DVD Review: To thrilling effect, I Knew Her Well never lets us inside its heroine’s head

There’s no indication whatsoever of who the “I” might be in I Knew Her Well, Antonio Pietrangeli’s 1965 film about an aspiring actress-model named Adriana Astarelli (Stefania Sandrelli). Indeed, one of the many beguiling aspects of this underappreciated Italian tragicomedy, which joined the Criterion collection on Tuesday, is that nobody seems to know Adriana very well—including, arguably, the viewer, even after nearly two hours. That would be a problem in a conventional character study, but Pietrangeli’s film is anything but, to the point where placing it in an established genre or tradition becomes tricky. It’s traditionally been filed under commedia all’italiana (“comedy Italian style”), alongside such classics as Big Deal On Madonna Street and Divorce Italian Style. While there’s often a melancholy undercurrent to those films, however, few push it as far, in such a confoundingly subtle way, as I Knew Her Well …

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