Archive for Luigi Comencini

All Roads Lead to Ruin

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2020 by dcairns

Snorted up two more Luigi Comencini films: the unwieldily titled INFANZIA, VOCAZIONE E PRIME ESPERIANZA DI GIACOMO CASANOVA, VENEZIANO from 1969 and, from ten years later, L’INGORGO.

The former, which I’ll call YOUNG CASANOVA for ease, stars Leonard Whiting, Zefirelli’s Romeo, and as you’d expect some glamorous supporting players, including Senta Berger and Tina Aumont, but as you might NOT expect, also Lionel Stander and Wilfred Brambell, making for some serious WTF imagery.

They’ve found a really close-matching kid to play Casanova as a child, so that the transition to young adulthood is quite smooth, and Giancarlo Giannini of all people dubs Whiting with skill. Despite being sourced from his own words, the film leaves Casanova just as mysterious and inconsistent as Fellini’s deliberately headspinning treatment of the later years — he might be a modern man born too soon, or a complete psychopath.

Lots of good — agonizing — period detail like dental extractions in the street and a fatal operation performed at home with the neighbours watching avidly through the windows. More of that kind of thing, in fact, than this kind of thing ~

The film ends, abruptly, with Casanova’s decision not to enter the priesthood but to instead become a libertine. You wouldn’t have thought it would take him so long to make the choice. Is there much money in libertinage, though? Do you get benefits? (Boy, do you get benefits.)

L’INGORGO is kind of like the traffic jam in WEEKEND expanded to feature length, but it also harkens back to the dream-jam that opens EIGHT AND A HALF — and here comes Marcello Mastroianni, playing a movie star whose limo is caught in the days-long gridlock, to make the connection overt. And a few shots really seem like deliberate callbacks.

Comencini has also acquired all three leads from LES VALSEUSES, Depardieu, Miou-Miou and Patrick Dewaere, plus Annie Girardot, Fernando Rey, and a substantial cross-section of Italian cinema including his fave muckers Alberto Sordi and Ugo Tognazzi. Cross-cutting from one stranded vehicle to another, he paints a portrait of a society, or civilisation, in the final stages of anomie and entropy. It’s an incredible, unpleasant watch. Kind of like a disaster movie where the disaster is purely internal (IN-GORGO)– strangely, it makes stasis seem dramatic, if stifling. Great music, too, by Fiorenzo Carpi — it captures things I remember feeling as a kid in 1979 — dismal, dirty things. Not that I don’t feel that way now.

It’s got a pretty good ending — as desperate and despairing as the rest. Endings seem to give Comencini trouble, but once in a while he comes up with a banger.

INFANZIA, VOCAZIONE E PRIME ESPERIANZA DI GIACOMO CASANOVA, VENEZIANO stars Romeo; Lucrezia Borgia; The Guru Brahmin; Czar Peter III; Paul’s Grandfather; Carmen; Teresa Santiago; and the voice of Rene Mathis.

L’INGORGO stars Lt. Alberto Innocenzi; Niobe; Don Lope; Pierrot; Conchita; Ludwig II; Guido Anselmi; Giulia Clerici; Mark Hand; Nicole Kunstler; and Cyrano de Bergerac.

Property Values

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on June 10, 2020 by dcairns


IL GATTO (1977) is by Luigi Comencini, one of my most exciting recent discoveries. I like how he makes political comedies where the social commentary is inseparable from the humour: LO SCOPONE SCIENTIFICO (1972) with Bette Davis and Joseph Cotten and Alberto Sordi and Silvana Mangano was the first one I saw that made that clear. Comencini worked in a variety of genres but so far his comedies interest me most. And Sergio Leone produced this one — I don’t see any sign of him getting hands-on, though, as he did with his Damiano Damiani films. Mind you, there are a few familiar faces in the cast, including Mario Brega, who I believe got killed in all three of the DOLLARS trilogy, and there’s a perky Morricone tango as theme tune.

But the stars are Ugo Tognazzi and Mariangela Melato as brother and sister landlords of a rent-controlled tenement building who resort to all kinds of dirty tricks to drive the tenants out so they can sell the property and get rich. When their titular cat turns up murdered, they show no sorrow but see it as an opportunity to investigate and possibly get at least one troublesome tenant evicted.


It’s a wonderfully nasty piece of work — there are no really sympathetic characters (except the cat), but the plotting gets you involved in the vicious and creepy pair’s schemes, so this doesn’t result in loss of engagement. When a foot tries to kick the feline during the opening titles and then we tilt up to reveal the owner of the foot is a nun, the tone has been decisively set.

The two leads (the child-catcher from BARBARELLA and Kala “despatch rocket Ajax” from FLASH GORDON) perform with total lack of vanity or concern for our sympathies, though it’s true they’re in a hell of their own: they hate each other far more than they do their tenants, but are compelled to cooperate if they want to get rich. And they really, really want to get rich. Also, he’s always pilfering food, and she has a thing for the clergy.


One can perhaps detect Leone misogyny amid the misanthropy — a gratuitous sequence of a guy mauling a girl in the back of a car anticipates similar unpleasantness in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA but is thankfully briefer and less pornographic. There’s a gay character who is certainly stereotyped and winds up dead. But it is hard to completely separate the retrograde elements from the capitalism-corrupts-absolutely message, which comes over strongly and with dark wit. If the ending weren’t a startling anticlimax this would be at least a minor classic.

IL GATTO  stars Mark Hand; Kala; Simon Charrier; Serafina Vitali; Col. Mathieu; Manu Borelli; and Cpl. Wallace.


Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on August 23, 2018 by dcairns

Espionage — Italian style! Over at the Notebook in this fortnight’s Forgotten (a week late but who’s counting?)