Saturday, November 16, 2002


Luchino Visconti filmed this "bootleg" version of James Cain's THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE a couple of years before Hollywood got around to it. This version is too long in the middle, but it's much more interesting than the American version. Massimo Girotti plays a sexy homeless drifter who stumbles into a relationship with Clara Calamai, a young woman stuck in a dead-end (and deadening) marriage with a older man (the couple run a small inn/restaurant out in the middle of nowhere). Girotti stops by for a meal and, when he and Calamai strike sparks, connives to hang around as a hired hand. The two begin a lusty affair immediately; when she suggests getting rid of her husband, he freaks out and takes off for the city. On the train, a vagabond artist (Elio Marcuzzo) pays for his ticket and they strike up a friendship, which very definitely has homoerotic elements. They share a bed in a tense and unresolved scene and they wind up working together on the streets until Girotti runs into Calamai. He goes off with her and they actively plot to kill the husband. As in DOUBLE INDEMNITY, once the deed is done, their relationship sours, leading to betrayal, more death, and an ironic but fitting ending.

I think it's interesting that, although the cliche of woman as ball and chain is intact, the usual city/country pattern is reversed here: Girotti feels trapped out in the open spaces of the countryside helping Calamai run the inn, and feels more internal freedom in the bustling city with his male friend. Girotti is beautiful, whether stubbly or clean shaven, whether in a tank top, sweater, or bare chested. Calamai is less beautiful, but has an earthy appeal and the two have good chemistry. There is social commentary on the oppression of people in society--I'm sure it's a Marxist movie, although I wasn't paying attention to the political undercurrents. The constant use of music playing in the background of scenes is interesting. The DVD I saw didn't translate the lyrics of the songs, but I assume most of the music was being used as ironic counterpoint. At 135 minutes, it is too long, but it's worth catching, especially if you're a noir fan.

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