Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Midcentury Medieval: 'Comedy, Italian Style' Begins May 26

From Pier Paolo Pasolini's chapter of the omnibus film THE WITCHES (1967)

In the Italian comedies of the sixties we find medieval obsessions — love, sex, class, religion, fate and honor — wedded to the shiny, modernist surfaces of midcentury cosmopolitan culture. The obstacles faced by our protagonists are the daunting challenges of modern life, and the tools they are equipped with are the attitudes of generations past--hence the comic tension that is the beating heart of these films. In the course of this series we encounter some of the archetypes of the Italian narrative tradition: the ruined baron who must make a marriage of convenience, the Casanova with a gnawing emptiness inside, the true lovers who must overcome familial obstacles, the brother who guards his sister’s virtue like his own treasure, the thief who was not cut out for the job, and many more. These films are joyous, beautiful, brilliant and very, very funny.

Please join us at the AFS Cinema over the next month to experience these films as they were meant to be seen.


Pietro Germi, Italy, 1961, 35mm, 105 min. In Italian with English subtitles

Marcello Mastroianni has never been funnier than in this epochal Italian comedy from director Pietro Germi in which he plays a titled (and poor) member of a noble family who is unsatisfied in his marriage and spends his life fantasizing about his wife’s attractive cousin. Full of surreal and ribald touches. One of the great classics of the genre.


IL SORPASSO 5/28 & 6/1
Dino Risi, Italy, 1962, DCP, 105 min. In Italian with English subtitles

Writer/director Dino Risi’s international hit follows an uptight young law student (Jean Louis Trintignant) as he is absorbed into the orbit of a handsome, carefree older rogue (Vittorio Gassman) and they embark upon a spontaneous cross-country voyage. During the course of the film, Trintignant’s initial admiration for his companion ripens into something more complex and revelatory. A complex, novelistic, and bittersweet film.


Various directors, Italy, 1962, Digital, 208 min. In Italian with English subtitles

During the European arthouse cinema boom of the ‘60s, some producers discovered that they could get good (and commercially viable) results by hiring big name directors and stars to make short films about an agreed upon theme, which could then be packaged into a feature. BOCCACCIO ‘70, purporting to show modern stories that might captivate the titular ribald moralist, is perhaps the best of these. With directorial contributions by Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli, Vittorio De Sica and Luchino Visconti. Starring Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg, Romy Schneider and Tomas Milian.


Various directors, Italy, 1967, 35mm, 110 min. In Italian with English subtitles

One of the more unusual Italian omnibus films. This time the common thread to all the chapters is actress Silvana Mangano, who displays her versatility in comedic chapters Directed by Luchino Visconti, Mauro Bolognini, Piero Pasolini (a major highlight), Franco Rossi and Vittorio De Sica. She is joined by a first class roster of co-stars including Clint Eastwood, Alberto Sordi and Annie Girardot. A bizarre, wonderful and rarely screened film.


MAFIOSO 6/15 & 6/17
Alberto Lattuada, Italy, 1962, 35mm, 105 min. In Italian with English subtitles

MAFIOSO is nearly a companion piece to DIVORCE, ITALIAN STYLE, with its’ themes of the unsavory sides of traditional conflict resolution clashing with modern Italian values and, well, the law. Comedy star Alberto Sordi plays Sicilian expat Antonio, who has risen up through the ranks at his northern Milanese car factory but is overdue for a family visit to Sicily, where he’ll introduce his conservative peasant family to his northern cosmopolitan wife and their two young children. The return home is a comedy of clashing values that takes wildly unexpected turns, and Sordi’s character is achieved to perfection as the country boy made good who goes to absurd lengths, and stretches the limits of truth, to impress the home team while keeping the peace with his family and his wife.


Mario Monicelli, Italy, 1960, DCP, 106 min. In Italian with English subtitles

While not a household name, Mario Monicelli was one of the true masters of the Commedia All’Italiana, combining the astute observational power of a born ironist with the comedic abandon of a man drunk on the possibilities of cinema. THE PASSIONATE THIEF takes place over the course of a single New Year’s Eve in which we are introduced to a suave pickpocket (Ben Gazzara), his elderly lookout man (Toto), and the old man’s dream woman, a brash and blonde-wigged movie extra (Anna Magnani) who throws their plans into chaos. 


AFTER THE FOX 6/29 & 7/1
Vittorio De Sica, Italy/UK, 1966, 35mm, 103 min. In Italian and English with English subtitles

This film, a magnificent love child of the greatest comic minds of Rome, New York and London, is a self-aware spoof of the mid-century Italian cinema boom (as well as a shining example of it). Peter Sellers is brilliant as an Italian criminal genius and master of disguise who conceives a masterful plan to rob a gold shipment by posing as an eccentric film director in the mold of Fellini. Written by the odd couple of Neil Simon and Cesare Zavattini and directed by Vittorio De Sica, this is a roaringly funny movie.

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