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Still time to catch MOMA’s Pietrangeli retrospective

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The Museum of Modern Art’s current film series “Antonio Pietrangeli: A Retrospective” is in its final days, so if you’re in New York City this week, it’s still not too late to catch one of these Italian classics on the big screen.

Born in Rome, Pietrangeli first studied medicine but fate took over when he assisted Luchino Visconti on his 1943 film, “Obsession.” Pietrangeli went on to contribute to the screenplays of Visconti’s “La Terra Trema” and Roberto Rossellini’s “Europa ’51” (in which he also appears as a psychiatrist). As a director, he wasted no time in finding his own voice with the social satire of “Lo Scapolo” (The Bachelor) in 1955 with Alberto Sordi, and the hilarious supernatural tale of “Fantasmi a Roma” (Ghosts of Rome) in 1961 with Marcello Mastroianni. But it was with “La visita” (The Visit) in 1963, that Pietrangeli created an open visual field to foster a sense of freedom and possibility.

Antonio Pietrangeli passed away in Gaeta in 1968 while he was working on the film “Come, Quando, Perché?” (How, When and with Whom?). His sudden death at age 49 was a tremendous loss for the world of Italian cinema. Last October during the Festa del Cinema in Rome, I attended a discussion about the work of Antonio Pietrangeli and his legacy on Italian cinema. The panel of experts included Italian cinema journalists Laura Delli Colli, Piera Detassis and Mario Sesti. I learned that Pietrangeli was not just a filmmaker but an important cultural figure in post-war Italy because he acted as a “grande narrator of Italian society” showing through his work “how life should always be una festa in which we are all free.” He often spoke to the female experience but wrote much about male solitude as well because he had a strong curiosity about the human condition.

MOMA’s retrospective opened and will close with Pietrangeli’s debut film “Io La Conoscevo Bene” (I Knew Her Well). Below is the complete schedule of screenings through the retrospective’s last day on Friday.

“La Parmigiana” (The Girl from Parma). 1963.

Forced to leave her village because of a scandalous love affair with a seminarian, Dora (Catherine Spaak) looks for work and refuge in Parma, where she becomes involved with a petty criminal (Nino Manfredi). Another of Pietrangeli’s bitter comedies of deracination, reflecting the sudden urbanization of Italy during the industrial boom years of the late 1950s and early 1960s. 95 min.

Monday, December 14, 4:30

“Il Magnifico Cornuto” (The Magnificent Cuckold). 1964.

A happily married businessman (Ugo Tognazzi) allows himself to be seduced by the wife of a colleague—a meaningless affair that makes him realize how easy it would be for his young and beautiful wife (Claudia Cardinale) to betray him as he betrayed her. His unfounded suspicions grow into madness, as he obsessively imagines her in the arms of other men. Adapted from a 1921 farce by the Belgian playwright Fernand Crommelynck. 117 min.

TUE, DEC 15, 4:30

“La Visita” (The Visit). 1963.

Adapted from a story by Carlo Cassola (La ragazza di Bube), Pietrangeli’s exquisite miniature describes the daylong encounter of two would-be lovers who meet through a lonely-hearts ad. Adolfo (the French performer François Périer) is a fussy Roman bookstore clerk who travels to the Po Valley to meet Pina (Sandra Milo), who works for an agricultural supply firm. Worried that their marriageable days are coming to an end, the two have already decided to fall in love with each other—but first they have to get acquainted. 86 min.

WED, DEC 16, 4:30

“Adua e Le Compagne” (Adua and Her Friends). 1960.

Reluctantly liberated when a reform movement closes the legal brothels of Italy in 1958, four Roman prostitutes (Simone Signoret, Sandra Milo, Emmanuelle Riva, and Gina Rovere) are forced to take their work underground, opening a restaurant on the outskirts of the city that will, under the orders of their shady sponsor (Claudia Gora) serve as a front while they practice their former profession in the rooms upstairs. But the restaurant proves to be a success, and the women find new loves and new happiness—until the sponsor decides that respectability isn’t profitable enough. A touching portrait of female friendship and a cutting indictment of social hypocrisy. 106 min.

THU, DEC 17, 4:30

“Io La Conoscevo Bene” (I Knew Her Well). 1965.

Pietrangeli’s best-known film stars the willowy Tuscan actress Stefania Sandrelli, who entered the movies as the 15-year-old winner of a provincial beauty contest, in a tragicomic twist on a story that might well have been her own. As the innocently sexual, minimally ambitious Adriana Astarelli, she’s a hairdresser who arrives in Rome as the protégé of a dubious promoter (Nino Manfredi) and finds herself drifting from man to man as she circles the periphery of modeling and show business. Indifferent to her own exploitation, she experiences a measure of material success without understanding what, if anything, she wants from life. 99 min.

FRI, DEC 18, 4:30

About Jeannine Guilyard

Jeannine Guilyard is a longtime correspondent for Fra Noi and the Italian-American community newspaper in Rochester, N.Y. She has also contributed to the Italian Tribune of New Jersey, Italian Tribune of Michigan and L’Italo Americano of Southern California. Jeannine wrote and directed the short film “Gelsomina,” which was selected for the Screenings Program of the 59th Venice Film Festival, and she won Emmy and Peabody awards as an editor of ABC’s “Special Report” following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Jeannine is also a writer and editor for Italian Cinema & Art Today, a publication and blog she founded in 2005 to bridge culture between New York and Italy. Follow her on Instagram at Italianartcinema and on Twitter at @ItaloCinema2day.