Film critic Gerhard Midding described the heroine in director Antonio Pietrangeli's 1965 film I Knew Her Well as a "lusty Mediterranean Holly Golightly." Sounds like a fine way to kick off the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's 4th Annual Italian Retrospective, which focuses on the leading ladies of postwar Italian cinema. In Pietrangeli's film, protagonist Adriana Astarelli, played by 19-year-old Stefania Sandrelli, is a country girl who moves to Rome in search of stardom. The lighthearted tone turns more morose as Astarelli gets involved in a series of meaningless affairs - welcome to the jungle, bella. The theme is familiar, but Sandrelli typifies postwar Italian actresses' cinematic identity as beautiful, sexual and complex. I Knew Her Well, despite remaining obscure in the States (you won't find it on Netflix - shock, horror), was part of an artistic approach that gave female characters more depth and helped launch international superstars like Sophia Lauren and Anna Magnani. More than a dozen other films are included in the festival, which continues through September. 7 p.m. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, visit www.mfah.org/films. $7.
Fri., Aug. 21, 7 p.m., 2009