After watching his turn in All About Eve as a slimy ingénue-manipulating theater critic, how is it possible to imagine George Sanders in an eight-year marriage (even a lousy one) to Ingrid Bergman? Some sort of tragic deal must have been struck before this story starts. In any case, there they are—Ilsa from Casablanca and Shere Khan from The Jungle Book—tooling down a breezy Italian road, barely speaking and, when they do, bickering. Sneering foreigners in a land of garlicky food and boisterous locals, they have a piece of inherited Naples land to unload; even as they drift apart on separate excursions, their eyes begin to widen to their own desperation and the possibilities for rebirth.
Director Roberto Rossellini had already swept away his leading lady a few years back, and even though Voyage to Italy ostensibly comes from their honeymoon period, it’s remarkable how acrid it all tastes: the criticisms, scowls and disjointed tours through the same faintly unrealistic territory of Fellini and Antonioni films. The French critics flipped for it (as did Martin Scorsese), but a younger, curious generation will be able to see Lost in Translation and Mad Men in here, which is all by way of saying that Voyage to Italy is the kind of movie that makes those unhappily in love feel understood. And even if that’s not you (congratulations), it’s still possible to groove on Rossellini’s stranger-in-a-strange-land psychodrama.
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