202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

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Martha
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202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#1 Post by Martha » Sat Feb 12, 2005 8:55 pm

Indiscretion of an American Wife / Terminal Station

Image

An American housewife (Jennifer Jones) vacationing in Italy reluctantly decides to put an end to her brief affair with an Italian academic (Montgomery Clift). She flees to Rome's Stazione Termini, where she bids him farewell, but he begs her to stay. The film's plot is simple; its production was not. The troubled collaboration between director Vittorio De Sica and producer David O. Selznick resulted in two cuts of the same film. De Sica's version, Terminal Station, was screened at a length of one-and-a-half hours, but after disappointing previews, Selznick severely re-edited it and changed the title to Indiscretion of an American Wife without De Sica's permission. The Criterion Collection is proud to present both versions of this controversial release.

Special Features

- Includes new digital transfers of both versions of the film: Indiscretion of an American Wife: Selznick's 72-minute cut, including the Patti Page-performed overture Autumn in Rome

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Morbii
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#2 Post by Morbii » Wed Feb 16, 2005 5:47 pm

Which version do you all like better?

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#3 Post by Feast on me » Fri Nov 10, 2006 11:08 pm

Morbii wrote:Which version do you all like better?
I'm wondering about this also, i recently bought a copy and want to know which version is better to watch first, and which is better.

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colinr0380
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#4 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Nov 11, 2006 5:58 am

Sorry, I haven't gotten this yet, but from the look of it I'd probably watch the longer Terminal Station first and then watch the Selznick-edited Indiscretion of an American Wife after so you can see which bits were edited out of the longer version and whether the film plays any differently at the shorter length.

I usually like giving each version a watch with its original soundtrack before listening to the commentary but the above approach to the film would probably work well if you just watch the longer version and then only watch the short version with the commentary. After watching the shorter versions once with their soundtrack, this is really the only way I watch the edited version of Brazil or the shorter film version of Fanny and Alexander now - if I want to watch the film itself I go for the longest print.

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zedz
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#5 Post by zedz » Sun Nov 12, 2006 5:35 pm

I think even Terminal Station is a pretty minor film, but it's far superior to the butchered version. De Sica was trying to do something slightly unusual and very specific with the film by locating the central narrative within the context of other competing narratives (though even in his cut I find this somewhat half-hearted). Selznick basically strips out all of the marginal material (the raison d'etre of the project, and often far more interesting than the main story) so all that remains is a flimsy narrative that doesn't even add up to a feature film. Patti Page to the rescue!

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david hare
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#6 Post by david hare » Sun Nov 12, 2006 6:09 pm

Im even surprising myself when I say this is a very welcome title, even better in both versions. This and (to a lesser extent) Finzi-Continis are the only two de Sica titles I'm intrerested in seeing again.

This is the sort of thing I thought might have made it into the Eclipse label.

While on this subject who owns and will they ever release De Sicas also very odd but fascinating A Place for Lovers (with Faye Dunaway and Marcello)? Used to be an MGM title as I recall. Not to mention Francesco Rosi's More than a Miracle/C'Era una Volta (Loren and Omar Sharif) from the same year

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ando
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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#7 Post by ando » Thu Jan 01, 2009 11:49 pm

Image still from Terminal Station

The above shot (hope it stays a bit) brings to mind the opening shot of Hitchcock's Marnie, where Tippi Hedren, decked out in couture, clutching a yellow purse (with a cool - or should I say hot ten thousand dollars) on a rail platform, is walking away from the camera headed for who knows what melodramatic turn. Jennifer Jones beared little to no resemblance to Hedren in looks or demeanor but both play bourgeois stunners with serious trust issues in Terminal Station and Marnie, respectively.

Jones is given rather rough treatment in De Sica's little gem. (Selznick's butchered version, Indiscretion, especially the Patti Page "surrogate" segment is laughably banal.) Jones was apparently as emotionally frazzled as she appears in the film, caught between her then husband, David Selznick's and De Sica's demands. As a character Jones is essentially a prig. Thank goodness for Monte. Clift brings her down the notches required for at least a modicum of sympathy. Otherwise, who could relate this overacting Hollywood starlet? One can see her working her tricks in vain as method Montgomery looks on as if he's listening to an especially long set of Lawrence Welk.

Image Welk

Despite the casting mis-match (not to mention the producer-director mis-match) the film (Terminal Station) is wonderful to watch once you understand that De Sica's approach is, despite Selznick, akin to what P.P. Pasolini tried to do with films like Gospel and Accatone. Both directors were quite obviously much more interested in capturing something of an authentic Italy; an anthropological truthfulness in composition despite the subject matter. Something of the earth of Italy can be found in both De Sica and Pasolini in whatever film encompassed their imaginations. I think it's the strongest aspect of all their films.

And with Terminal Station De Sica manages to infuse the rather cold, hard, even forbidding enviorns of a major transporation hub into something of village. He doesn't always succeed. In fact, the frequent appearance of singing travellers (monks, school boys, soldiers, etc.) that pass in front us becomes almost comical. Mary (Jones) and Giovanni's (Clift) arrest for kissing in an abandoned rail car and subquent "Calvary" walk through the bowels of the station are moments of similar amusement but oddly doesn't make the narrative seem implausible (though in real-life, I can't imagine such a far-fetched scenario).

The whole experience is like a horrowing end to an affair that represents the emptiness in the lives of both characters, but most especially, Mary's. There's almost nothing to save her from the lonely desperation that's really at the heart of the character and that De Sica sometimes nails in several visual sequences or still shots. There's one excellent zoom-in shot of Clift with his head buried in his arm as he leans against his car just outside the station after a violent altercation with Jones. A literal world of people pass by as he suffers in splendidly photographed isolation. There are many moments like this. Regrettably there are the typical star-treatment close-ups (at Selznick's insistence) which weigh the film and slow down narrative progression considerably. But De Sica's fluidity of direction, which at times resemble musical movements, is in great form (the accompanying orchestrated score, on the other hand, is dreadfully employed) and is a considrable step forward from the over-praised Bicycle Thief.

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domino harvey
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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#8 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:53 pm

Nice appreciation, and I'm with you on your bold statement favoring this over Bicycle Thieves. The full version and the disc as a whole are quite underrated-- though for anyone still curious, for the love of God watch Terminal Station first and Indiscretion last, behind any other film at all. Terminal Station is actually my favorite De Sica (!) and it was mildly traumatizing to watch it ruined so extensively in the other version.

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#9 Post by ando » Sat Jan 03, 2009 9:45 pm

Yes, the other version... how are we suppposed to receive it? How did Selznick expect audiences to receive it in 1953? A solitary Patti Page sulking in a Manhattan luxury Upper East Side apartment singing about her indiscretion as a prologue to De Sica's film remains incomprehensible to me. Is it supposed to be some kind of displaced coda? Is the film "proper" supposed to be an extended flashback? Did Selznick think he would set the tone for a droll melodrama by giving us a torch singer seemingly on medication? If ever there was a hackneyed move on the part of a producer this is surely a textbook example.

The chief thrill for me is De Sica's use of space. For my money (which ain't much) he makes the Terminal Station and all the goings-on absolutely compelling. I wish a director could do something similar for Grand Central or, well, New York's old Penn Station. Now that I think about it, Stanley Kubric has a beautiful opening sequence in Killer's Kiss which features the old Penn Station, but we quickly move away for the next scene never to return. I think there's something to consider about the way a particular director uses space in the great public arenas of their own country. Their considerations reveal aspects of the national character, intentional or not, that may not be so apparent to directors from abroad making films in the same space. Can you imagine a Renoir version of Kafka's The Trial in the massive former train terminal that Orson Welles used for his version in what is now the Muse D'Orsay?

Image De Sica, Jones and Clift on the set of Terminal Station

I think that whenever you make a film centered in and around a major transportation hub you're forced to consider the customs and behavior, not simply of travel, but of the national character. Perhaps international hubs are an exception. Still, there must be profound differences, in terms of a traveller's subjective experience (personal drama notwithstanding), for example, between Kennedy International and Dubai International Airports.

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#10 Post by Antoine Doinel » Tue Aug 04, 2009 11:54 pm

Watched Terminal Station tonight and was absolutely floored. I don't quite understand the charges of a "flimsy narrative" (I mean, by that measure, isn't Bicycle Thieves "flimsy"?), but for me, what De Sica does with this film is absolutely heartbreaking. He so perfectly captures the mixed emotions of the flameout of an affair, finding the perfect pitch of two people trying to navigate love, lust and desire in a culture that is both highly sexual and very puritanical. How he achieves this, largely through wordless shots of the men moving through the station eyeing Mary is nothing short of magnificent. Mary is both condemned and desired by these people. And my God, somehow Montgomery Clift has been flying under my radar until now but he does some tremendous work here, particularly in how he constrains his body language. I'm sort of gobsmacked and still digesting the film, but it's nothing short of breathtaking magnificent work. Can't wait to see it again.

P.S. The entire opening until Montgomery Clift comes into the film is one of the most perfect sequences I've watched in a while. Stunning.

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#11 Post by Magic Hate Ball » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:46 am

It's driving me crazy that there's no easy way to get ahold of this other than just blind-buy it. The Netflix version appears to be only Indescretion. Someone prove me wrong.

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#12 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:51 am

Magic Hate Ball wrote:It's driving me crazy that there's no easy way to get ahold of this other than just blind-buy it. The Netflix version appears to be only Indescretion. Someone prove me wrong.
Buy it. It's one of the four or five best Criterion releases ever

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#13 Post by aox » Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:56 am

Magic Hate Ball wrote:It's driving me crazy that there's no easy way to get ahold of this other than just blind-buy it. The Netflix version appears to be only Indescretion. Someone prove me wrong.
dammit, I was just going over there to que this.

I have only seen Bicycle Thieves, Shoeshine, and Umberto D (the latter being my favorite), and I kind of moved on from De Sica on the advice from friends who said everything else is not essential (at least on the level of those 3 films). But after reading this thread, this film seems to pull it's weight in De Sica's filmography.

EDIT: the disc on netflix advertises it as a 'double feature'... perhaps the original cut is on the disc?

EDIT 2: Found that version on Amazon.. looks like it is only Indiscretion. ](*,)
Last edited by aox on Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:07 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#14 Post by Napier » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:01 am

The Children Are Watching Us is also essential De Sica. In my book.

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#15 Post by aox » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:09 am

Napier wrote:The Children Are Watching Us is also essential De Sica. In my book.
added to my que. thanks!

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#16 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Aug 05, 2009 1:26 pm

La Ciociara (1960) ... aka Two Women is essential cinema, let alone essential De Sica. I'd rate it almost as high as Umberto D and right with Bicycle Thieves. Really a must see.

The Children are Watching and Miracle in Milan are worthy as well.
-------------------

Ando, just read and appreciated your posts on Terminal Station from the beginning of the year. Good stuff. Makes me want to re-watch the film.

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#17 Post by Tommaso » Wed Aug 05, 2009 2:17 pm

Aox, whatever you queued on Netflix, there's no way to appreciate the film apart from seeing De Sica's original cut on the Criterion disc. All the pensiveness and often meditative character of the film is gone in the Selznick cut.

Antoine Doinel wrote: How he achieves this, largely through wordless shots of the men moving through the station eyeing Mary is nothing short of magnificent. Mary is both condemned and desired by these people.
Yes, I agree; though I tend to find 'these people' even more interesting than the central couple. I find it amazing how De Sica manages to make these 'minor' roles into full character portraits, often only by gestures and very little dialogue (or dialogue with no apparent 'significance'). I sometimes think the film is a miniature portrait of (mostly poor) people living in or travelling through Rome in the first place, and in this respect it still retains very much of its neo-realist inheritance. There is a sense of desolation and loneliness here, created by the magnificent camera-work often showing us the cold, lifeless but strangely 'beautiful' architecture of the station in a way that seems to prefigure the feeling of alienation and the dwelling on architecture in Antonioni's major works. The Selznick version of course cuts out most of these apparently secondary parts and thus withholds from us the most fascinating aspects of the film. That the central plot occasionally lapses into melodrama (Clift crossing the tracks and almost being overrun by a train, for example...HEAVENS!) really is a minor point for me.
Antoine Doinel wrote: And my God, somehow Montgomery Clift has been flying under my radar until now but he does some tremendous work here, particularly in how he constrains his body language.
Absolutely. I haven't seen many films with Clift, and the one I best remember is Hitchcock's "I Confess". And ther I never understood the criticism that his performance garnered from some people who found it overly mannered or unconvincing. It's as restrained there as it is here, and makes for a marvellous effect. Magnificent all the way (both the Hitch and the De Sica).

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#18 Post by aox » Wed Aug 05, 2009 2:26 pm

Tommaso wrote:Aox, whatever you queued on Netflix, there's no way to appreciate the film apart from seeing De Sica's original cut on the Criterion disc. All the pensiveness and often meditative character of the film is gone in the Selznick cut.
Thanks. I don't care if it takes years for me to see this film, I will not view it unless it is De Sica's original cut. I will check the New York Public Library and see what version they have, or I will blind buy it.

I want the 90 minute cut, not the 63 minute cut, right? De Sica's is the longer one, right?

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#19 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 05, 2009 2:26 pm

Yes. If you start the film and there's a girl singing in an empty apartment for like ten minutes, that's how you know you have the wrong one

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#20 Post by aox » Wed Aug 05, 2009 2:29 pm

domino harvey wrote:Yes. If you start the film and there's a girl singing in an empty apartment for like ten minutes, that's how you know you have the wrong one
Good lord, I have never been on the edge of my seat more as I read a post to be greeted with the greatest relief ever.

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domino harvey
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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#21 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 05, 2009 2:33 pm

The disc is definitely worth a blind buy, as the commentary is one of Criterion's best, full of well-educated and entertaining insights from the Selznick biographer in addition to the two versions of the film (I think, if memory serves, the commentary is actually over the cut version, meaning you don't even have to sit through it otherwise to get a feel for what went wrong)

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#22 Post by Antoine Doinel » Wed Aug 05, 2009 2:48 pm

Tommaso wrote:
Antoine Doinel wrote: How he achieves this, largely through wordless shots of the men moving through the station eyeing Mary is nothing short of magnificent. Mary is both condemned and desired by these people.
Yes, I agree; though I tend to find 'these people' even more interesting than the central couple. I find it amazing how De Sica manages to make these 'minor' roles into full character portraits, often only by gestures and very little dialogue (or dialogue with no apparent 'significance'). I sometimes think the film is a miniature portrait of (mostly poor) people living in or travelling through Rome in the first place, and in this respect it still retains very much of its neo-realist inheritance. There is a sense of desolation and loneliness here, created by the magnificent camera-work often showing us the cold, lifeless but strangely 'beautiful' architecture of the station in a way that seems to prefigure the feeling of alienation and the dwelling on architecture in Antonioni's major works. The Selznick version of course cuts out most of these apparently secondary parts and thus withholds from us the most fascinating aspects of the film. That the central plot occasionally lapses into melodrama (Clift crossing the tracks and almost being overrun by a train, for example...HEAVENS!) really is a minor point for me.
I completely agree. Terminal Station succeeds because De Sica adds an entire other level about the variety and life of the various peoples traveling through the station that turns the film from a standard melodrama into something much more interesting and complex. His camera work as you mention is astonishing, and the film really could work as a silent given how capable De Sica is of transmitting the emotion of all the characters passing through the film with very little dialogue.

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#23 Post by Tommaso » Wed Aug 05, 2009 2:51 pm

domino harvey wrote:Yes. If you start the film and there's a girl singing in an empty apartment for like ten minutes, that's how you know you have the wrong one
I actually think the girl singing in the apartment is the best thing about the Selznick cut. At least the music is good.

And yes, the commentary is on the Selznick cut, which makes sense, as it's easier to point out the differences here and tell about how they came into being. On the other hand, I could have easily listened to the guy for twenty more minutes.

Antoine, I think your comparison to a silent film is very much to the point; strange that I never thought about it in that way. But it also shows how good and impressive the cinematography is.

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#24 Post by cdnchris » Wed Aug 05, 2009 2:58 pm

I've always been surprised how the longer De Sica cut is so engaging and full of life even with all it's secondary things yet the Selznick cut, which is quite short to make it quicker paced I guess, is so ordinary and dull. I haven't viewed either in a while, but I remember Terminal Station flying by while Indiscretion was a plodding chore.

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Re: 202 Indiscretion of an American Wife & Terminal Station

#25 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 05, 2009 3:01 pm

Tommaso wrote: I actually think the girl singing in the apartment is the best thing about the Selznick cut.
My vote goes to the police officer who is now heard bluntly saying "These two were MAKING LOVE" (or something equally artless) when carting Clift and Jones into the station

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