Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Innocent (1976 film)


Based on the novel The Intruder by Gabriele d’Annunzio, L’innocente (The Innocent) is the story of a womanizing aristocrat who openly engages in an affair with his mistress in front of his wife until he learns that his wife is having an affair of her own. Directed by Luchino Visconti and screenplay by Visconti, Suso Cecchi d’Amico, and Enrico Medioli, the film is an exploration into fidelity as well as a man coping with his own chauvinistic views that has gotten him into trouble. Starring Giancarlo Giannini, Laura Antonelli, and Jennifer O’Neill. L’innocente is a riveting and evocative film from Luchino Visconti.

Set in late 19th Century Italy, the film revolves around a philandering aristocrat who openly spends time with his mistress towards his wife whom he neglects until he learns that she had slept with someone as he devotes his full attention towards her. It is a film that explores a man who is married yet treats his wife terribly as he often engages in affairs as he tries to win over his mistress away from a rival. Yet, the news that his wife did have an affair only upsets him as he would try to devote his fullest attention to her until he learns more about the affair and its outcome. The film’s screenplay has a straightforward narrative as it showcases the life that Tullio Hermil (Giancarlo Giannini) has where he lives a rich life as he is married to a beautiful woman in Giuliana (Laura Antonelli) but he is also in love with his mistress in another aristocrat in Teresa Raffo (Jennifer O’Neill) whom he sees at an intimate concert. Giuliana suspects that something is going on when Tullio leaves the concert to talk with Teresa where he later confesses his relationship with Teresa but wants the marriage to continue as a way to maintain his social status.

When Tullio is out of town to pursue Teresa away from another aristocrat in Count Stefano Egano (Massimo Girotti), Tullio’s younger brother Federico (Didier Haudepin) is asked to watch over Giuliana as he invites some friends including an author in Filippo d’Arborio (Marc Porel) for dinner when Giuliana falls ill only to enjoy Filippo’s company. Tullio’s pursuit for Teresa would have issues as she is just as cruel as he is in the way he treats Giuliana until he wonders where Giuliana goes to when he’s not home as he also learns she goes to see his mother whom he would later visit with Giuliana. Giuliana’s affair would force Tullio to focus on her as he would be enamored with her until he brings her news that changes everything. The news would be exciting for Tullio’s family yet Federico becomes suspicious into Tullio’s behavior as Tullio becomes confused in his love for his wife but also wanting to be with his mistress.

Luchino Visconti’s direction definitely plays into a world that is set entirely in aristocratic society as it is shot at the Villa Mirafiori in Rome and two villas at the town of Luca with the Villa Butori being a main setting. Much of Visconti’s direction has this element of intrigue in the way he follows Tullio in this world of the privileged as well as being a man who feels like he could do whatever he wants and he can get anything he wants. Much of Visconti’s direction utilizes a lot of wide and medium shots to get a scope of the rooms that the characters walk into as well as this world where it is disconnected from the world of the working class and the poor as they’re never shown. Even as there are these rare moments of the rich walking into the streets such as a Christmas mass scene in the third act where everyone but Tullio attends. There is also an intimacy into Visconti’s direction in the medium shots and close-ups in the way he films Tullio’s reaction or the way he gazes into Giuliana’s face as she laments over her actions as well as Tullio’s response.

Visconti also plays into this air of masculinity that Tullio takes pride of as the revelations over who Giuliana had an affair with as he gets a look into the man as there is this air of humiliation and him being a cuckold. The film’s second act which takes place at the home of Tullio’s mother where Federico makes a visit showcases this sense of immorality that Federico notices in his brother’s behavior as he becomes concerned for Giuliana as the two would have a fencing duel that gets a little aggressive at one point. The third act relates to the film’s title where Giuliana starts to realize the emotional and mental toll her affair had yet more revelations occur following Tullio’s actions as Visconti reveals the many faults of Tullio’s masculinity and his inability to accept defeat. Even as the film’s final scene relates to result of his actions as well as the revelation of not having it all as it also relates to Teresa. Overall, Visconti crafts a chilling and intoxicating film about a philandering aristocrat trying to win back his wife after learning about her affair.

Cinematographer Pasqualino De Santis does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its approach to natural lighting as well as its usage of light for many of the nighttime interior/exterior scenes. Editor Ruggero Mastroianni does excellent work with editing as it is largely straightforward in terms of its dramatic reactions as well as in some of the suspenseful moments in the film. Production designer Mario Garbuglia and set decorator Carlo Gervasi do amazing work with the look of the homes that the characters live in as well as a villa that Tullio decides to make as his home as plays into his lavish personality. Costume designer Piero Tosi does fantastic work with the costumes from the design of the dresses and gowns the women wear as well as some of the looser clothing that Giuliana wears when she’s resting as well as some of the military uniforms that Federico wears.

The sound work of Mario Dallimonti is superb for its natural approach to sound in the way epees sound during duels as well as scenes from one room to another in some of the villas. The film’s music by Franco Mannino is incredible for its orchestral score filled with piano and string arrangements that play into the drama as well as some of the suspense that looms throughout the film while its soundtrack largely features some classical and operatic pieces from Frederic Chopin, Franz Listz, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Christoph Willibald Gluck.

The film’s remarkable cast feature some notable small roles from Enzo Musumeci Greco as the fencing master, Vittorio Zarfati as Dr. Milani, Alessandra Vazzoler as a nanny, Claude Mann as a prince who is another romantic rival of Tullio for Teresa’s affections, Roberta Paladina as Federico’s date during a dinner where Filippo met Giuliana, Marie Dubois as a princess that is part of Teresa’s social circle, and Massimo Girotti as another of Tullio’s rival for Teresa in Count Stefano Egano whom Tullio despises. Marc Porel is superb as the writer Filippo d’Arborio whom Giuliana meets at Federico’s dinner as he is someone that the opposite of Tullio in his personality as well as being someone that doesn’t say much as he has no clue who Tullio is. Didier Haudepin is fantastic as Tullio’s younger brother Federico as an officer who observes a lot into what is happening to the point where he becomes disenchanted with life at the family home as well as being around Tullio whom he feels has become a monster.

In her final film performance, Rina Morelli is excellent as Tullio and Federico’s mother Marchesa Marianna Hermill as a woman who adores Giuliana while is hoping to have an heir to continue the family name as she becomes baffled by her eldest son’s cold demeanor. Jennifer O’Neill is amazing as Teresa Raffo as this aristocratic beauty who is also Tullio’s mistress as a woman who is fond of Tullio but often makes him go after her as she also has other suitors that she is eager to be with as O’Neill brings a lot of great facial expressions as her voice is dubbed Valeria Moriconi. Giancarlo Giannini is brilliant as Tullio Hermill as this aristocratic man who gets away with lot and feels like he’s untouchable while neglecting and humiliating his wife. Even as he would later become humiliated himself where Giannini brings that sense of restrained fury as a man eager to get revenge while also wanting to have control of his wife in seducing her every way possible.

Finally, there’s Laura Antonelli in a tremendous performance as Tullio’s wife Giuliana as a woman who is mistreated horribly by her philandering husband as she copes with her loneliness and being neglected until she meets a friend of her brother-in-law. Antonelli has this sense of restraint and melancholia as a woman who doesn’t feel appreciated until her brief affair where Tullio devotes a lot of attention to her as she becomes troubled by his behavior as well as some news that would shake their relationship as it is a revelatory performance from Antonelli who has this radiance that is often overlooked considering that a lot of her work has been in Italian softcore erotic films as this is her career-defining performance.

L’Innocente is a phenomenal film from Luchino Visconti that features great performances from Giancarlo Giannini, Laura Antonelli, and Jennifer O’Neill. Along with its ensemble supporting cast, ravishing visuals, a haunting music score, and its story of infidelity and the fallacies of male chauvinism. It is a film that is this evocative period drama that explores a man being forced to deal with his life but also maintain control of who he is as it serves as this fitting finale for Visconti. In the end, L’Innocente is a sensational film from Luchino Visconti.

Luchino Visconti Films: (Obsessione) – (Giorni di gloria) – (La Terra Firma) – (Appunti su un fatto di cronaca) – (We, the Women) – (Bellisima) - (Senso) – White Nights (1957 film) - Rocco and His Brothers - (Boccaccio ’70-Il lavoro) – The Leopard - Sandra – (The Stranger (1967 film)) – The Witches (1967 film)-The Witch Burned Alive - The Damned - Death in Venice - (Alla ricerca di Tadzio) – (Ludwig) – (Conversation Piece)

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