May 26, 2008

Cronaca di un amore

When it was first made, Cronaca di un amore was criticised by the neo-realist critics of the day. They thought it an exaltation of the frivolous lives of the aristocracy and the bourgeoise, a cinematic surrender to the delights of the flesh promised by Capitalism to the Italian middle class. Worse still they read it correctly as a homage to Hollywood, a homage to film noir in all its facets and a homage therefore to American film making. How wrong they were in their assessment. For Cronaca is really a cutting attack: it is an icy stare upon western society and in particular upon western wealth and the marinettes dancing upon the top of the wedding cake of capitalism. The film is about a girl- played by the impossibly beautiful Lucia Bose- who is caught between her husband and her lover. Years ago she turned away from her lover because his girlfriend and her friend died when they were both standing by subliminally wishing her out of the way. Her husband's investigation of this accident brings together Guido and Paola again after seven years and leads onto a similar terrible event.

Antonioni wants us though to reflect a little deeper here than we might about the meanings of things. The love that Paola and Guido enjoy is a little thing which inspires terrible consequences: it stops them acting to save the lives of others around them. They could have saved the life of their mutual friend by telling her there was no lift in the shaft, but they didn't out of love. Their love is never shown as something that satisfies either of them though. It is no grand passion. Increasingly throughout the film Paola acts the part of the femme fatale. Increasingly both of them seem utterly bored, consumed by their lustrous surroundings and drained by them. Paola in particular seems to pass through the film listlessly, she wears stunning clothes, drives amazing cars and is amazingly beautiful (such that her husband jokes he could sell her for hundreds of thousands of lire) but she doesn't really appreciate any of it: it doesn't make her happy. That isn't to say she could ever leave it: she tells Guido quite emphatically that she cannot leave her husband because she cannot leave his wealth: but it does mean that she derives almost no pleasure from life.

He is equally aimless. He doesn't appear to have a job. He expresses no enjoyment in anything during the film bar her. All the other characters are similar. The detective who trails the lovers is also a man without much in the way of pleasure- save for seeing Milan play. The husband is not a particularly violent man. All the characters seem insipid. Rendered as such by their lives which are devoid of any real meaning. I don't beleive that Antonioni thinks that there is any meaning- just that in this incredibly bleak film he finds nothing of meaning. He finds that the world for these characters is boundless and bare: this is the truly antisceptic modern world, clean and brilliant, yet utterly pointless. It is a Chronicle of Love but a chronicle of modern love: a love in a world that is merely boring. Despite the gowns and the glory that is the message of this film- and its a deeply pessimistic one- go home, don't bother, give up, there is nothing to see, all the stories we tell about ourselves are lies, all the loves we have do not last and we are as guilty of crimes we fail to prevent as of those we commit. Ultimately love and crime are similar so long as we part, we can forget, the problems come when we remember- when we seek to reawake the past, to find our stories. All we do then is send ourselves strolling round to repeat old mistakes with old lovers, reawakening passions that don't exist. All we do is stay within our Chronicles of Love- our Cronaca di un amore- without any possibility of escape.

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