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December 6, 2011

Movie Review: Crime of Love, aka Delitto d'amore (1974)

Review by Greg Goodsell

Despite its ties to Italy's high fashion industry, the city of Milan is an unremittingly bleak industrial stretch of real estate. Tourists to Italy are routinely warned away from visiting there, but it is at one of Milan's many factories that two young people of highly divergent backgrounds meet and fall in love. He, Nullo (Giuliano Gemma) is pragmatic, political and intellectual, a product of a strong northern Italian family. She, Carmella (Stefania Sandrelli) is a passionate, flighty girl, the product of a desperately poor southern Italian family who has migrated to Milan in search of work. The two don't exactly “meet cute.” Nullo confronts Carmela at the time clock when he spots her fleeing the factory in tears. Carmella later confesses that she was crying because she knew that Nullo would never fall in love with her. Despite this unpromising beginning, the two fall desperately in love amidst all the carbon emissions of the perpetually clanging factory.

Buy Crime of Love on DVD

The courtship is, not surprisingly, very rough. Carmella’s Sicilian brother doesn't take too kindly to the fact that his sister is seeing a snooty northerner, and sparks fly. The two discuss politics and culture at length, and they plan to marry. However … the deadly emissions from the factory have wound its way into Sandrelli's system, and Carmella begins a long, protracted descent into mortality. Nullo takes things into his own hands, and returns to the factory with gun in hand …

Crime of Love is a love story with a female lead not long for this world, but before anyone evokes memories of Ali McGraw and Ryan O'Neal, it must be noted that this venture most definitely lacks the glitz of the typical Ross Hunter production. Director Luigi Comencini takes great lengths to explore the pollution that flits all around the doomed lovers. The skies are perpetually gray, when not foggy with fumes from the factories. All of the buildings we see, aside from the clean and sterile factory are full of rot and decay. Carmella's family lives in a dismal apartment building that – and as the commentary from Italian film historian Adriano Apra points out on the DVD, is nonetheless painted in bright pastel hues to suggest hope and light in a dire situation. As the handy booklet included with the DVD also points out, while Nullo lives in an apartment that is lined with white tile, giving it the appearance of a public lavatory!

While our lovers discuss the trivial human details that separate them, the omnipresent pollution stalks them in the background. In a seeming parody of most films about love and romance, Nullo and Carmella talk about their impending marriage beside a sudsy, stagnant river. Carmella then buries three dead birds she finds scattered on the ground, in a gesture that shows her compassionate nature – as well as foreshadowing her own death.

The moral behind Crime of Love is that while we live, we laugh, we love, but external forces usually write our life stories. It's important that everyone in the film, from the snobby northerners, to the desperately poor southerners, risk their lives to toil in a factory where lethal chemicals abound. Even after Carmella falls ill from the fumes at the work station, her friends and co-employees continue to work there – a stunning example of “dining at the devil's dinner table.”

Raro Video has done another bang-up job in presenting a little-seen-outside-of-Italy neo-realistic romance. In addition to the commentary by Apra, the enclosed booklet with the DVD is thorough in presenting the many social issues that are presented in the film. Italy, along with much of Europe, operates under a class system that predetermines an individual's path in life. It's the only film this writer can think of, outside of the ones found in science-fiction where man-made pollution plays an essential part of the story.

The DVD features a new high definition transfer, digitally restored and the film's original theatrical trailer.

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