English Title: I Knew Her Well
Original Title: Io la conoscevo bene
Country: Italy, France, West GermanyE
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Director: Antonio Pietrangeli
Music: Piero Piccioni
Cinematography: Armando Nannuzzi
Enrico Mario Salerno
A definite highlight of Italian filmmaker Antonio Pietrangeli’s career, on which would be tragically put a kibosh by his untimely death in 1968, in reality, people do die of drowning after falling off a cliff.
I KNEW HER WELL continues his streak of strong female presentation, first and foremost, it is a story about a prelapsarian countryside Italian girl Adriana (a 19-year-old Sandrelli uncannily likens a luscious Taylor Swift), who jauntily pursues her star-making dream in the capital city.
Pietrangeli and his co-writers configure a loosely chronological and episodic narrative detailing the interactions between Adriana and a smorgasbord of male characters, from boyfriends, bedfellows, exploiters to sympathetic have-nots, scathingly refracts the sprawling turpitude infesting the showbiz, that a young and unsophisticated Adriana is always given the short end of the stick, can never fall in love with the right guy, and occasional sparkling of kindness dims quickly since it is just not the right time, and the film’s ostensibly disengaged observation gives way to an abrupt kicker in the end, where a dysphoria-stricken Adriana takes a radical step to purge her profound disillusion out of her existence.
Wonderfully concatenating manifold vignettes into a cogent case study pertaining to the disintegration of a starlet-to-be’s pipe dream (often meld perfectly with era-specific tuneage and dancing routines), Pietrangeli enlists a swell group of multi-national supporting actors, natives Manfredi (unscrupulous), Salerno (pompous), Fabrizi (smarmy), Nero (four-square), joined by a French (Brialy), a German (Fuchsberger), an Austrian (Hoffman) and a Swiss (Adorf) to bolster the mainstay, among whom, Ugo Tagnazzi brilliantly steals the limelight with his backbreaking tap dance and abjectly obsequious attitude as a struggling has-been.
As our leading lady, Sandrelli is de facto a phenomenal wet-behind-the-ears ingénue, but also excels in bringing about a palpable strength of integrity and defiance that is well beyond her age, yet, more often than not, emanates a ghost of melancholia even when hijinks are in full swing. Unequivocally evokes a young girl’s version of Fellini’s LA DOLCE VITA, I KNEW HER WELL is an unalloyed Italian hidden gem exhumed from near obscurity with its shimmering amalgamation of vintage style, unaffected poignancy and incisive self-mockery.
companion pieces: Pietrangeli’s HUNGRY FOR LOVE (1960, 7.0/10); Federico Fellini’s LA DOLCE VITA (1960, 9.3/10).