Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Crime of Love (Luigi Comencini, 1974)

Luigi Comencini’s unhelpfully titled Crime of Love is single-minded to a fault, but makes a walloping cumulative impact, rooted in fine personal and social detail. Nullo and Carmela (Giuliano Gemma and Stefania Sandrelli) both work at an emblematically awful Milanese factory, its employees mired in mind-numbingly repetitive tasks while often enveloped in toxic fumes; the mutual attraction is plain, but held back by Carmela’s mercurial nature, based in a mixture of strategy and instinct and in the inherent impossibility of her situation. She’s from Sicily, living with the rest of her family in a single room seemingly filled mainly with beds; Nullo’s home in a more modern building, although also shared with parents and siblings, appears luxurious by comparison (plastic covering still on the couch; a fish tank); he’s an anarchist who rejects the idea of a church wedding whereas she can’t imagine anything else. And yet, she frequently demonstrates the inclination and capacity to be freer and more self-defined: she swings from not wanting him to enter her house because she’s there alone to being the one who shortly afterwards initiates sex (and mentions that she’s been on the pill ever since they met); she sets the tone and direction of things far more than he does, to his perpetual bemusement it seems. The film sometimes evokes Antonioni, depicting a world from which one could only possibly feel alienated (when she talks about wanting to go somewhere sunny, Nullo takes her to a swimming spot of his youth, now a polluted cesspit surrounded by garbage and dead birds), but Comencini’s intentions are more straightforward, with Carmela ultimately a victim of just about everything there is to be a victim of (when her brother beats her up for coming home late and gives her a black eye, she tells people that Nullo did it, because that seems more respectable, and indeed earns him praise from some co-workers). The film ends on a startling act of protest, but one that barely registers, compared to the persuasively draining chronicle that precedes it.

No comments:

Post a Comment