Ilaria Puliti holds an MA (with distinction) in Film and Television Studies (University of Warwick), an MA (with distinction) in Teaching Italian to Foreigners (University of Urbino, IT), an MA in Intercultural Business Communication (University of Urbino) and a BA in Asian Languages and Cultures (University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’). She is currently researching Rural Modernities: the Politics and Aesthetics of Extra-Urban Experiences in Italian Cinema.
What follows is an extended conversation with Ilaria on Luca (Enrico Casarosa), focussing on how it lends itself to readings of queerness and of migration, and also relating the film’s world to postwar Italian culture and society. You can listen to it below:
…or watch/listen to us in what is my very first vodcast below:
I solito Ignoti/ Big Deal on Madonna Street (Mario Monicelli, Italy, 1958)
I love caper films; European (Rififi, Bob le flambeur, Topkapi) and Hollywood (The Ocean’s, The Thomas Crown Affair (both versions). And I love post-war Italian cinema more than any national cinema of that period: Francesco Golisano struggling to find a place in the sun beam to get warm in Miracle in Milan; the exhausted look on Mastrioanni’s face from having to keep Sofia Loren pregnant in order to keep her out of jail in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow; Rocco and His Brothers, which feels as much the story of my family as that of post-war Italy; the fresh faces of dashed hopes in Olmi’s young men in Il Posto and Il fidanzati; Fellini, Antonioni, Rosi, the Taviani Bros…one could go on forever. So combining those elements today I chose Mario Monicelli’s I Soliti Ignoti/Big Deal on Madonna Street with a big name cast (Vittorio Gassman, Mastrioanni, Renato Salvatore, Toto) playing small time crooks. Unlike most caper films, this is about the various bunglings of the robbery: at the end, all the crooks manage to get away with is pasta and chickpeas. It’s got great slapstick moments, great warmth towards its characters, and a va bene, fa niente, a cool resigned shrug at the worst that life offers, that I find particularly endearing. There are many wonderful moments but one I particularly treasure is when Mastrionni, completely in love with his baby, and raising him alone whilst his wife is in jail, is told he should put his baby in the marvellous daycare jail offers and says, ‘no, no, no my baby will only go to jail when he’s grown up…and then only if he wants to’. It’s the first movie I heard the if you don’t do this ‘you’ll sleep with the fishes’ expression. The ending, where Gassman and Carlo Pisacane hide amongst a crowd to escape the police, and it turns into a work queue where the former is rumbled into factory work whilst the other yells his horror at what’s happening, is superb. There’s a very mediocre remake with George Clooney called Welcome to Collingwood.
A first feature, part of the program of films Cinema Ritrovatto screened on Sundays that had Sunday as a theme, a ‘neorealismo rosa’ film, a precursor to the ‘commedia all’italiana’, and one of my favourite films from this year’s festival.
The focus is on a day at the beach on Sunday, mainly filmed on location in Ostia, and including many non-professional actors alongside Marcello Mastrionanni in an early role. The film tells five stories but in an inter-related narrative rather than as a portmanteau film. All five stories are interconnected into one, a day at the beach on Sunday, as a way of depicting a time, a place and a culture with a sharp eye and an understanding heart.
We get to see a young man who cycles to the beach with his cronies but once there goes to the rich private part of the beach. A young girl who’s there with all of her family also sneaks in. Needless to say, they fall in love and at the end discover they’re neighbours in the same working class neighbourhood in Rome. There’s also a story of a young couple. He loves her but she wants a better life than he’s able to offer her. To give it to her he takes part in a robbery of the abbatoir he used to work for. She wants to move up in the world and goes to the beach only to find out the guy who’s her ticket out of poverty is merely a gigolo for a decadent set. Amongst that group is the employer of a maid, made pregnant by a traffic cop (Marcello Mastrioanni) who loves her but needs to find a solution as to how to house her since he lives in barracks and her rich employer, currently at the beach consorting with gigolos, has fired her for being pregnant. There’s also a doctor with a mistress who loves neither him nor his child but makes a connection with a working woman also doing her best to raise a child alone.
Everyone’s life is changed by that Sunday at the beach. There’s love, there’s drama, there’s dancing; there are parents trying to keep an eye on children: pensioners in old folk’s homes who are willing to help the young; decadent rich people who claim they can have it all; middle-class widowers who love their children more than their mistresses; families who bring their own pots to make lunch: all classes are represented. I found it amusing that the protagonists’ idea of rich people is to be blonde, like the English, which of course our young lovers can pass for.
The Centro Cattolico Cinematografico denounced the film as unedifying and with moments of disgusting exhibitionism, and it’s fair to say that woolen late 40s swimming costumes don’t leave a lot to the imagination. It was nominated for a BAFTA and was also judged one of the 100 Italian Films that deserved preservation. It’s one of Marcello Mastrioanni’s first films but he is not yet deemed worthy of his own voice and is dubbed by Alberto Sordi.