Antonioni’s sophisticated chick flick


amiche-4-375x346How pleasant to stroll onto the campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and travel in time and space to Italy of the 1950s — and totally avoid LAX.

At LACMA we enjoyed Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Le Amiche” (“The Girlfriends,” 1955), the great Italian director’s refined social melodrama.

The film depicts the world of Clelia, a Rome-based fashionista sent by her employer to open a boutique in the smaller, northern city of Turin. Clelia soon falls in with an arty group of architects, artists, models, and one determined suicide candidate.

Across the pond (and over the river and through the woods), Hollywood was churning its own version of the genre. Ladies of the ’50s certainly had their cat fights, but they also enjoyed strong sisterhood. Unlike today, the values, feelings, experiences and behavior of women seemed to fascinate male screenwriters.

Beautifully shot in black and white, “Le Amiche” represents an early example of the maestro’s oeuvre. Doug Cummings of notes the film’s “extremely elegant visual structure” and how its “themes foreshadow Antonioni’s more mature works.”  It’s also a personal favorite of LACMA film curator, Ian Birnie, who shares with us:

“I love LE AMICHE. The storytelling is brilliant; the characters are amazing.

It’s way ahead of its time. My favorite moment is when Ferzetti comes out of the restaurant after the brawl — Cortese follows him and they lean, without speaking, against a wall in the rainy street, with the lamp silhouetting their overcoats. It’s a shot that epitomizes classic Italian cinema.

Our screenings were very successful. Over 1,300 people attended and the distributor did well too, which pleased me.”

Read A.O. Scott’s wonderful “Le Amiche” review in the NYT.

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