I had a chance to watch the movie. I have never seen it before. In fact, I am not sure I've ever seen a movie with Bibi Andersson, and the only Robert Stack movies that jump to my mind are Airplane! and Joe vs the Volcano. I am sure I have watched James Farentino in things given his extensive work, but only The Final Countdown jumps out at me on his IMDB page. I don't know the work of the director, Leonardo Bercovici, at all. This was one of only three movies he directed as his career was mostly as a writer. In fact, I probably have seen the episode he wrote for The Streets of San Francisco since I used to watch the show all the time.
From a movie perspective, it was so-so. Not really bad but not that compelling either. There are other films that I have enjoyed with similar love triangles, but this one was only ok. It's hard to see it as all that shocking with 2021 eyes although in 1969 it was promoted as such. Photographically, there was some nice work with a lot of natural settings in different seasons. The movie was filmed in Rome, near Stockholm and in Cortina plus interiors shot in Rome. There are some stock shots from Washington DC and maybe even a shot or two of 2nd unit shot somewhere in the US, but it's very much a European film. The dubbing (even of English actors back into English) was a bit annoying at times but nothing unusual for an Italian production. Probably better than Sergio Leone films but as those are less realistic, and so the dubbing bothers me less in those situations.
But of course, I only watched the movie to hear John Williams' score. And that was worth the purchase and 90 minutes for sure. I had only heard the theme but not sought any of the clips on YouTube! or related sites. While we know the score was hastily written and he did not even oversee the recording, it's still compelling and works relatively well. The song is nice and makes a few appearances. Credit goes to the director for having some sequences that play almost entirely with just music or music and minimally invasive background sound effects. I felt the music was given a bit of time to breathe. I heard many ideas Williams would use again later in character driven movies from Images to Always and beyond.
Three things that stood out to me which worked well:
1. Karin (Andersson) visits a Rome farmers market early in the film. There is a lovely musical score over this sequence which lasts a few minutes. It is celebratory and clearly resonates with her mood of happiness and being part of the local culture (despite not being from Italy). Later in the film after much has happened, she returns to the market, and we hear the music again. But not exactly the same, and the music reminds us of how great she seemed to feel early in the movie and now has lost to some extent.
2. Karin goes into the snow and into the water at various times to reflect, think, have fun. A few of these are scored, often beginning and containing some solo piano. As Karin is a near classical pianist in the film, this choice by Williams makes sense.
3. Long before the LA Olympics, Williams scored the 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympics! In the film, Karin ends up at what I have to assume is those same Olympics because she sees a number of winter sport events (hockey, figure skating, ski jumping, slalom skiing). Most of this is scored by Williams in an active manner. The film does not identify this as the olympics, but given the range of competitions seen and that one of the hockey teams is wearing USA jerseys, I suspect it such. I thought it was funny given how much Williams has included the Olympic music this past summer at Tanglewood and the Hollywood Bowl and that he is kicking off Berlin with the fanfare too.
Finally, I wonder if Williams had any say into the piano pieces and few source songs in the film. I suspect not as I think he came in late to the film. However, there are a large number of diegetic musical numbers.
Negatives? I think the score lacks some cohesion at times. It feels a bit rushed as was the case. Still amazing to hear in context, and maybe "never" will happen someday and we'll get a release. As I wrote above, the film, for me, is just ok.
Final thoughts: As an early "John Williams" score - no longer billed as "Johnny" - I can hear him developing and becoming the great composer he now is. While perhaps a throw away assignment, he does not waste the opportunity to give us some wonderful musical moments.