A Movie A Day: TERMINAL STATION (1954)
Don’t forget. I’m an Italian, too. If you didn’t behave yourself… I’d beat you.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Montgomery Clift bridges us from yesterday’s RED RIVER to today’s slice of dark Italian romance TERMINAL STATION (aka Indiscretion of an American Wife) directed by famed Italian director Vittorio De Sica (THE BICYCLE THIEF).
Now it’s tough getting these done during a film festival where I’m seeing between 3 and 6 movies a day already and I have to admit I was dreading this one. I knew it’d be quality… it is a Criterion title afterall… but Italian black and white romance tale about an affair in Rome? I was worried that my lack of sleep would catch up with me and I’d have to struggle through it.
The good news came pretty quickly. There are two cuts on this release, De Sica’s original cut (under the TERMINAL STATION title) and one his producers took and released in America (INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE title) after massive re-edits.
The good news was both cuts were under an hour and a half long, with the IOAAW cut clocking in at only 72 minutes. I haven’t seen that one, though, going straight for De Sica’s cut, which with minimal research was recommended as the strongest of the two.
The other piece of good news was seeing Truman Capote’s name pop up in the credits. He’s credited as writing “Dialogue,” but not the script. I’m not exactly sure how that breaks down, but I was assured that the writing would be sharp, interesting.
And it was.
This is a dark little tale, inserting us at the tail end of a romance and not giving us any flashbacks or backstory. I really liked that, to be frank. We didn’t need to see how Montgomery Clift and Jennifer Jones met, we didn’t need to see the love story played through. That’s not the story. The story is Jones deciding to break her affair off and return home to the states to her husband and daughter before she falls so much in love with Clift that she can’t leave.
The majority of the film takes place within the walls of the train station, but the film opens with Jones walking up to Clift’s apartment and not being able to ring the buzzer. She goes to Terminal Station to take the first train out of Rome, trying to ultimately get to Paris where she can catch a flight back home.
She tries to send Giovanni (Clift) a telegram, but chickens out, not knowing how to end it. It’s just easier to walk away and that’s what she tries to do.
But Clift, of course, trails her and they have a very, very emotional talk about what’s in their respective futures. He begs her to stay, telling her of the life he wants for her, for them both. She’s tempted and he knows it, so he presses.
The acting from both Clift and Jones is top notch. Clift is like a wounded puppy. He’s hurt, but he sees hope, like a drowning man seeing a plank of wood floating toward him. Like any wounded animal, he snaps when pushed too far. In this case, he actually slaps Jones, which is what divides them for the third act and it’s what they have to overcome for the climax of the movie.
Jones has the most difficult role in the movie. She’s an adulteress that you have to not only sympathize with, but also have doubts about which route she should take. Her argument to Giovanni is that her leaving him to go back to her family would hurt him, yes, but not destroy him. However, if she left her daughter and husband, it would destroy them permanently and she can’t do that to them.
It’s a movie of complexities, but the simple setting and basic choice keeps it from becoming hard to swallow or sort out.
Vittorio De Sica’s direction is superb, as to be expected. My favorite thing about his film is how he populates the train station with interesting people. Some have a line or two, but most are featured extras. All of them are interesting faces or people doing interesting things. From a fat guy trying to squeeze down a populated train hallway uttering “Permesso” each time he has to squeeze by someone to a man on the platform more interested in counting the wad of money in his hand than waving goodbye to whoever the hell he just put on the train to a group of four priests traveling together always trying to figure out Italian currency… everybody’s doing something interesting in this movie.
I won’t spoil the end of the movie, but I will say that it’s a pretty gutting moment when the choice is made and I honestly didn’t know which way Jones was going to go, which is a testament to the writing and performances. It was certainly likely she was going to leave, I believed her when she said she’d destroy her family if she didn’t go back. It was just as likely that she’d stay, seeing a happiness with Giovanni that she wouldn’t have back home.
Final thoughts: The interesting faces and lack of standard A to B to C romantic movie formula really made this movie jump out to me. I was drawn into it beyond my wildest expectations and was able to watch it after little sleep and 3 days that have seen somewhere around 14 festival movies. Complex, dark, riveting. It’s not for everyone, but for serious cinephiles this will be a welcome discovery.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Monday, September 22nd: THE SEARCH (1948)
Tuesday, September 23rd: ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948)
Wednesday, September 24th: HOUDINI (1953)
Thursday, September 25th: MONEY FROM HOME (1953)
Friday, September 26th: PAPA’S DELICATE CONDITION (1963)
Saturday, September 27th: DILLINGER (1945)
Sunday, September 28th: BATTLE OF THE BULGE (1965)
Tomorrow we continue following Montgomery Clift, this time with a movie he filmed in the same time period as his breakout role in RED RIVER, a WW2 flick called THE SEARCH. See you tomorrow for that.
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Sept. 22, 2008, 4:06 a.m. CST
I read Clift's biog, he was in a car crash that changed his career and life, as his face was ruined. He didn't like being photographed from the damaged side. Interesting biog about the 'other' great tortured method actor in American cinema. Think I'll have to see this one!
Sept. 22, 2008, 5:04 a.m. CST
Truly a great job in taking something that would have been an unbearable sudser in most hands (see the Taylor-Burton-otherfellow triangle in the VIPs) and making it real and complex. As always, Q, a detailed and well observed review. How're you finding the many faces of Clift (not only from AMAD, but in comparison to the stuff you've already seen)?
Sept. 22, 2008, 11:54 a.m. CST
Whenever I've had the opportunity to see this film, I always ended up watching something else, for some fucked up reason, even though I love The Bicycle Thieves. But this review has really peaked my interest. Didn't even know Capote was involved.
Sept. 22, 2008, 1:16 p.m. CST
by Elemeno Pee
that's what I thought it said at first glance....
Sept. 22, 2008, 3:30 p.m. CST
of the title. "Termini" is the *name* of the main train station in Rome, so translating "Stazione Termini" as "Terminal Station" doesn't make much sense, it's like translating "Washington" as "town where washing occurs."
Sept. 22, 2008, 6:12 p.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
Sept. 22, 2008, 6:13 p.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
Nuts. Tell me you've at least seen The Dirty Dozen. Bronson and Savalas are in both.
Sept. 22, 2008, 6:13 p.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
I'm glad I wasn't the only one who saw that.
Sept. 23, 2008, 9:19 a.m. CST
by A G
which would actually have been interesting.
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