Saturday, March 27, 2010

The long goodbye, Italian-style

Rome’s central railroad station (Roma Termini) has a special place in my heart. Not only is it absolutely cavernous - and, unlike many other European stations, doesn't occupy a building likely to be a century or more old (because it replaced one that age) – and is distinctive because of its post-war modernist design......It was there in 1988 where I 1) went to a police station to fill out a complaint that I had been robbed, 2) bought a new piece of luggage (from one of the outdoor Piazza dei Cinquecento hucksters), and 3) waited to catch a bus to the Canadian Embassy where I could claim a new passport.....The station is impressive. With 29 gates it is one of the largest in Europe.....What took me back to this monolith was the 1954 film Indiscretion of an American Wife starring Jennifer Jones and Montgomery Clift....The film goes under the title Stazione Termini released in 1953 (the ‘54 date was the American premier). It’s directed by Vittorio De Sica (Marriage Italian-Style 1964, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis 1970) with dialogue by Truman Capote.....The film is very short (63 minutes U.S. version vs. 90 Italian – okay, Americans have less attention span (joke)) – and takes place entirely within the amazing Roma Termini....The story is about American Mary Forbes's (Jones) attempts to break off her affair with the Italian Giovanni Doria played by Clift.....When the movie begins he breathlessly finds her waiting for her train to Paris and is able to convince her to have a talk to reconsider leaving him. They get kicked-out of a dining room because it hasn't opened yet, are relegated to a crowded cafe, and later to a waiting room. Finally, they get up close and personal inside a first class carriage parked on the track. There is even a scene in the building's police station (which I obviously can identify with!) ....Clift of course has those furrowed brows that represent his tormented character (as Clift was in life).....The film is wonderful because it takes place amidst the teeming crowds of the Termini. And unlike other European films such as those of the French New Wave – shot openly on Paris streets – average people in the background aren't turning around and looking at the camera. The Italians, after all, are discreet, or know good filmmaking when they see it.....

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