review for Il Grido on AllMovie

Il Grido (1957)
by Wheeler Winston Dixon review

Il Grido is a landmark Michelangelo Antonioni film from early in his career, before the big breakthrough with L'Avventura (1960) established his international career, and led to the U.K./U.S. hit Blow-Up (1966), which remains for many the quintessential Swinging London film. In Il Grido, Antonioni uses the fading American actor Steve Cochran as Aldo, a rough and tumble refinery worker who is involved in a tempestuous relationship with Irma (Alida Valli, best known for her role as Anna Schmidt in Carol Reed's The Third Man [1949]), who is married to another man. When Irma receives word that her husband has died in Australia, Aldo hopes that he and Irma can now be married; they have a daughter together, Rosina (Mirna Girardi), and now perhaps the couple can find some peace and stability. But, as in all of Antonioni's films, this is not to be: Irma is in love with another man, and she abruptly tells Aldo that their relationship is over. Stunned, Aldo tries to use violence to make Irma stay, but this only makes the break in their relationship irrevocable. Left with no other recourse, Aldo and Rosina leave their home and begin to wander through the Italian landscape, searching for some sense of meaning in their lives. Antonioni's sense of perpetual alienation is as strong as ever here; Aldo moves through a world of fog and shadow, in which everything is mechanized, and machines dominate the soundtrack of the film, which offers up a vision of existence as a desolate hell from which death would be a merciful release. Cochran gives the performance of his career in this, perhaps the actor's most ambitious project. Antonioni is developing themes that he would pursue in such classics as Il Deserto Rosso (1964), L'Eclisse (1962), and La Notte (1961) to even greater effect. While not one of Antonioni's major works, Il Grido is still a compelling vision of spiritual bankruptcy and betrayal from the typically uncompromising director, and an interesting indication of where he would go in the years ahead, which would seal his reputation as one of the key filmmakers 1960s, the poet of detached ennui.