Lovers of the great Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni have cause to rejoice with this new-print revival of his best pre-L’avventura feature.
The complexly plotted 1955 film, from a story by Cesare Pavese, is an artsy, unsentimental chick flick (the title means “The Girlfriends”) that moves among the mostly fractured love lives of five moneyed women who hang out together in Torino. The central figure, Clelia (Eleonora Rossi Drago), sacrifices a personal life for a career she cherishes in the fashion world. She’s Antonioni’s first pre-feminist heroine, and the way she quarrels with a boyfriend against a background of Torino architecture looks ahead to his later seminal works.
Also prefiguring later Antonioni is a moody, beautifully orchestrated scene on a beach. And there’s the estranged, suicidal character of Rosetta (Madeleine Fischer), which could fit snugly into L’avventura. Finally, there’s the cowardly, narcissistic, compulsive womanizer, Lorenzo, played by Gabriele Ferzetti, who expands on this character (but not by much) as the needy male lead in L’avventura.