Carloni (Gino Rossi) is a detective at a Milan agency. When we meet him, he is looking through a stack of photos of a beautiful woman.
A wealthy man, Enrico Fontana (Ferdinando Sarmi), recently visited the agency and brought the photographs, which are of his wife Paola (Lucia Bosè). He had recently discovered the photos and become suspicious.
You see, Enrico and Paola hadn’t known each other long when they married, and though they’ve been together for years, there’s still a lot Enrico doesn’t know about his wife’s past. The photos are nothing compromising – just snapshots and fashionable portraits – but he still wants to know the story behind them.
Hired by the husband to find out whatever he can about Paola’s past, Carloni heads to her hometown of Ferrara to begin his search. When word gets around that a man is digging for information about Paola, it leads her to secretly reunite with an old friend named Guido (Massimo Girotti).
Michelangelo Antonioni directs 1950’s Cronaca di un amore, known in English as Story of a Love Affair. Antonioni also contributed to the script, along with three co-writers.
Had the poster not advertised the fact that this was Antonioni’s first feature, I never would have guessed that it came from a first-time director. It’s a very well-constructed film.
Solid performances are given by the entire cast. Lucia Bosè wins the film with her strong, emotional performance as Paola. Paola is quite a manipulative character, but Bosè has a way of making her seem very sincere. She also has very good chemistry with Massimo Girotti, who plays Guido.
The story is also much more intriguing than I expected it to be. Based on the title, which was all I knew of the film before watching it, I thought it would be a standard romantic drama. Man has his wife investigated, finds out she’s been unfaithful with an old flame… it’s a story that’s been seen a million times before, and the film could have been just another carbon-copy telling of the love triangle.
But that’s not the case here at all! Instead we get a complex story of loss, secrets, and even crime in addition to the romantic drama. There are noir elements that I wasn’t expecting at all, and the fact that part of the story is told through a private detective’s investigation lends the film a hint of mystery.
Every year I set a resolution to watch more world cinema, and every year I fail by viewing only a handful or two non-American films. Having watched this great Italian drama in January, hopefully I’ve marked the start of a good year in terms of stepping out of my Hollywood-focused box! Cronaca di un amore is a gripping drama, certainly worth a watch. It made me want to discover more from both its star, Lucia Bosè, and its director/co-writer, Michelangelo Antonioni.
Note: If you’re interested in watching this film, it’s available on Netflix Instant for US customers. And it isn’t dubbed! Delightfully, Netflix’s version is in the original Italian, with English subtitles.