Bagman

I Cinema Ritrovato keeps reminding me to get into the Commedia All’Italiana school of social/sex comedy. MARRIAGE, ITALIAN STYLE (De Sica) and TEMPI NOSTRI (Blasetti) were my belated intros to the genre, which has no real definition but depends on a shared set of assumptions about what an Italian comedy is likely to entail. This year we saw DIVORCE ITALIAN STYLE and LUCKY TO BE A WOMAN, which sealed the deal. So I’ve started seeking out more.

Here’s a bit from PECCATO CHE SIA UNA CANAGLIA (TOO BAD SHE’S BAD), directed by veteran Alessandro Blasetti.

De Sica, in overcoat and mustache, has a trick valise with no bottom, capable of swallowing up smaller baggage when lowered onto it. He’s hunting for a suitable target while his equally criminous daughter, Sophia Loren, who owes it all to spaghetti, distracts attention, which she was always good at.

Nice long take starting at 50 secs mark — amazing comedic choreography of actors and camera — and, my God, De Sica is a fine comedian. How can one guy have so many talents?

Director Alessandro Blasetti had a weird career, with a lot of epics early on, a first film destroyed by the Nazis (the opening alone survives) and later works popular under fascism. In the fifties he turned to comedy and never looked back. ALTRI TEMPI introduced the idea of the compendium film to Italy, where it thrived, or do I mean throve? Doesn’t sound right. It’s a form which originally meant multiple short films by the same director, and was corrupted into those multi-part, often multinational abominations where if you were lucky you got two decent episodes out of five.

PECCATO stars Marcello Mastroianni but did not screen in the Il Cinema Ritrovato season of his many works. He plays an honest cabbie who falls for congenial congenital thief Sophia Loren, whose entire family, presided over beneficently by De Sica, is crooked to the core. The vision of Italian society presented is of a conglomeration of rapacious swindlers and imbeciles — probably an accurate one, allowing for Blasetti’s cynicism. Marcello is honest and not dopey, but love blinds him, so he is in a continual state of outrage at Loren’s low-down activities. The movie finds equal amusement in her blithe reactions — doesn’t this poor man understand the way the world is?

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4 Responses to “Bagman”

  1. kevin mummery Says:

    Sounds like The Lady Eve, Italian style.

  2. Be sure to dig into Pietro Germi.

  3. I saw some Commedia Al’Italiana earlier this year. I saw Il Sorpasso by Dino Risi which is a classic. And also two films by Antonio Pietrangeli : I Knew Her Well! (starring Stefania Sandrelli which is more or less Breakfast at Tiffany’s if it was more truthful and honest than both the movie and the book), and Una Visita (with Sandro Milo and Francois Perrier).

    Pietrangeli was interesting. He died young in 1968 in a drowning accident while directing a movie. He worked before as a screenwriter for Visconti and Rossellini (he co-wrote Europe’51 and made a cameo in the film), and these two movies are interesting. They are comedies but they have a strong social sensibility and bitterness, a bit like Claude Sautet.

  4. Il Sorpasso is on my list, recommended by various other sources.

    I know the name Pietrangeli from somewhere — ah yes, Il Gran Cornuto, with its absurdly sexy Claudia Cardinale fantasy striptease. He’s clearly worthy of further investigation.

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