Early 60's, Italy. A countryside girl dreams of stardom. Like a butterfly she is attracted by the city lights. We've seen this before. Or haven't we?
We first discover Adriana (S. Sandrelli in an outstanding performance) on the beach, sunbathing. Pietrangelli heralds what is to come. He shows us what everybody will see whan when they look at her: a body.
Adriana is young, beautiful and joyful. Bored with her humdrum life, she craves for fun, fame, luxury, parties. She encounters agents, managers, directors, would-be artists. She radiates with «joie de vivre». She ripples with sex and has some easily and happily. She is obviously gifted for the pleasures of life.
But from one encounter to another, we watch her being used, misused, abused, shattered. The film well depicts this ruthless world of predation that so many other movies have described as well, but the point of view is different. At that time, a female look on the world of cinema (or any other world) was rare. Pietrangelli here joins directors like Mizoguchi in their love, respect and defense of women.
Eventually, we find out that Adriana, first presented as a nice, delightful bimbo, is a really moving and unexpected woman, and we come to understand the bitter irony of the original title. Nobody knew her well because nobody really cared to.
Thus the movie is also a «lesson» of cinema. What do we see, what do we want to see when we watch actresses, and women? What do we miss?
This movie is a rare gem with a great b&w photography.