Transposing James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice to a squalid trattoria in the Po Valley, Luchino Visconti plays it for a deft mixture of dour authenticity, studied narrative suspense, and ambiguous passions. Ossessione is a work of extraordinary beauty. Character and landscape merge, as in the opening shots, looking out the front of a bus going down a dusty road seemingly to nowhere. We are introduced to Gino (Massimo Girotti), the drifter, by way of his hefty back, and we watch him from an increasingly high-angle shot, still from the back, enter the trattoria in whose kitchen he meets Giovanna (Clara Calamai). We first see his face when she does, a moment of startled passion. Calamai plays Giovanna as a portrait of female despair and desire—not the Cain variety of smoldering sexuality but a smoldering soul. She tells her story from a small chair in a corner of the room. It is the first of the lonely compositions that will entrap the lovers.

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