271. il grido (Italy 1957)

Director: Michaelangelo Antonioni

Starring: Steve Cochrane, Alida Valli, Betsy Blair, Dorian Gray, Lyn Shaw

Cinematography: Gianni di Venanzo

Screenplay: Antonio, Elio Bartoli, Ennio di Concini

FACT: Z-movie star Cochrane was picked by Antonio to play the part of 'Aldo' because he wanted an American leading man for the film. After a few days, the director thought he was shite, but it was too late to swap actors.

LIE: Near the end of the film 'Aldo' sarcastically ruffles the hair of a rival sugar refinery worker who has scored a figurative 'own goal' - it just goes to show what a charmless bastard he really is. 

In one line: An Italian man's decent into grief and poverty and tragedy.

Summary

tThe unhappily-named Aldo (Cochrane) works at a sugar refinery in the grim Italian town of Girano. One day he finishes his shift and his partner Irma (Valli) tells him that her long missing husband has died. Aldo sees his opportunity, but his happiness is thwarted when Irma tells him that she loves someone else. Aldo takes their daughter Rosina and sets out on a series of aimless travels. He meets Elvia (Blair), an ex in a nearby town, but after her younger sister makes a play for him, he's off again.

Hitching a lift, he arrives at a desolate petrol station run by the buxom Virginia (Gray) and packs off Rosina back to her mother. This relationship founders and Aldo wanders into further poverty and desolation, culminating in a meeting with Andreina (Shaw) who is practically starving and on the verge of prostitution.

Things get grimmer and grimmer, and Aldo realises he cannot stomach the nomadic and returns to Girano.

As he reaches the outskirts of the town, a riot is taking place as the townspeople fight against the creation of a U.S. air base.

Aldo is rejected by Irma once again and climbs the helter skelter tower he is seen descending at the start of the film........

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Il Grido is another really sad and beautiful film. Ageing Morrissey lookalike Cochrane gives a brooding performance as Aldo (you can visit his bar in Victoria Street, if your 'bag' is giving your hard-earned to unpleasant, moustachioed kopites) and he is ably supported by all concerned.

We never find out the identity of Irma's mysterious lover or why Antonio included the anti-American riots in the film, but such enigmas merely add to the quiet strangeness of the film.

"And if a double decker bus, crashes into us....

The Po valley is both miserable and dream-like as Aldo's odyssey unfurls. There are shades of Bicycle Thieves and The Shiralee (see 266) in the wandering relationship between man and daughter, but none of the shared father-child kindness shown in either of these films.

Pneumatic Shannon Doherty lookalike Gray almost gets them out at one stage, but that's the jolliest thing about Aldo's travails - although he becomes involved with five women in the film, none of them can bring him happiness in a universe that it is unkind and mapping out his tragedy with cruel precision.

So, Il Grido is not exactly a laugh-fest, but there's something deeply satisfying in its exploration of the human condition and it's a sharp reminder of a long-gone time when Italy produced films and directors  that were the envy of the world.

9/10