Dir. Antonio Pietrangeli. 1965. Spine #801.
From “The Graduate” to “Dr. Strangelove” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Criterion worked their magic on so many monumental classics this year that it can be easy to overlook the more obscure films that they spruced up and sent back out into the world — films that were at risk of being forgotten altogether. Of these diamonds in the rough, none were as spectacular, as alive, as completely essential as Antonio Pietrangeli’s “I Knew Her Well.” Like many of the best Italian films of the 1960s, Pietrangeli’s restless character study hides a delicate sense of despair under a frothy surface of manic youth, the story following a beautiful young woman (“Divorce Italian Style” star Stefania Sandrelli) as she hops from one crass encounter to the next in her submissive search for fame.
Stylish to the hilt and shot with cinematography vivid enough to rival anything in “La Dolce Vita” or “Il Sorpasso,” “I Knew Her Well” may be overshadowed by some of Criterion’s more familiar titles, but it easily ranks among their most noteworthy new releases of 2016. And while the Blu-ray may be a bit light on bonus features, it’s worth it just to hear Sandrelli look back on the experience, and to hear Pietrangeli’s scholars fix a place for him in the firmaments of critics turned filmmakers.