Nastassja Kinski starrer “The Blonde” retools seasoned film noir staples into a sturdy, well-played but somewhat conventional romantic tragedy. Exalted expectations for Italo actor/director Sergio Rubini’s follow-up to his highly regarded 1990 debut, “The Station,” led to local critics being generally underwhelmed during last year’s national release. Shorn of some 20 minutes and considerably fine-tuned, the film has enough dramatic kick to interest upscale international webs and video labels.
Tommaso (Rubini), a shy southerner with a slight physical disability, endures a stint in fast-track Milan to undertake watchmaking training. Driving home at night, he hits a pedestrian (Kinski), who subsequently lands on his doorstep with amnesia. Irritation at the intrusion of the mysterious blonde with no past soon makes way for attraction, but just as Cupid’s arrow hits him hard, the blonde’s memory returns and she hightails it.
She steps back into a flash-trash world, in which her unscrupulous lover, Alberto (Ennio Fantastichini), is planning to go big time with a hefty cocaine deal. The blonde has her own plans to take him for a ride and make a fresh start. Lovelorn Tommaso tracks her down, but her attempts to push him away go unheeded.
Rubini is terrific, limning another guileless, earnest-but-awkward type, this time headed for a resoundingly tragic end. His grasping desperation for what looked momentarily like a more fulfilling life cranks up an often wrenching intensity, though attempts to trowel on psychological weight via his disability stigma feel heavy-handed.
Kinski also delivers a sharply double-edged but sympathetic turn. The normally formidable Fantastichini is largely wasted on a standard sleazebag.
Often an eyesore on film, Milan here becomes an effectively cruel presence, shot mostly at night or in harsh artificial light. The constant dose of crowds and traffic functions admirably but highlights the whopping lapse in credibility of a climax played out on an airport freeway that’s deserted during rush hour. Tech side is solid.