Tognazzi, about a philandering husband whose obsessive jealousy pushes his wife into the infidelity he most fears, is rather in the spirit of Marriage Italian Style (1964). Here, too, Pietrangeli pays special attention to unbalanced gender relations: The Magnificent Cuckold satirizes the way in which traditional Italian macho mores collide with a moment of greater personal freedom for women…
“But none of Pietrangeli’s previous films prepare us for the complexity, visual power, and stark interplay of light and dark worlds of I Knew Her Well, which tells the story of Adriana, a country girl who moves to Rome to start a career as an actress. In depicting another [wide-eyed] country girl arriving in the big city, I Knew Her Well takes up the theme of Il sole negli occhi [sun in the eyes], but the Rome of 1965 is not the Rome of 1953. That earlier Rome was already a city in transformation, one of new apartment buildings and insidious traps for the ingenuous, but by the mid-1960s, the economic boom had become supercharged, the pace of change frenetic. It is not only a place of people stepping on one another to get ahead but also of media-drenched illusions, of newspaper headlines, paparazzi, and movie stars. Like La dolce vita, the film is set in the world of the Italian cinema. At the beginning, Adriana works in a movie theater, and the film shifts back and forth between the realm of her hopes and dreams and what is depicted on the screen. We watch her watching a movie in which a character says, ‘You men are all alike!’ which might be an alternate title for the film, which portrays a long string of exploitative relationships… Although the viewer has been put in the position of many of the male characters, judging her from the surface and not looking seriously at her interior life, at the same time, we ultimately realize, the eye of the camera—Pietrangeli’s eye—has shown us far more than the story of a hapless waif in the city…”
~ Alexander Stille, “I Knew Her Well: City Girl,” Criterion Collection essay, 2/24/16.