Il Regista Ruspante

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When Richard Lester first worked with an Italian crew, after a week they gave him a nickname — “the free-range director.” And in an age when so many directors are battery-farmed, that’s something to be treasured.

The nickname emerged when Lester introduced his film A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, one day ahead of the exact fiftieth anniversary of its London premiere, in the Piazza Maggiore of Bologna as the climax of the Cinema Ritrovato. A genuinely festive event!

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I had the pleasure of dining with the Lesters along with some eminent French critics, the Ritrovato director and friends from Criterion, though the seating meant I spent most of the evening making it harder for the French to understand one another, but I did get to stroll alongside one of the great husband-and-wife double acts on the way from the restaurant to the Piazza.

“I always wanted to see Barce…” began Deirdre, stopping herself as she realized she had the name of the city wrong.

“If you want to see Barcelona… we’ll have to hurry,” said Mr. L.

Deirdre wondered if the film would be subtitled in Italian. I said I thought it would.

“I don’t know how you go about subtitling John Lennon,” she said.

“Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to have to dub him,” I offered.

In the event, most of the subtitling seemed to get the idea across. Sometimes a little creativity was required. When copper Deryck Guyler, confused as to Irishman Wilfred Brambell’s nationality, refers to him as Lloyd George (a Welsh statesman — the joke is that Brambell is singing “A Nation Once Again,” an Irish rebel song), the subtitler, in a desperate attempt to provide a reference the Italians might understand, substituted the name “Garibaldi.” It’s not quite right, but the conjunction of Wilfred Brambell and Garibaldi is hilarious.

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5 Responses to “Il Regista Ruspante”

  1. Penfold Says:

    The screening also brought home how completely the film was originally aimed at a British audience; the long-running/oft-repeated gag about Granddad McCartney being “Very Clean” would have meant almost nothing to those countries that would never have seen Brambell as Albert Steptoe.

  2. I think it works as a non-sequitur gag even if you don’t know the reference. But the confidence in Britishness is striking — the filmmakers have faith that foreign audiences will simply stick with it and figure it out as best they can.

  3. …how was the audience reaction in the Piazza for the film?!??

  4. I liked the “clean” gag as a little American lad.

  5. The reaction was extremely enthusiastic — no hysterical screaming, but loud applause for the director, the main title, the director’s credit, the ending, plus lots of laughter of course — the trapdoor gag probably got the biggest laugh. One woman behind me was in hysterics at a joke everyone else just smiled at, and she couldn’t stop for about a minute. Huge crowd, filling the seats and spilling out onto the ground — the biggest audience yet, though these things always fill up. I arrived at the last minute with the guests so I only got a seat by grabbing a reserved one and staring at the screen so nobody would question me.

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