Passion turns deadly in this controversial neo-realist classic from acclaimed director Luchino Visconti (Death in Venice), adapted from James M. Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice." Beautiful hotel owner Giovanna ("Dee... more »p Red's" Clara Calamai) is hopelessly drawn to Gino ("Last Tango in Paris'" Massimo Girotti), a handsome drifter. They decide to kill off her spouse and collect his hefty insurance premium, but soon the lovers are trapped in a spiral of deception, jealousy, and fate. Banned and censored for years, "Ossessione" profoundly affected generations of audiences after causing a stormy religious and political scandal in Italy, and is now available in its original, uncensored director's cut.« less
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 08/15/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, this IS the best filmed version of James Cain's classic The Postman Always Rings Twice. The first version, with Lana Turner and John Garfield, was much too tame and polite. When the husband gets bumped off, it's a matter of fact event, as though the two lovers were going out shopping for wallpaper. And the eroticism of the story is just not there at all--nor is the desperation.The 1981 version with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange certainly showed off the sexuality of the story, but was much too vapid and superficial; the director, Bob Rafelson, had apparently decided that the story's core was its sexuality and so focused on that at the expense of pretty much everything else. The desperation that should be brimming over in the development of the story is really not in evidence in this version--the two good looking leads basically just want to have sex a lot and that's what they do. They yell and scream, too, but it's the sex that everyone remembers in this film.But Luchino Visconti, in this 1943 Italian neo-realist noir, gets it just right. Eroticism is here, but so is desperation, which is just as important, if not more so. This comes through so well because the setting is a small Italian village where there are no really wealthy folks. Everybody's engaged in his or her small activities to get by. The one exception is Giovanna's paunchy husband Giuseppe who's squirreled away a lot of dough.And the desperation comes through in the doomed couple--Gino the drifter and Giovanna, the wife. Gino's labile temper and emotionality are well portrayed by Massimo Girotti, and Clara Calamai balances Girotti's performance with her depiction of Giovanna as a wife desperate to be free of her gross (to her) husband. The story introduces characters and situations that epitomize Italian culture--an opera singing contest, for example--but follows Cain's story closely enough to make this an early film noir, albeit a non-American one.Even above eroticism and desperation, the overriding tone of this story is irony--unquestionably missing in the first American version, and only half-heartedly on display in the 1981 version. But irony is the soul of this film. The tragic ending is the most bitterly ironic scene here, and it is done simply--thus, very effectively. Visconti was intelligent enough to see that simplicity, combined with an emphasis on strong emotionality, would carry this ironic story through to its supremely ironic ending. This is a surprisingly strong film for a first directorial effort, and one that should be remembered for some time to come. It's interesting that a non-American director made the best cinematic version of a seminal American noir story."
Il Postino always rings Twice
Randy Keehn | Williston, ND United States | 12/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is difficult to review this movie without comparing it to "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (TPART). That's because both are based on the same novel by James Cain. I had heard of "TPART" for years before I finally saw it for the first time earlier this year. My impression was that it was a good movie but, having waited anxiously for so long to see it, it was something of a let down. Last night I was tired and looked forward to watching a good movie. I chose "Ossessione" but almost changed my mind when I saw it was based on "TPART". After all, I'd recently seen that and didn't think it such a great story to see again so soon. Fortunately, I gave the movie a try and was quickly absorbed into it.
What seperates "Obsessione" from "TPART" is the quality of the acting and the excellence of the directing. There is a feeling to this movie that is lacking in the John Garfield/Lana Turner version. We seem to know what everyone is thinking and feeling without depending on obvious dialogue. There is a series of scenes, for example, involving a character by the name of Spangnolo who becomes involved with Gino, the male lead. There are any number of ways that you can interpret him and his relationship with Gino. From fellow vagabonds to a political theorist and his understudy to homosexual lovers. Visconti gives us so many subtle hints that it's up to the viewer to decide for themselves (disappointedly, I assumed the latter relationship). The way everyone interacts with one another is so impressively done and the passions they emote really reach out and touch us. The fact that it is in Italian doesn't hurt its' passionate nature. I have a theory about foreign language movies; they require your constant attention since you don't want to risk missing a critical subtitle. As a result, we come away more focussed on every aspect of the movie and this tends to make good movies even better.
I don't want to disparage "TPART" since it is a good movie. However, "Ossessione" stands so much taller in so many ways that I'm not sure I'll ever feel the need to watch "TPART" again. Take that as praise for "Ossessione" rather than a knock on "TPART"."
Best movie version of "Postman"
LGwriter | 07/02/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie years and years ago and still remember it fondly. It's an italian version of James Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and in my opinion, the best of the three. It manages to get the right mix of lust and noir that make this genre great. END"
Mark Norvell | HOUSTON | 11/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Early Italian version of James M.Cain's "Postman Always Rings Twice" by Luchino Visconti is the best I've seen. Set in a sparse Italian village in the white heat of summer, a drifter named Gino begins an affair with Giovanna, the unhappy wife of a cafe owner who offers him work. She tries to leave with him but returns to the husband afraid of giving up what little security she has. The drifter continues on the road and takes up with a self-styled King of the Vagabonds who does street shows and happily lives on nothing. The vagabond is attracted to Gino but Gino (who's hungry for more out of life) can't forget Giovanna. Later, Gino's and Giovanna's paths cross again and murder binds them together in a fatal (and ironic) bond. Earthy and stark storytelling as well as excellent cinematography make this a compelling film to watch. The acting is remarkable as is the casual sexual frankness that was off the screen in American films at the time. The utter desperation of the two characters' lives is beautifully realized and is nicely contrasted with the vagabond's existance that he is clearly happy with. The ending is unforgettably done. "Ossessione" is rich with atmosphere and detail and laden with irony. Highly recommended as a vintage classic of Italian cinema."
Glowing with perceptive light and smoldering heat
markason | Port Orchard, Washington | 01/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Ossessione" may possess a few blemishes, but director Luchino Visconti achieves nearly ideal results, rendered from modest resources, in scene after scene throughout the entire length of the film. It is the first movie Visconti made, yet it is an original masterpiece of instinctive genius and technical skill, melded with a mature understanding of human nature. "Ossessione" is the earliest cinematic adaptation of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and, it may indeed be the finest version as well, because it portrays all its characters through clear-eyed vision that is both wise and compassionate. Though we recognize these people are ill-fated, we never consider them to be mere dupes in a noir-ish morality play. We feel in earnest for these individuals, whose sorrows and aspirations resonate realistically -- and sympathetically -- with our own disappointments and dreams. It can also be said that "Ossessione" is exactly the type of film that most deserves to be safely archived forever, in digital format like DVD. It is a small miracle that this movie still exists for us to admire intact. Visconti's working budget was so spare that he could not afford to purchase the screen rights from "Postman" author James M. Cain; consequently, copyright protections blocked the picture from being shown outside Italy and, these legal difficulties held it in limbo for decades. Within Italy itself, "Ossessione" was censored and banned. Both the Catholic Church and Mussolini's government declared it unwholesome for Italian audiences, and only allowed severely edited versions to be shown, or kept it out of movie theaters altogether. While it's evident that the print preserved in this edition has suffered wear over its 60 difficult years, the pure artistry of this movie always shines through undiminished, so that image flaws never become a concern (at least not for this viewer) and it is truly gratifying to witness this splendid movie in its full length. As I am deeply enamored of such handsome, vintage films I feel blessed that "Ossessione" has survived to offer all its treasures to us now. Even its rough qualites seem in keeping with the fluctuating destinies of its protagonists. This picture has such a wealth of nuance and detail that I am almost at a loss to adequately recommend its virtues to intrigue the prospective buyer. Somehow, with graceful prowess, Visconti has translated a classic American crime thriller into the local features and native inflections of 1940s Mediterranean culture, so that freshly imagined Italian verismo episodes keep greeting our eyes and, there is scarcely a single moment that seems contrived or implausible. Moreover, Visconti has managed to create another layer of poignant complexity within the plot by introducing an entirely new character, a street magician named Spagnolo ("The Spaniard") whose mercurial presence adds immeasurable depth -- and heartache -- to this tale. All of these attributes are conveyed with such subtle yet salt-of-the-earth realism (including the virile appeal of the leading actors) that this movie abundantly rewards our careful attentiveness. But, it could also strike the too-casual viewer as being a rather sparse and unremarkable affair. If you are the sort of movie lover who delights in the riches of finely wrought cinematic craft, please do not hesitate to avail yourself of this worthy, historic gem. It is still as darkly lustrous and vital, in its own way, as John Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath", Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard" or Jean Cocteau's "Orphee", and it has lived on, despite formidable odds, to be appreciated by us today."