Shot in 1953 in Italy, Vittorio De Sica crafted a film writ small about two unlikely lovers: a married American woman (Jennifer Jones) with a child and an Italian local (Montgomery Clift, badly miscast). What we see in this film, which takes place nearly in real time, is not their love affair, but rather her attempt to depart for her trip home, stuck in the titular station with a crisis of conscience: stick around with the hot flame or return to the family in the U.S. Strangely, the drama doesn't really come from the woman's indecision over whether to leave, rather the pair find themselves arrested when they take refuge in a train car. I guess the Italian police don't take kindly to such behavior -- the cop, after much haranguing, even decrees that they will have to stand trial for their crimes!
It's not hard to see why David O. Selznick thought the movie needed work for its U.S. release. Selznick's crew hacked out about 20 minutes from the 90 minute film, stuck an 8-minute prologue of Patti Page (apparently meant to be the Jennifer Jones character sometime in the future) singing about the events of the film in New York. The resulting movie, renamed Indiscretion of an American Wife, is even worse -- much worse, really -- than De Sica's cut.
De Sica has some interesting vignettes, working in a confined space and eliciting genuine emotion from Jones, but his story (courtesy of three Italian writers) is random and scattered. The Jones-Clift relationship doesn't work; in fact, I'd be hard-pressed to name two actors with less obvious chemistry together. Worst of all is the ridiculous arrest sequence, a deus ex machina if ever there was one, only it comes up half an hour before the end of the picture. Odd, wrong, and just messy.
Now cleaned up on a Criterion DVD release, the disc features both cuts of the film and a film scholar commentary on Selznick's version (which isn't terribly complimentary). It's an interesting study in film politics, if not so much in film history.
Aka Stazione Termini and Indiscretion.
Run time: 8 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 15th April 2009
Production compaines: Produzioni De Sica, Columbia Pictures Corporation
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Producer: Vittorio De Sica, David O. Selznick