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A Rekindled Affair

"A Rekindled Affair" reps middle-of-the-road filmmaking at its most old-fashioned. Movie-of-the-week stuff transposed to the bigscreen could capture limited arthouse coin abroad; home B.O. is likely to be respectable.

With: Stefano Accorsi, Maya Sansa, Marco Messeri, Luisanna Pandolfi, Vania Rotondi, Giacomo La Rosa, Anne Canovas. (Italian dialogue)

A period romance bathed in a prewar glow, “A Rekindled Affair” reps middle-of-the-road filmmaking at its most old-fashioned. Handsomely mounted yarn of an illicit affair boasts a fine cast, but helmer Carlo Mazzacurati is like a bachelor prepping his pad for a hot date: he’s got the candles out, the mood music playing, the perfect dinner in the oven, but in the end the souffle refuses to rise. Movie-of-the-week stuff transposed to the bigscreen could capture limited arthouse coin abroad; home B.O. is likely to be respectable.

Bank employee Giovanni (Stefano Accorsi) is transferred to his former hometown, entailing a considerable train commute. With his wedding ring hidden and hungry eyes roving, Giovanni takes full advantage of the idle travel hours. When he spies ex-flame Maria (Maya Sansa), he thinks she might be fun for a quickie, and they agree to a beachside assignation. The encounter reawakens something inside both of them, and soon they’re meeting regularly after banking hours and before the late train departs.

As a naval reservist, Giovanni gets called up for training in the Tuscan coastal city of Livorno, where he and Maria have more freedom to shack up, away from wagging tongues. They’re like a normal happy couple, until Maria spies Giovanni in a cafe with his wife and child and realizes their relationship has no future. World War II makes a brief appearance toward the end, helping our lovers to put a perspective on their liaison.

Fellow commuters on the train provide occasional amusement, but far too much time is spent showing Giovanni and Maria smooching and expressing their undying love. Neither Accorsi (“The Son’s Room,” “Ignorant Fairies”) nor Sansa (“Good Morning, Night,” “The Best of Youth”), both accomplished performers, get much of a chance to show their stuff, though they make a believable duo in the throes of obsession.

As in previous films (“Holy Tongue,” “Riding the Tiger”), Mazzacurati shows off his eye for attractive, carefully lit compositions, but beneath the surface pleasantries lies a drawn-out romantic meller so determined to focus on the loving couple that occasional interesting asides (Maria’s blackmailing family, for example) are picked up and dropped like tepid potatoes. Period flavor is mostly successful, except for a flashback sequence in which Sansa is saddled with ridiculously period-inappropriate wig and makeup.

A Rekindled Affair

Italy - France

Production: A Medusa release (in Italy) of a Biancafilm/Pyramide Prods. co-production, with the support of Eurimages and the participation of Canal Plus in cooperation with Medusa Film and Sky. (International sales: Pyramide Intl., Paris). Produced by Donatella Botti. Co-producer, Fabienne Vonier. Directed by Carlo Mazzacurati. Screenplay by Doriana Leondeff, Claudio Piersanti, Mazzacurati, freely based on the novel "Una relazione" by Carlo Cassola.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Luca Bigazzi; editor, Paolo Cottignola; music, Franco Piersanti; production designer, Giancarlo Basili; costume designer, Gianna Gissi; sound (Dolby Digital), Bruno Pupparo; assistant director, Cinzia Castania. Reviewed at the Venice Film Festival (out of competition), Sept. 8, 2004 (also in Toronto, Viacom Galas). Running time: 108 MIN.

With: With: Stefano Accorsi, Maya Sansa, Marco Messeri, Luisanna Pandolfi, Vania Rotondi, Giacomo La Rosa, Anne Canovas. (Italian dialogue)

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