Tommaso wrote:The little sentimentalisms in the music (which I generally find quite varied, and mostly rather subtle) might be in there as a sort of illustration of Aldo's point-of-view, his non-understanding of why Irma leaves him and why he is getting increasingly lost in a world whose changing he doesn't come to terms with. Of course the harsher soundscapes of "L'Eclisse" are another story, but then the later film is also far more consequent in its depiction of alienation. Which doesn't mean that I consider "Il Grido" as weaker; but the film shows its main character walking (literally) into alienation, whereas "L'Eclisse" and "Deserto Rosso" have it as a given right from the beginning.
Yes, Aldo’s journey of self-discovery forms the basic narrative of the film, but I do think it’s misleading for the music to represent his state of mind as ‘sentimental’. The women in the film are sentimental, certainly; Aldo makes them all cry at some point. But Aldo himself doesn’t cry, he only reacts with spasmodic violence, against people, objects or himself. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to Antonioni’s later films, where the ‘harsher soundscapes’ do indeed serve to drive home the sense of alienation in a more extreme, confrontational way, but there just seemed to be a lot of moments in Il Grido
when the music seemed redundant, as if it was put in there to try and give the film more melodramatic appeal. (Incidentally, I find this much more troubling in The Leopard
, where some of the cues are horribly Max Steiner-ish, obviously an – ultimately failed – attempt by some meddling idiot to make the film more commercial.)
For instance, look at the scene where Edera comes home drunk from the dance, Aldo kisses her impulsively, then recoils and groans ‘Irma, Irma’ into the pillow. The bittersweet theme plays during all this, but Edera’s drunken laughter from the staircase clearly undercuts any normal emotive quality the scene might have had. This theme generally turns up at moments when Aldo is reminded of Irma – later, when Virginia chases the motorcyclist, a mere question from Rosina about her mother’s age is enough to set the maudlin piano going, even though this clearly isn't the mood of this small interlude – and at one moment it almost seems appropriate, when Aldo is reminiscing on the beach with Andreina. But as she notes angrily, his reminiscences sound incomplete. His memory of looking from the top of the sugar refinery tower and seeing his house, and his daughter playing outside, might seem touching, but in fact it suggests how distanced and detached were his relationships to his loved ones (you only have to look at the way he interacts with his daughter to see how hollow that memory is). This is what he is gradually realising, and it’s a chilling revelation, not a sad one. When he goes back to Goriano and sees that Irma now has a new and better home, he goes up the tower again, as if to confirm his fears about his own detachment from life: all he can see is the pervasive mist.
The film opens with a long shot of his house – perhaps to represent Aldo’s own perspective from the tower – and the figure who emerges from it, Irma, is unidentifiable for several minutes. It’s significant that, when we do see her properly, what we see is her receiving the news that her husband is dead. Disorientingly, for us, she then leaves the man who seems to be her husband, the father of her child; if only subliminally, we associate Aldo with the dead husband, and indeed it seems that Irma has been waiting for her real husband to die so that she can move on to the mysterious other man. Aldo has been a stop-gap, a shadow of the husband in Australia, feeding off his money until he dies, and then being discarded – even to the extent of passing his own child on, for another man to bring up.
Look at the way he makes love to Virginia, as though imitating her movements, going through the motions (she lies back and stretches, so does he; in the deleted scene, she climbs onto him, then he climbs onto her). When he cries out ‘Irma’, it isn’t simply because he misses her, it’s because he’s realising that, just as she has changed and moved on, so everyone and everything else he might potentially become attached to is changing, adapting. When he cries out for his lost love – and this is perhaps the central recurring ‘cry’ of the film – it’s because he feels her awful lesson dawning on him, sees the abyss opening up beneath him.
This is scary stuff, as ‘consequent’ in its exposure of alienation as any of the later films, I think: Aldo’s staggering from woman to woman is as disturbing as that of Ferzetti’s or Mastroianni’s in L’Avventura
and La Notte
, the crazed, directionless erotic impulses, without ‘voglia’, and headed only towards ‘niente’. It’s not surprising that Antonioni devised the stories for Il Grido and L’Avventura at the same time: if anything, Aldo is a more radical example than Sandro of a man incapable of that emotion generally perceived as ‘love’.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Fusco’s music (even in Le Amiche
, where it's more out of place) but in this instance it just doesn’t express the protagonist’s state of mind. It’s music fit for Le Notti Bianche
, perhaps, to be played over shots of Mastroianni nursing a drink in a barroom. The one time Fusco really gets it just right in Il Grido is when Aldo is looking at the adverts for jobs in Venezuela, and seems cheerful and hopeful, but then looks up and tosses the papers behind him, into the Po. It’s the unmistakeable gesture of a man who’s just moved one step closer to realising that he’s an empty shell, and the discordant reprise of the main theme fits this moment beautifully. Perhaps you're right, Tommaso, and Fusco is actually showing, in quite a sophisticated way, how Aldo's view of himself as a good, loving husband and father is gradually eroded, but however justifiable thematically, dramatically
it feels like a mismatch.
Tommaso wrote:"Le Amiche" or "Signora senza camelie" plus some of the early documentaries. If bitching is allowed, I wonder why "Gente del Po" didn't make it as an extra onto this disc. Would have fitted like a glove, probably.
Absolutely – I’d happily buy a DVD with nothing but Gente del Po
on it (and thanks, Ellipsis, for the link to L’Amorosa Menzogna
above), but it would be a real coup for MoC to release La Signora or I Vinti and include all the shorts as extras, as on La Gueule Ouverte. On that note, is I Tre Volti available in any format? A quick search seems to indicate not, but I’d love to be mistaken.