[Film Review] Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953)

Indiscretion of an American Wife poster

English Title: Indiscretion of an American Wife
Original Title: Stazione Termini
Year: 1953
Country: Italy, USA
Language: English, Italian, French
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Cesare Zavattini
Truman Capote
Luigi Chiarini
Giorgio Prosperi
Music: Alessandro Cicognini
Cinematography: G.R. Aldo
Jennifer Jones
Montgomery Clift
Richard Beymer
Gino Cervi
Paolo Stoppa
Liliana Gerace
Memmo Carotenuto
Nando Bruno
Rating: 5.9/10

Indiscretion of an American Wife 1953

Italian maestro Vittorio De Sica’s Hollywood sortie, this ill-received co-production with David O. Selznick, starring Ms. Selznick, Jennifer Jones and Montgomery Clift as the star-crossed lovers, is built on a pellucid idea of condensing a doomed extramarital romance within a neat spatiotemporal structure: two hours inside the Terminal train station in Rome.

Jones plays Mary Forbes, the titular American wife, who strikes up a torrid affair with a bachelor Giovanni Doria (Clift, sporting a passable Italian and stays on autopilot as a careworn and distressed jilted lover) during her visit in Rome, impulsively decides to go back home and break off their liaison after declaring her utmost feelings for him the day before. Firstly, she must take the train from Rome to Paris, and Giovanni’s timely advent botches Mary’s plan to leave at 7 pm, and the next train leaves in one and half hour, during which time, the pair undergo an honest tête-à-tête, a badly-devised game-changer (encountering Mary’s nephew Paul, a decent screen debut of Richard Beymer), a temporary separation then rekindle their passion in an empty compartment, which will cause a scene and their fate will be left at the mercy of the police commissioner (Cervi), can she manage to take the 20:30 train and how their affair will end?

First of all, the premise is very lax, there is absolutely no exigency for Mary to depart for Paris immediately, it is her whim out of the blue, which makes the entire scenario sound contrived, it is not helped by Jones’ emotionally duelling but ultimately mushy incarnation, as demure and kind-hearted as her Mary is, clearly, it is her have the final say, but her conflict with moral compass swivels when the narrative is constantly hogtied by its essayist sidebar to extol the Termini station itself, a monumental presence buzzed with characters and egregious red tape, which feels tonally incompatible with the central story, which shows up the quintessential rift between Hollywood melodrama and Italian Neo-realism.

Lastly, if you are not dissuaded by this review and still want to watch it, don’t watch the bluntly truncated 63-minute USA version, its 89-minute original version is unequivocally more cohesive and engaging for the viewing experience, still, it is a letdown among De Sica’s corpus.

companion piece: George Stevens’ A PLACE IN THE SUN (1952) 8.1/10; Vittorio De Sica’s THE ROOF (1956), 7.5/10.

Oscar 1953  Indiscretion of an American Wife

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