By Dejarelle Gaines
Antonio Pietrangeli’s 1965 film “Io La Conoscevo Bene” translated to “I Knew Her Well” is unique in the way that it is often described as “tragicomic” or “seriocomic.” It is a story about the loss of innocence that follows the Shakespearean rules for tragedies and comedies, acting as a nice blend of the two.
The film follows the beautifully innocent aspiring actress Adriana (Stefania Sandrelli) who has just moved to Rome and seems to have it all figured out. She’s free in the sense that she doesn’t attach herself to only one man, though this was not her intention. Adriana is a complicated character in search of true love but just ends up finding herself caught in a series of one-night stands. In the meantime, she is frequently attending parties and rubbing elbows with the rich and famous in order to get noticed. But, Adriana soon realizes that behind the curtains of the film industry it is a pretty lonely place.
The best part of this movie is how it catches you off-guard. For the most part, there is a very light and playful tone. However, it isn’t until the end that the tone shifts to a more serious one. Beneath the flashy parties and extravagant clothes, a shallow and misogynistic world of big industry men is revealed, one where men treat women as sub-human beings that are disposable.
The film addresses the very interesting and complex topic of celebrity culture in Italy in the 1960’s. This elusive culture that still persists today not only in Italy, but in the U.S. as well, that those of us who are outside of its boundaries, assume that we know so much about its inner workings, when in reality, we know nothing.
The film doesn’t necessarily present us with a strong female heroine, but rather, it presents us with a woman with whom we can identify. Pietrangeli, a writer during the neorealist period, focuses most of his films around the role of women in evolving Italian society. Throughout the world we have made great leaps in terms of gender equality since the mid-1960s when this movie was released, there are still some aspects of this shallow and suffocating celebrity culture that persists today.
This film’s 4k digital resolution restoration is well timed, working to remind us today that while women have made many strides in attempt to achieve the same rights as men, there is still plenty of work to do. Women in the film industry are still used until their beauty has faded and then consequently are tossed out of the business. The industry is still dominated by old white men who have the power to make or break an actress, and these are the things that Pietrangeli was noticing and hoping to bring attention to back in 1965.
The film will be available to watch for a limited time from Feb. 5-11 at Film Forum in New York City.
Dejarelle Gaines is a staff writer at Washington Square News. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org