Plot: What’s it about?
Criterion Collection released the 1965 Italian film, I Knew Her Well around the middle of last year. In a year that saw them releasing films by Kieslowski, the Coen Brothers, and Robert Altman, it was an easy film to miss. If you have a chance, I would recommend venturing to check this one out.
The plot revolves around the beautiful but naive Adriana, a country girl who moves to Rome to pursue a modeling and acting career. As she navigates the mid-sixties Rome and numerous romantic entanglements, it becomes clear that she is just being used by all the people she encounters. She is a beautiful girl surrounded by other girls that are just as beautiful and compelling. It is a big fish in a little pond moves to the big lake type story, and none of the film feels false (with one large exception.)
In the movie La Dolce Vita, in the grand finale Marcelo Mastroianni rides on a woman’s back at a party. It’s a grotesque scene. This film feels like if La Dolce Vita had been told from that woman’s perspective. The comparisons will come naturally – it takes place in Rome, it is in the Sixties, it is shot in gorgeous Black and White, the characters she meets are vain and empty, and it shows the dark underbelly of the entertainment industry. Fans of La Dolce Vita should definitely check out this movie as a strange companion piece.
The acting overall is pretty good, with an extremely believable turn by Stefania Sandrelli as Adriana. The direction by Antonio Pietrangeli is very solid, with lots going on throughout the film. Cinematographer Armando Nannuzzi shines in this film, with fantastic shot after fantastic shot. It is like a master-class in techniques behind the camera. I’m not kidding. Every shot is a departure and absolutely perfectly staged.
The only major flaw in the film is that I felt the ending was a bit lazy. It did not disrupt my overall enjoyment of the film, and I would highly recommend checking this one out. It reminds me of the film Il Sorpasso, in that the film may seem somewhat minor, but it sticks with you afterwards.
Video: How’s it look?
Criterion have provided a brand new transfer listed in the booklet as a new 4K digital restoration that was created in partnership with the Cineteca di Bologna from the 35mm original camera negative and a 35mm fine-grain positive. It looks absolutely fantastic, with incredibly pleasing detail, contrast, and depth. As is usual with black and white films, the shadows and light are well-defined. The dark levels are spot on. There are no noticeable scratches or dust in the print and fine detail is absolutely spot-on. This transfer matches the best that Criterion has offered in Black and White.
Audio: How’s it sound?
This Italian LPCM mono track is very high quality. Dynamic range is limited as you would expect, but the track sounds extremely clean. The Italian pop songs throughout the film really capture the time and place and make the movie stick out. Dialogue is incredibly clear and crisp. Criterion have done a magnificent job at removing all traces of hiss. I was very pleased with the track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Stefania Sandrelli – in this brand new video interview, actress Stefania Sandrelli recalls her time spent making I Knew Her Well. She draws on how she related to the character and how she differed. This is an enjoyable and brief interview. The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in September 2015. In Italian, with optional English subtitles. (10 min, 1080p).
- Luca Barattoni – in this brand new video interview, film scholar Luca Barattoni, author of Italian Post-Neorealist Cinema, discusses the career and legacy of Antonio Pietrangeli. He also talks about the similarities between the film and Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, which were the same parallels that I picked up on in the film (I swear I write my review before I watched this feature!) A solid piece. The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in November 2015. In English, not subtitled. (22 min, 1080p).
- Theatrical Trailer – original trailer for I Knew Her Well. Music only. (4 min, 1080p).
- Sandrelli’s Audition – archival footage from Stefania Sandrelli’s audition for her role of Adriana. In Italian, with imposed English subtitles. (6 min, 1080p).
- Leaflet – an illustrated leaflet featuring an essay by journalist Alexander Stille.
The Bottom Line
I Knew Her Well is a great movie. It somewhat stumbles in one major area that I will let you find out, but overall it is such an enjoyable and beautiful experience that it really should be seen. I highly recommend that you check out this release by Criterion. The new 4K transfer is absolutely gorgeous. The supplements provided are solid, but somewhat brief for a Criterion release, clocking in at under forty minutes. Highly Recommended.