One doesn’t usually expect a film about infidelity, divorce and murder to be a comedy but that’s one reason Divorzio all’italiana (English title: Divorce, Italian Style, 1961) directed by Pietro Germi, became an unexpected international hit. A caustic satire about the Italian male – or more specifically, Sicily’s male dominated culture – the film also poked fun at Italy’s hypocritical judicial system which can forgive crimes of passion but not legally recognize divorce as a solution for failed marriages. Another factor in the movie’s success was Marcello Mastroianni’s beautifully rendered portrayal of the preening, self-absorbed protagonist, a performance which not only won him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor (the first time in Academy Award history that the lead in a foreign language film received that honor) but still ranks as one of the actor’s key films, following closely on the heels of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) and Antonioni’s La Notte (1961).Continue reading
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The Girl from Parma (1963)
Why does it take so long for certain extremely gifted filmmakers to achieve international attention and praise for their body of work? Italian director Antonio Pietrangeli might have been popular and well-known in his own country but not so much in the U.S. where he was almost forgotten until the last decade. Thanks to filmmaker Alexander Payne, a re-discovery of Pietrangeli’s work began in 2012 after Payne hosted a showing of Lo La Conoscevo Bene (English title: I Knew Her Well, 1965) at the Telluride Film Festival that year (The Criterion Collection would later release it on Blu-ray and DVD in 2016). It was also in 2012 that Raro Films released Pietrangeli’s La Visita (English title: The Visit, 1963) on DVD in America and followed it up with a 2014 DVD release of his Adua e Le Compagne aka Hungry for Love aka Love a la Carte (1960).
Retrospectives of Pietrangeli’s work at museums, film festivals and cinema archives soon followed with MoMA presenting 10 of his movies in 2015 (He only directed 11 feature films plus contributions to two anthology films, 1954’s Mid-Century Loves and 1966’s The Queens. He was more prolific as a screenwriter and also worked as an assistant director on films like Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione. It’s a shame Pietrangeli didn’t live long enough to see his work being re-discovered in the U.S. and abroad (he drowned at sea in 1968 at age 49) but renewed interest in his work doesn’t necessarily mean that most of his work is now readily available for viewing. One of his key achievements, La Parmigiana (English title: The Girl from Parma, 1963) is still missing in action but it is an impressive showcase for actress Catherine Spaak and a fine example of Pietrangeli’s unusually effective blend of comedy and drama featuring a female protagonist. In fact, most of his films view Italian society through the eyes of a sympathetic heroine or heroines.Continue reading