A Place for Lovers (1968): De Sica’s Romantic Melodrama, Starring Faye Dunaway and Marcello Mastroianni

Easily Vittorio De Sica’s worst film, A Place for Lovers (Italian: “Amanti,” French: “Le Temps des amants”) is a misfire, a wannabe romantic melodrama that not even stars of the magnitude of Faye Dunaway and Marcello Mastroianni can recue, or even make enjoyable as a guilty pleasure.

So many writers had contributed to this mishmash–Brunello Rondi, Julian Zimet, Peter Baldwin, Ennio De Concini, Tonino Guerra, Cesare Zavattini–that it’s impossible to tell who wrote what in this incoherent and uninvolving tale.

It doesn’t help that the story is an intimate two-handler, with no secondary or supporting characters.

 

Place for lovers.jpg

Theatrical release poster

The film stars Faye Dunaway as a terminally ill American fashion designer in Venice, Italy who has a whirlwind affair with a race car driver (Marcello Mastroianni).

Julia, the rich fashion designer, is tired of living because she knows she is suffering from a malignant cancer. When the woman leaves for her last holiday in Cortina d’Ampezzo, she meets the young and vital Valerio. The two fall in love instantly, but Julia does not reveal her secret to Valerio.

When Valerio finds out that she is fatally sick, he pretends to know nothing, and continues his love affair with Julia to the end.

Ella Fitzgerald provides two songs, the title song and “Lonely is” (“What lonely is, is me!”).

The film opened to negative reviews, with critics pointing to the sloppy writing, inept filmmaking (for a director of the caliber of De Sica), and lack of chemistry between the stars, which is strange, considering that they reportedly fell in love for each other on the set.

Fortunately, the distinguished director De Sica followed it up with one of his best films, The Garden of the Finzi Continis, which deservedly won the Best Foreign Language Oscar.

Not surprisingly, A Place for Lovers, which even fails as a schmaltzy tearjerker, is included in the 1978 book “The Fifty Worst Films of All Time,”

Cast
Faye Dunaway as Julia
Marcello Mastroianni as Valerion
Caroline Mortimer as Maggie
Enrico Simonetti as Party Host
Karin Eugh as Griselda
Esmeralda Ruspoli as Attorney’s wife
Yvonne Gilbert as Marie
Mirella Pamphili as Party guest
David Archell
Martha Buckman

Credits:

Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Produced by Arthur Cohn, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Carlo Ponti

Written by Brunello Rondi (play), Julian Zimet, Peter Baldwin, Ennio De Concini, Tonino Guerra, Cesare Zavattini

Music by Manuel De Sica, Lee Konitz

Cinematography Pasqualino De Santis
Edited by Adriana Novelli

Production company: Compagnia Cinematografica Champion, Les Films Concordia

Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Release date: December 19, 1968 (Italy), September 17, 1969 (France

Running time: 88 minutes.