For those who've been attending the Retrospective religiously, one of the best bits during the screening is the introduction to each movie as presented by Lorenzo Codelli, where he shares some little known facts of the movie with the audience. Today we were told that Monica Vitti actually was featured in Il Grido, not in person though but providing the dubbed voice behind Dorian Gray's character Virginia. So their collaboration stretched further back, even before L'Avventura.
The story centers on a working class sugar refinery worker Aldo (American actor Steve Cochran) who we learn has waited for 7 years cohabiting with Irma (Alida Valli), whose husband had recently passed away while in Australia. Thinking that this is a blessing in disguise in that he can finally marry Irma, Aldo gets the biggest surprise when he learns that the love of his life had in the last 4 months, given her heart to someone else. In rage he dished out unforgivable physical violence in public on her, and with a broken heart, picks up his daughter Rosina (Mima Girardi) to embark on an aimless road trip, wandering all over Po valley (which was the subject of one of Antonioni's early documentary).
Shot in the great outdoors, there's always a lingering mist in the first half of the movie, as if to accentuate Aldo's state of uncertainty and blur in his current state of life, without a clue what lies ahead as he drifts from location to location, and from person to person, as if like a person on a rebound, latching onto every opportunity that present itself to him, but all this while having absolutely no plans and unsure of what to do (kind of reminds me of Broken Flowers starring Bill Murray). While he seeks out his first love Elvia (Betsy Blair) and there comes this speed boat race, I thought Il Grido really picks up when he wanders toward a highway petrol kiosk, and meets with Virginia (Dorian Gray) and her alcoholic aged father (played by Guerrino Campanini).
Romancing the lady boss for food and lodging, having his daughter at his side demonstrated in truth that his relationship with and welfare for his daughter takes precedence over everything else, so while on the surface he might seem aimless, deep down he still bears a sense of responsibility to provide for Rosina, which probably gave him an invisible guiding hand in what he was doing, until of course he clinically evaluated and decided otherwise.
As he goes from woman to woman, having short temporal relationships with everyone we see on screen from Elvia to Andreina (Lynn Shaw), each played out like small skits, but a common thread running through it is that the characters here seem to be people who have wasted away their prime, missed the boat and are holding out for one last possibility at true love and happiness. Irma found hers although at Aldo's expense, and everyone else demonstrated memories with loved ones whom they cannot forget. The ending is nothing less than heart-wrenching, a discovery and affirmation of sad truths when people indeed have moved on, but then you realize that insofar you're still stuck in a rut. Very depressing if you ponder over it.
The last act also dwelt on impending change, with landscape changes ordered from the top, with common people on the ground being forced to accept these changes, with little regard to their livelihood. I thought it provided a poignant moment to reflect upon such frenzy, and sometimes the insensitivity that comes together with forced policies probably, and hopefully for the greater good.