Raro Video // 1963 // 111 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // March 15th, 2012
"You're right. Relationships should be based on honesty." -- Pina, to Adolfo
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. On the other hand, first impressions never last.
Successful in all but love, thirty six year old Pina (Sandra Milo, 8 1/2) places an ad in the personals column, which attracts Adolfo (François Périer, Le Samourai), a fortyish bookseller from Rome. These two lonely hearts club members strike up an amiable writing correspondence, which culminates in Pina inviting her pen-pal to her home in the North Country for a visit. Will there be a love connection?.
The Visitor begins very breezily, with an airy pop score accompanying a speeding train tracing the Italian countryside. It then quickly establishes itself as a witty romantic comedy of manners, with a slight tendency towards the screwball. By the final fade, however, director Antonio Pietrangeli and company have taken their audience on a journey every bit as circuitous as that railway track. The story effortlessly transforms into a tale of deceptions and secrets, ulterior motives and manipulations, before gliding on greased skids back into romantic comedy. The last stop is a wrap-up so simple, so logical and inevitable, I was shocked I hadn't seen it coming.
I've never seen a film quite like The Visitor, so chameleonic in tone and able to hit so many different notes on the head. Equally surprising is how this superlative, genre-defying film managed to slip through the cracks of history. Released in December 1963, it garnered nominations for Ms. Milo and the screenplay by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. It fared even better at the 1964 Berlin Film Festival, with Pietrangeli scoring a Golden Bear nomination (the festival's highest honor), and winning the FIPRESCI Prize from the International Federation of Film Critics.
Pietrangeli would have bigger successes with subsequent films -- The Magnificent Cuckold and I Knew Her Well -- and yet the filmmaker (who died in 1968 at age 49) has almost been entirely forgotten, even in his own country. That's what makes this Raro Video release the excavation of a rare, exquisite gem.
Digitally transferred from an original 35mm negative print, this English subtitled, rich black and white film looks terrific in standard definition 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen, with the exception of one fairly damaged sequence that thankfully only lasts mere seconds. The Dolby 2.0 mono mix's original Italian soundtrack is crystal clear. Raro has loaded this release with a treasure trove of extras, including a DVD-ROM booklet, and separate interviews with screenwriter and longtime Pietrangeli collaborator Ettore Scola, composer Armando Trovajoli, and Pietrangeli's son Paolo, all of whom eloquently argue the time for rediscovering the works of this master filmmaker is long past due.
Subtitles?! Black and White?! Foreigners?! That's right, folks, the unholy trinity is present and accounted for, without apology.
When money is tight, the notion of investing one's hard-earned cash on unknown quantities seems a fool's errand. Please rent, stream, or borrow The Visitor, if you can. And when doing so, just fail to be impressed. I dare you!
Are you kidding? Clear the courtroom!
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Scales of Justice
* Top 100 Films: #51
Studio: Raro Video
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Italian)
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 1963
MPAA Rating: Not Rated