American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Some stories need to be told after they are over. We need to know that all the events are past and gone, in order to feel the same nostalgia as the storyteller. When a story is happening "now," there is always the possibility of surprise and happiness. But when a story happened "then," and it is a love story, then even the happy moments feel bittersweet, and of course that is the whole point of the story.
"Dark Eyes" is a story told by a man who sits at a table in the lounge of an ocean liner, the bottle in front of him, the glass in his hand, his voice steady as if he has rehearsed these same facts many times before. He is a middle-age man with sad eyes and a weary face. His listener is about the same age, but not so sad and not so weary.
Neither one seems to much care about the ship's destination. The man telling the story is Marcello Mastroianni, the most complete of movie actors, his face never seeming composed for the screen but acting simply as a window for his words. He tells the stranger that once he was married, comfortably if not ecstatically, to a rich wife (Silvano Mangano).
They were not in love, but they were content with one another. Then he went on a visit to a spa, and there he saw a young lady, and danced with her, and fell in love with her, and had one of those holiday romances that fade like postcards in the memory. After all, nothing could come of it; they were both married.