28 November 2011 | lor_
Masterwork from a forgotten filmmaker
Florestano Vancini is one of many great Italian filmmakers, once prominent but now their work fallen by the wayside. Add THE SEASONS OF OUR LOVE to his other masterpiece BLOW HOT, BLOW COLD (THE ISLAND) and you have a maestro ripe for rediscovery.
The problem is obvious: many extremely talented directors, say Valerio Zurlini and Franco Brusati as prime examples, had their brief moments in the international sun but never graduated to the iconic, household name status of a Fellini, Antonioni or Visconti. Vancini falls into this group -coulda been a contender, but the mainstream he was working in is no longer fashionable, especially, as more prolific, genre directors (think horror, Westerns, sex films, action films) are currently the popular figures from 40 years ago.
Case in point is SEASONS, a very, very serious romantic drama told entirely from the point-of-view of over-the-hill protagonist Enrico Maria Salerno (a subtle, forceful character actor). He is recalling his lost love, the beautiful Jacqueline Sassard, while putting up with his harridan of a wife. Film opens at a ski resort, and already the anomie and coldness separating Salerno and Sassard is apparent.
Film's striking 'Scope/black & white visuals by Dario Di Palma often evoke the work of Antonioni, certainly the most influential director of this mid-sixties period, but Vancini is no copycat. The striking use of architecture and landscape that Antonioni pioneered is merely part of an Italian cinema vocabulary, largely dropped in more recent decades (as passé?).
As he drives around, almost aimlessly (but in fact visiting crucial locations from his past, including his parents' grave stones), Salerno meets many of his old acquaintances (cueing flashbacks about them), notably: Anouk Aimee, glamorous (unlike her Fellini incarnations) and sympathetic married lady; Gastone Moschin, full of life as a guy who fought with Salerno against the Fascists; and Gian Maria Volonte, a Communist who has a dialectic conversation, ultimately ending in tears, as the greatest of Italian thesps steals not only his scenes but the movie.
At times Vancini even out-does Antonioni in the depiction of alienation here -very impressive. Film's final reel is an open-ended tour de force, unpredictable and elusive, which I won't spoil by describing it here.
Sassard, whose wardrobe gets a special up-front credit, is stunningly beautiful and perfectly cast. She made relatively few "quality" films in her career, but her small part in the Zurlini picture VIOLENT SUMMER and co-starring roles in Claude Chabrol's sublime LES BICHES and Joe Losey's ACCIDENT add to SEASONS a short résumé that suggests she deserved full-fledged stardom.
Salerno is impressive, and it is worth noting that when he turned to directing he created THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN, one of the all-time greatest romantic films, itself largely forgotten today.
Carlo Rustichelli completes the package with a mournful, evocative score -this is a film (restored in 2001) that deserves belated export.