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White Nights

Mastroianni made his first star appearance in this tale of displaced, disconnected people drifting along crossing, doubling paths. As a quiet man who accidentally befriends a troubled, lonely young woman (Maria Schell) and finds himself playing understudy for the absent object of her affections, Mastroianni mingles subtly passionate yearnings with a characteristic (and entirely appropriate) note of annoyance. His character is both distrustful of and seduced by the romantic dreams that preoccupy the woman he unfortunately loves; he hovers on the boundary between the abstracted heroine's misty twilight world and the harsher light of day. Adapted from the same Dostoyevski story that was the basis for Bresson's Four Nights of a Dreamer, this film marks Visconti's move away from neorealism toward a more metaphorical, subjective style; its sublimely artificial atmosphere is accented by flashes of odd humor, including Mastroianni's disarmingly stilted dance to the tune of Bill Haley's "13 Women"-a far cry from Ginger and Fred.-Juliet Clark

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