|OpenFlix > Indiscretion of An American Wife|
Jennifer Jones is an American Wife from Philadelphia who has an affair with an Italian academic (Montgomery Clift) while visiting her sister's family in Rome. She decides to end the affair and flees to Rome's Terminal Station to board a train for Paris and then fly home from Paris. The guy caught up with her at the train station and tried to convince her to stay. Will she stay (and give up her daughter and boring husband at home) or will she leave? If you are thinking of buying this movie, be warned that the Italian academic portrayed by Montgomery Clift in this movie is a physically abusive guy. After she skipped her first train, they sat down and talked. Their talk offers us a glimpse into how they met (he bought her a few cups of coffee). She told him that the reason she started the affair with him was because she thought it would be an adventure which she could tell her friends about. At one point of this talk, he mentioned that his Italian father used to beat up his mother. When Jennifer Jones (Mary) asked him if he would beat her up, too, he said he would because he's Italian, just like his father. And you know what happened a few minutes later when Mary tried to end the relationship and said goodbye? He slapped her in the face right there and then, in the train station.
The movie would have been better if there were flashback scenes to tell us more about their times together. There is no chemistry between Jennifer Jones and Montgomery Clift. There are a few times when the movie tries to be romantic but fails. For example, when the two of them were alone in a parked train compartment, she whispered to him to let him know of the agony she went through trying to end their relationship and to forget him. She whispered to him that she wished the rain would wash away her feeling for him, which would make her decision easier. Here we are, at this very moment, when the situation is set up to provide a great and romantic moment, when all he had to do was just kiss her, which would have made it very romantic, do you know what happened? He had to say one stupid line: "Do you think the rain could do that?"
I don't know what this Italian academic teaches; but, I certainly hope he's not teaching poetry. Enough said.
I'm surprised that this movie, from the director of "The Bicycle Thief" and the producer of "Gone With The Wind" can be this bad. If someone were to ask me how I like this movie, I'm almost tempted to say: "Frankly, My Dear, I don't give a damn".
For those of you romantics out there, if you're looking for a romantic movie, look elsewhere. Oh, by the way, for a point of reference, if you're looking for a "Casablanca", "The English Patient" or a "Brief Encounter" (all of which are great and romantic), you will not find it here in this movie.
De Sica was one of Italy's pioneers of the "neo-realism" style of filmmaking which emphasized a gritty realism utilizing small budgets, hand-held cameras and actors with "characteristic" faces. David O. Selznick, on the other hand, was one of Hollywood's most successful producers who name was behind a roster of impressive films, notably "Gone With The Wind." His style was more reserved, romantic and "high-gloss." In 1942, Selznick had discovered a young girl from Tulsa, Oklahoma named Phylis Isley whom he groomed for stardom and changed her name to Jennifer Jones.
Jennifer Jones was a unique and talented actress who earned an Academy Award for her first major role in "The Song of Bernadette." She followed that film with an impressive list of roles that wisely emphasized her versatility and she avoided being type-cast. Indeed, only three years after winning the Oscar for her "saintliness" in "Song of Bernadette," she shocked film goers with a brazen display of sensuality as a half-breed half caste girl in "Duel In The Sun." She earned Oscar nominations four years in a row in the mid 40s.
Selznick married Jones in 1949 and took on her career full time. For her, this proved to be more detrimental than helpful. Selznick was a control freak who tried to dictate every aspect concerning her appearance and choice of roles. Her best films would be done by other directors and producers who would wisely turn a deaf ear to Selznick's intrusions.
The De Sica/Selznick project began in 1952. "Terminal Station" was filmed entirely in Rome's sleek new railway station during late night hours and it didn't take long for De Sica's style of realism to clash with Selznick's expectations for the film. Selznick insisted that another cinematographer be brought in to film Montgomery Clift and Jennifer's close-ups so that they would appear more "glamorous." After the film was completed, Selznick edited the 90 minute film down to 63 minutes for the U.S. release and retitled it "Indiscretion of an American Wife."
Both versions failed at the box office and with critics. The film looked wonderful and the camera-work was stunning, especially the close-ups of Jones and Clift. But the problem with the film basically lay in the story itself - there was not too much to it. The story is told in "real time" and is the farewell between a Philadelphia house-wife and her Italian lover. De Sica's additions of minor characters in the station (some for comic relief) did little to help the otherwise flat story. The acting by both leads, however, was superior and the chemistry between Jones and Clift is very steamy. Considering that the film was made in the early 50s, it is also quite frank and daring in subject matter.
Criterion has restored both versions of the film for the dvd and they have done a spectacular job. A commentary by Leonard Leff is very informative and covers everything from the colorful but troubled production history to interesting tidbits about Jones and Clift's acting styles and personal lives. A gallery of the film's ads and posters is included. This dvd would especially be helpful to film students who want to study the styles of two very different film-makers.
Frankly, I didn't think Selznick's version, "Indiscretion of an American Wife," was that bad, but of course, De Sica's cut is better. I really like films set in confined areas, and the lovely architecture of Rome's Stazione Termine functions as another character in the film. Montgomery Clift and Jennifer Jones are wonderful, as is the cinematography -- you lose yourself in this soft-focus black and white world -- and De Sica's attention to small characters and atmosphere.
Although I do not think this is a masterpiece by any means, it is truly a beautiful film, and worthy for collectors who like De Sica's other work ("Bicycle Thief," "Shoeshine," "Umberto D" etc.), Rossellini's work with Ingrid Bergman (specifically "Voyage to Italy," which also blends Hollywood stars and a Italian Neorealist director to explore hard truths about adult relationships) and Douglas Sirk melodramas.
As an aside, the mid-20th century European train setting made me pop in my Criterion disc of "Brief Encounter," and that made for a great double feature.
As far as the DVD itself goes, I thought it was excellent in terms of the restoration and digital transfer; you get 2 versions of the same film (plus the short starring Patti Page that was included with the theatrical release of "Indiscretion"); and an informative, good though not incredible commentary from the guy (Leonard Leff) who did the excellent Hitchcock/Selznick book (Hitchcock and Selznick: The Rich and Strange Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick). Enjoy. Both versions are included on Criterion's magnificent DVD, allowing latter-day viewers a revealing comparison/contrast between Selznick's commercial taste (glossy and sentimental) and De Sica's artistic vision.Indiscretion turns Jones's overwrought character into a dimensionless focus of guilt and shame, lacking the moral depth ofTerminal Station, in which her dilemma is more compellingly explored. Inevitably, only De Sica's version achieves Selznick's original goal: It's a remarkable hybrid of neorealism (with its authentic setting populated by people of all classes, subtly affecting the story) and Selznick's heavy-handed moralizing (with a partial dialogue polish by Truman Capote). Commentary by film scholar Leonard Leff and liner notes by critic Dave Kehr further illuminate this clash of formidable talents, illustrating how both films, gloriously restored, serve the divergent purposes of their creators.--Jeff Shannon
Just as David O. Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock had clashed while filmingRebecca, the meddlesome producer left his Hollywood imprint on the troubled production of Vittorio De Sica'sTerminal Station. Selznick's career was fading fast, and while self-exiled in Europe he seized on the notion of melding De Sica's masterful neorealism with a daring but otherwise conventional studio romance, casting big stars in a turgid melodrama about a Philadelphia housewife traveling in Rome (Jennifer Jones, Selznick's wife) who must choose between marital fidelity or illicit passion with a lovestruck Italian (Montgomery Clift) as she prepares to depart from Rome's coldly modern Stazione Termini. After De Sica's 89-minuteTerminal Station tested poorly with audiences, Selznick cut the film to 64 minutes (excising most of De Sica's neorealistic atmosphere), added an 8-minute prologue of Patti Page singing two moody ballads to pad the truncated running time, and still failed to attract audiences with his gauchely retitledIndiscretion of an American Wife.
Both versions are included on Criterion's magnificent DVD, allowing latter-day viewers a revealing comparison/contrast between Selznick's commercial taste (glossy and sentimental) and De Sica's artistic vision.Indiscretion turns Jones's overwrought character into a dimensionless focus of guilt and shame, lacking the moral depth ofTerminal Station, in which her dilemma is more compellingly explored. Inevitably, only De Sica's version achieves Selznick's original goal: It's a remarkable hybrid of neorealism (with its authentic setting populated by people of all classes, subtly affecting the story) and Selznick's heavy-handed moralizing (with a partial dialogue polish by Truman Capote). Commentary by film scholar Leonard Leff and liner notes by critic Dave Kehr further illuminate this clash of formidable talents, illustrating how both films, gloriously restored, serve the divergent purposes of their creators.--Jeff Shannon
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