No, It Isn’t A Chick Flick, Girl Friend: Italy’s “Le Amiche”

Cover of "Le Amiche"

Cover of Le Amiche

I tried to read Cesare Pavese’s short novel, Among Women Only, but decided it was not for me.  The film adaptation by Michelangelo Antonioni, from 1955, however, is a very enjoyable human-condition piece.

Entitled Le Amiche (The Girl Friends), and expertly directed, it revolves around the attempted suicide of a woman called Rosetta (Madeleine Fischer) as well as the possible romance and fashion work of “girl friend”—and main character—Clelia (Eleanora Rossi Drago).  Other girl friends include Momina, Nene and Mariella.  Secondarily, the film is about unrequited love.  More importantly, it is about the absence of human support (for other humans) and the morality of Western sophisticates.

Antonioni’s Pavese-on-film turns out to be an earnest, intelligent, Chekhovian movie.  Savvily acted, too, by the likes of Drago and Yvonne Furneaux (Momina).  What’s more, it leaves the odd impression that it was made at a time in the West when women actually, healthily liked men; vice versa too.

(In Italian with English subtitles)

Scott Vs. The Robbers In The Movie, “Seven Men from Now”

Cover of "Seven Men From Now (Special Col...

Cover via Amazon

The commercial Western novels from earlier decades usually had their cowboy heroes fall in love with a young woman who had not yet married.  The 1956 Western movie, Seven Men from Now—it too is commercial, of course—offers a hero with a sure liking for a young woman who is married, but he staunchly refuses to start anything.  A man of principle, he is played by Randolph Scott, and the seven men of the title are the gold robbers who murdered Scott’s wife and are now being pursued by him.

‘Tis strange that Ben Stride, Scott’s character, doesn’t appear to be suffering much over his wife’s death, and neither does the aforementioned young woman (Gail Russell) seem devastated by the vile murder of her husband (Walter Reed).  It’s as though the producers opposed any big-deal, negative emotion (and if they hadn’t, could Scott have delivered?).

All the same, this Budd Boetticher Western, written by Burt Kennedy, is dramatically piercing.  A perfect, and not strident, performance comes from Lee Marvin with his big personality.  Russell, Reed and others provide a handful of not-bad performances. . . In more ways than one, Seven Men is colorful, another ’50s picture proving how well literal color works for Westerns.  Above all, it is just as entertaining as those Western novels from earlier decades—those I have read, anyway.




Another Christian-Catholic Novel: “The Dark Angels”

The novel The Dark Angels (1936), by Francois Mauriac, presents us with the complicated Gradere, a man who allows himself to sink into utterly foul illegality.  A particular woman, Aline, is a threat to him because of Gradere’s dirty business practices, and an elderly man named Desbats uses her to deepen the threat.  Gradere determines to do something about it.

The novel’s prologue consists of a letter Gradere has written to the village priest, Alain, a good man.  The priest recoils passionately from some information in the letter:  Gradere was once told by another priest that “there are human souls that have been given to [the Devil].”  The reader is left to ask whether this is so.  Mauriac seems to see a half-truth in it, but also expresses, of course, his Christian optimism about God, He Who is “greater than the strength of our mad desire to achieve damnation.”  Withal, he brings Gradere to faith and repentance.

Frankly, this might be deemed implausible and even forced—it is not like the conclusion of, say, Read’s A Married Man—and yet it takes place at the same time that the priest is afflicted with a troubled, self-doubting mind.  This seems to make Gradere’s conversion artistically acceptable. . . The Dark Angels is a wise and poetically written book.  As for the title, well, if certain souls (or all souls?) are given to the Devil, maybe it is the “dark” angels, as it were, who effect it.

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