I Knew Her Well – Antonio Pietrangeli (1965)


“If there’s anything as thrilling as discovering something new and good, it’s rediscovering something old and great. And the most exciting movie I’ve come across in the past few months—I Knew Her Well by Antonio Pietrangeli—was made in 1965. While the film is well-known in Italy, where it’s considered a classic, I’d never seen it until recently when Janus Films and the Criterion Collection decided to release a restored print. And wow, am I happy they did. Sharp and funny but tinged with fatality, this knockout of a movie—shot in gorgeous black and white—carries us inside Italy’s go-go years when decadence played hopscotch with glamour and the whole country was proclaiming, “I want, I want, I want.” As a friend of mine said, ‘It’s like La Dolce Vita—except about a woman.’ Her name is Adriana, and she’s played by the fresh-faced star Stefania Sandrelli, best known here for The Conformist. When we first meet her, she’s a girl from the sticks who has moved to a beach town and works as a hairdresser. But she dreams of being a celebrity, so she moves to Rome, where she both exploits—and is exploited for—her undeniable physical charms. Naive but not innocent, ambitious but not thoughtful, Adriana becomes a plaything for a shifty playboy, a hectoring press agent, a heartless writer, and a floundering actor (a fabulous Ugo Tognazzi) who wants to pimp her out to help his own career. The sweet life isn’t as sweet as she’d hoped. I Knew Her Well begins with a long shot across a deserted, littered beach that eventually reaches the sunbathing Adriana and moves along her body, pausing ever so briefly to enjoy her bikini-clad derriere. While there’s an element of simple leering in this—Pietrangeli was an Italian man, after all—it’s also something of a statement of what the film is about. Adriana is a living, breathing, desirable woman all alone in a world despoiled by trash. …”
VOGUE: I Knew Her Well Is a Rediscovered Masterwork
Criterion (Video)
Criterion – I Knew Her Well: City Girl
W – I Knew Her Well
Criterion

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