With on-location filming in Rome, the neo-realist director of the oh-so-wonderful The Bicycle Thief (1948), & dialogue by no less a writer than Truman Capote, it's not surprising that Indiscretion of an American Wife has a momentary veneer of classiness. It is shot in "real time," more or less, being the last hour & a half or so of time spent together for two illicit lovers, in a film barely over an hour in length (in the American edit).
The veneer of classiness is soon chipped & worn away, probably intentionally, by its appalling characters. And as an English-language vehicle for the Italian neorealistic film movement, no one would ever believe from this film what great movies fit into the category
Montgomery Clift is a whining, mumbling, almost creepy lover, & he is preposterously playing an Italian who feels real love for well-dressed & pretty though uninteresting American woman. Jennifer Jones is a Philadelphia housewife having an affair with an Italian hunk & probably cares a lot less about his oversensitive nature than she cares about a great vacation from her ordinary life in America. They are both overacting at such a fevered pitch that the only thing missing is the flapping of their arms excitedly, or holding their forearms to their foreheads before fainting.
Rather than torrid, it seems like a set-up for a psychological thriller, & either the shallow housewife trying to lose herself in a cheap romance novel type of an affair with the sort of man who falls tearfully into her arms, if not the lover himself getting all girly in his emotionalism, have just got to turn out to be psychotic.
But apparently somebody really did intend it to be a sensual moving tale, as director Vittorio de Sica seems in deadly earnest, & Clift certainly has no sense of humor about his dreadful role. As for Jones, she's a beauty no doubt, but if she were a better actor she might not have made it all seem just a little spoofy (although it could be argued that playing it as a spoof is the only way it could've been played).
The script was tinkered with by too many authors of high merit -- vis, Carson McCullers, Paul Gallico, Ben Hecht, & Alberto Moravia are all said to have had a hand in tinkering with Luigi Chiarini's initial script. This would indicate that de Sica knew the script never quite got good enough. No matter how great the author, de Sica would soon need yet another author to go over it again.
Perhaps only Truman Capote knew how it was going to come out, as a gay dialoguist writing for a gay actor play-acting straight as unconvincingly as ever. Alberto Moravia was quite possibly an even better writer than Truman, who in his own fiction has a real ear for "sickeningly funny sensuality" & expresses it in the best & most original manner so that you can despise & relate to his horrid characters all in one reluctant embrace. I can imagine this awful story becoming much better as one of Monravia's bitterly comical & horny tales, if only anyone else involved knew quite how to treat the material, which has been rendered foremost boring when not actively annoying.
At sensuality, at least, it fails miserably & just seems weany-whiny for weany-whiny's sake. If Clift's whinging portrayal of Giovanni ever had broader character potential, it got lost in this shortened American edit.
The European release titled Terminal Station was considerably longer. I've not seen the long version, & don't want to after gagging on the short version. I could be wrong but to me it seems likely it'd be even more boring as Interminal Station. Even allowing that at greater length the characters couldn't possibly remain so devoid of dimension, I can't imagine ever caring about them.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl