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4.2 out of 5 stars
Ossessione [1942] [DVD]
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on 14 December 2015
'Ossessione' was one of Visconti's early films, that alone is reason enough to watch this film. Not to mention that this adaption of 'The Postman always rings twice' came out around the same time as the American film starring Lana Turner. Seeing the two is a really interesting comparison. I heard about this film while watching an interview with Matthew Bourne about his inspirations for his show 'The Car Man', so I wanted to see it. I was not disappointed. The only problem with this purchase was that the disc had come loose but that could've happened while it was being posted rather than when it was being packed.
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on 11 February 2018
One of the most fantastic films ever.
Delivery perfect
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on 2 February 2015
Great black & white film noir.
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on 5 April 2016
Received very promptly. DVD as expected
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 June 2010
`Ossessione' was Visconti's first film - and what a classic he produced! He had of course learned much of his trade in the 1930s with Jean Renoir, but one is quite astounded at how masterfully he frames his shots and forges atmosphere in this film. Visconti was unquestionably a natural-born director with an eye for detail in both the technical and artistic matters of film-making. `Ossessione' is seen by some as the first of the Italian neo-realist movies with its richness to incidental detail and use of scenes and people incidental to the plot. And already Visconti is at home with large set pieces and long takes, such as the singing contest at Ancona.

The story of Gino and Giovanna's illicit affair and their murder of Giovanna's husband - a story as old as history - was filmed in the Po delta region of Italy, a flat landscape of marshes and reeds - and long causeways on which traffic passes by the hostelry run by Giovanna and her husband. On a hot summer's day, the vagabond Gino happens to drop by, setting in motion the chain of events that will lead to more than one death. This is one film where the ending is made more effective by its very inconclusiveness.

The erotic charge of the whole film is framed around Gino, and not Giovanna; indeed, we first only ever see a close-up of Gino's face through Giovanna's look of lust at first sight. This is not a gay movie, but there are - as usual with a Visconti film - strong homoerotic undertones. The character of the Spaniard, for instance, has an ambiguous sexuality, and some have seen him as Visconti's representative of the anti-Fascist. (The film was made in 1942.)

The quality of the transfer to DVD is not always good, both visually and aurally (there is some hiss on the soundtrack), but the film is nevertheless very watchable. In his book on the director, Henry Bacon says that the original negative was seized by the Fascists so extant copies had to be made from a duplicate. Bacon sees the film as a basic conflict between the insecurity of freedom on the road and the security of societal confinement.

The accompanying commentary is by David Forgacs (Professor of Italian at University College, London) and Lesley Caldwell (Associate Fellow in the Italian Department). They are not film historians, but what they have to say is both informative and insightful. The other extra is a short biography of Visconti.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 January 2012
Luchino Visconti's 1942 debut film Ossessione is based on James M Cain's short novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. Visconti's film version of the story followed that of French director Pierre Chenal's 1939 film Le Dernier Tournant (The Last Bend) and predates two US versions (which went under Cain's story title): Tay Garnett's 1946 version starring Lana Turner and John Garfield and Bob Rafelson's 1981 film starring Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson. Whilst I haven't seen Chenal's film, I rate Visconti's above both American versions. Whilst it is maybe 20 minutes too long, it captures the brooding sense of sexual desire (more understated than in the 1981 version), coupled with jealousy, revenge and tragedy more effectively than the other versions.

Visconti's film is all the more remarkable given that it was his debut film, the ex-horse race owner and aristocrat-turned-communist having begun to collaborate with the likes of Jean Cocteau and Jean Renoir, thereby inspiring him to try his hand at film direction. His film was one of the last to be made in Italy under Mussolini's fascist government, and was co-written with a number of fellow (left leaning) film enthusiasts working for the Italian film publication, Cinema.

Ossesione's (well-known) story focuses on a passionate love affair between bored housewife Giovanna Bragana (superbly played by Clara Calamai) and travelling adonis Gino Costa (equally brilliantly played by Massimo Girotti). After Gino walks into Giovanna's life, the pair conspire to murder Giovanna's husband Giuseppe (Juan de Landa), and after a number of ups and downs for their relationship, the police finally discover what they have done, leading to a climactic, and tragic, ending. For the role of Giovanna, Visconti had originally cast Italian actress Anna Magnani, until he discovered that she was not two months pregnant (as she had claimed), but actually five months, thus ruling her out of filming.

Visconti's film is notable for being (arguably) one of the first Italian neorealist films, being set in the Italian Po Valley near the city of Ferrara, and showing scenes of everyday life at close quarters, as distinct from the costume dramas and comedies that had featured as the main genres of Italian cinema up to that point. The cinematography for the film by Aldo Tonti and Domenico Scala is superb, with chiaroscuro lighting derived from German expressionism and pre-dating that of US film noir. There are many stunning set-piece sequences in the film, including Gino's arrival scene where his face is hidden from view for an extended period, with accompanying crane shots reminiscent of techniques later used by Sergio Leone in his legendary westerns. Visconti also uses music to great effect, with a superb, operatic score by Giuseppe Rosati, and a standout scene where husband Giuseppe, as part of an amateur singing contest, sings Verdi's aria Di Provenza il Mar from La Traviata, as, in the foreground, Gino and Giovanna are engaged in a heated conversation about their on-off relationship.

For me, this film is borderline four/five stars, but for being slightly overlong I'll call it four.
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on 26 November 2002
Ossessione is a key work of Italian cinema, cited by writers such as Marcia Landy as the first work of Italian Neo-Realism (rather than the more frequently cited Rome, Citta Aperta). It is also a European work that is influenced by James M Cain's classic slice of roman-noir, The Postman Always Rings Twice- which would also influence Camus's L'etranger.
This is the ideal introduction to Visconti, though not as great as later works such as Rocco & His Brothers or Death in Venice- what this film starts, a film like Pasolini's Accatone appears to end- as Italian Neo-Realism faded into other avenues. At this moment in time this remains the definitive, if unofficial, version of Cain's story and should be looked at over Le Dernier Tourant (1939), the classic neutuered noir of 1945's Postman-adaptation and David Mamet/Bob Rafelson's curious 1981 version (where did the final chapter go?). Visconti is one of the most interesting Italian directors of the 20th century and this is one of his many great films that still stands up today.
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on 19 July 2008
A ground-breaking and spellbinding film marvelously understated and very accomplished acting from all involved. Subtle and gripping. A daring film for its time and well worth watching. A very special film.

p.s. Also worth doing some contextual reading about the making of this film.
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on 6 April 2012
I've always enjoyed the story that spawned two Hollywood adaptations, largely laden with sex, written by James M Cain, both called The Postman Always Rings Twice'. The first film made of it was the French 'Le Dernier Tournament', in 1939.

Luchino Visconti's debut feature, here, 'Ossessione' is accredited as being the first of the Italian 'Neorealism' movement. As is widely known, Mussolini's censors banned the film and the Fascists burned the original negative. Visconti saved a print from destruction and may explain why this transfer (the only one?) looks similar to films we usually associate with those of the mid-late 1920's, it being so poor.

Not only grainy, it almost pops in and out of focus and has scratches permanently weaving over it. The film flickers with changing amounts of light. The sound isn't much better. Despite all these technical deficiencies it is always hugely watchable and ultimately enjoyable.

Unlike those two Hollywood versions, that as I said were sexed-up, Visconti's PG certificate version is a lot more innocent and stops at kissing, which is still quite daring for its time. The rest of the story is filled up to its 140 minutes with Italian life, its people and culture, all vibrantly shot and revealed and so, marks a real contrast with the U.S versions.

The three key actors, Massimo Girotti as the handsome drifter (later played by John Garfield & Jack Nicolson), Clara Calamai as the beautiful wife (later, by Lana Turner & Jessica Lange) and Juan de Landa, the husband (later Cecil Kellaway & John Colicos) - are all well cast and play their parts well.

Apparently, it was the way that the working-class were portrayed, with loose morals that upset the Fascist censors. Thank goodness this didn't put off Visconti who later went on to make some of the most noted films in Italian film history, such as The Leopard and Death In Venice.
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on 6 June 2005
Visconti's 'Ossessione' was his debut feature, and one made during the war years that got a release as Mussolini approved of it (!) It is the defintive adaptation of James M. Cain's 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' - much better than the 40s film noir of that or the overblown take of it in the 1980s (Albert Camus' 'The Outsider'/'The Stranger' would also be influenced heavily by Cain's novel). It should be noted though, that it was an unofficial version of 'The Postman...', like 'Le Dernier Tournant' in 1939...
While films such as 'Rome, Open City' (1945, Roberto Rossellini) & 'The Bicycle Thieves' (1948, Vittorio de Sica) are cited as formative examples of the movement that would be known as 'Italian Neo-Realism', it's really 'Ossessione' that deserves that status. The use of amateur-actors (or unknowns) and the "realistic" look would be key - and lead towards those celebrated films mentioned previously.
As a debut feature, I think it's great and proves that Cain's dark-tale of adultery and murder could translate into something universal. 'Ossessione' was the start of one of the careers of one of the great European auteurs of the twentieth-century, and deserves to be seen alongside other brilliant works by Visconti such as 'The Leopard', 'Rocco and His Brothers' & 'La Terra Trema.'
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