FIlm=4.5 Stars/ DVD=3 Stars
mackjay | Cambridge, MA | 12/18/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For those approaching it in 'historical reverse', that is AFTER knowing the 'Trilogy' ("L'Avventura" "La Notte" "L'Eclisse") and "Il Deserto Rosso", "Le Amiche" is striking in the way it prefigures nearly all the themes the director would continue to explore in his somewhat more daring works of the 1960s. In the character of Clelia (played by the beautiful Eleonora Rossi Drago) can be seen the ancestor of Monica Vitti's Claudia in "L'Avventura": she is an outsider, curious and compassionate, who is coming to terms with her own sense of self. Gabriele Ferzetti plays Lorenzo, a frustrated artist, much like his lost architect in the same famous film. And in Rosetta (Madeleine Fisher) is prefigured the enigmatic Anna go 'goes missing' on the immortal volcanic island. Yvonne Furneaux's Momina embodies the superficial leisure class characters with whom Antonioni will continue to populate his next three or four films. And Nene (Valentina Cortese) acts out the director's great theme of forgiveness.
But it is not just in the characters that "Le Amiche" points toward the future. There are many scenes of wandering, along city streets, or beaches. Casual sexuality it presented not for its sensual or aesthetic appeal, but as an empty attempt to connect. And the great chasm of miscommunication between men and women is on full view. Yet, even in 1955 the director knows that all is not black and white. Characters of the same gender don't really understand one another either. The film is posing a difficult question: is it possible to 'be yourself' and still need others? Clelia finds a difficult answer, while Nene seems to find its mirror image.
And speaking of mirrors, the famous Antonioni 'doubling' is here in germ form as well. In the very opening shot, Clelia looks into the hotel bathroom mirror while drawing her bath: she is about to find her self divided in her feelings about her soon-to-be new friends and her old home town of Torino. Later, she regards her reflection in a shop window mirror before deciding to pursue a romance with the handsome Carlo (Ettore Manni).
Possibly most interesting of all is Rosetta, who, in attempting suicide, is trying to 'disappear'. The film makes it more than clear that this character has no real sense of self: she is dependent upon the affections of a man and the perceived loyalty of her mostly vacant friendships. There is a telling scene with Lorenzo in which she feeds off his flattery. And, in a beautifully acted scene aboard a train, Clelia tries to help her understand the importance of connection to others, never realizing how unstable Rosetta truly is.Antonioni would in his next feature, "Il Grido", begin to streamline his technique. "Le Amiche" has far more characters than he would later prefer, and they talk constantly. There are virtually none of the characteristic, nearly silent sequences that will inform his later works. Nor does landscape play as commanding a role it will assume in the 1960s. While the two main narrative threads of "Le Amiche" (Clelia and Rosetta/Lorenzo/Nene) will be reduced to one for nearly all his remaining films.
Complex, dramatic, and visually seductive, "Le Amiche" is not just a fine early work by Antonioni, it deserves a place beside his more famous achievements. The DVD issue of "Le Amiche" is up to the best of Image Entertainment in terms of quality of the sharp and clean transfer. There are no extras to speak of, but it well worth having such a fascinating film in the new format."
Antonioni's first significant film
Jeremy Heilman | Brooklyn, NY USA | 09/13/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Le Amiche was made in 1955, and was the first significant film from Michaelangelo Antonioni. This film follows a Roman woman named Clelia who, in an effort to improve her life, moves from the city to work at a small shop. She finds the lives of the small town is much less pleasant than she suspected. The women that she befriends are allowed to show a surprising range of emotions, especially for a film made in the fifties. The film seems to suggest that you cannot have a sense of self if you rely upon others. It definitely feels like an Antonioni film, even if it's more talky than his average work. The plot never really feels melodramatic, even though the events could easily make it feel that way. I would reccomend the film highly."
A Cool Melodrama
R. Chapman | London, UK | 10/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Extremely impressive, fully realised 50s Antonioni. Less sparse than his later work but superb script, direction and acting from ensemble cast. Seen entirely from the female perspective, adult, subtle, complex, modern. As ever with Antonioni, a wonderful use of space and location. The mid-fifties fashions are attractive adding another layer to the visual pleasures. Extremely entertaining, warm, human, approachable, not nearly as cold, "difficult" and distancing as his later work and reputation. Not unlike Ophuls in some ways. A cool melodrama. (Why only four stars? Four is good for me. Be sparing with your hyperbole or what's left for the genuine masterpieces?)"
Doug Mackey | Fairfield, IA USA | 06/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although it may not be considered "classic" Antonioni as much as his Sixties films, the interplay of the four or five lead actresses in Le Amiche is fascinating to watch, particularly Eleonora Rossi Drago as Clelia, who exudes a very grounded inner radiance. She is often more in the observer role to other people's dramas, yet finally the film is about her and her own quiet achievement of full independence. I find her a satisfying precursor of the Monica Vitti character in Antonioni's mature films. Le Amiche is atypical Antonioni because it's full of dialogue and crowded with characters, as opposed to spare and formalistic, but it's none the worse for that. I suspect this film has been somewhat underrated as it predates the full-blown development of the director's characteristic style. I find it compulsively watchable; it's definitely worth owning."