(Includes spoilers) VILLA BORGHESE is a film consisting of six vignettes (cut to five in its U.S. release) that are all set in the Roman park that bears that name. All the episodes take place within one day. The first episode, taking place early in the day, is called "Servant Girls and Soldiers" and is a trifle about a couple of guys trying to put the makes on a couple of young girls. The second piece is called "The Greek Letter Pi" and is a poignant little anecdote about a schoolgirl (Anna Maria Ferrrero) who is urged by her classmates to approach their Greek professor (François Perrier), so that they can photograph them kissing and perhaps blackmail the prof for a passing grade. It turns out the professor has a sad story to tell the girl that he is going blind. The tearful girl cannot go though with the plan. The third episode is the funniest and probably the best in the film. It's called "Incident at Villa Borghese" and features tour-guide Vittorio De Sica as an incorrigible over-cologned woman-chaser who comes between Giovanna Ralli and her furiously jealous boyfriend Maurizio Arena. The dramatics that ensue among the three and others is absolutely hilarious. In one delicious moment, De Sica sits in the car with the boy on one side of him, screaming at the girl, and the girl's breasts on the other side, pressed against De Sica's face as he barely conceals his lust. In "The Marriage Arranger" Eduardo De Filippo is the father of a girl he is trying to marry off. The discussions between the relatives center on rather selfish interest money, dowry. Then the increasingly ill-at-ease girl is revealed to have a handicap, involving her foot, and the young suitor comes to the emotionally distraught girl's side and, through simple humanity and kindness, saves the day in a way the crude relatives were not capable of doing. Of all the relationships we witness in the film, this is the only one that seems to have a future. "The Lovers" is a bittersweet episode about a man breaking up his affair with a married woman as the woman's small children play in the park with their nurse and call out to their adulterous mommy. It is nicely acted by two great stars of the French cinema, Micheline Presle and Gérard Philippe. The final racy episode, "Beauty Contest," is a Felliniesque dissertation about two rival Roman streetprostitutes, who as they are about to be rounded up by the police, wind up at a Miss Cinema beauty contest taking place in the park. The younger of the women (Eloisa Cianni) eludes the police by going off with an older man in his car. The other and older one (Franca Valeri) is not so lucky and the episode and the film end as she is driven off in a police vehicle. It is late at night.
The movie was released in the United States in 1957, inexplicably, in a French-language version, which didn't match the content, despite the presence of some French performers. It was retitled IT HAPPENED IN THE PARK. Furthermore, the first decent-enough episode was shorn, also inexplicably, because the film was already a short one. The direction by Gianni Franciolini is subtle and finely-tuned throughout, and the ensemble of actors in the production makes, of itself, a worthwhile experience of the movie, which should not remain as forgotten as it is.
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