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He's a native Israeli. She's a Russian immigrant. He's a taxi driver. She's a music teacher. He has no aspirations. She gave up hers long ago. He is afraid of flying and she is about to fly away. What are the odds they'll end up together?
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Giuseppe De Santis
Carla Del Poggio,
Beautiful Recreation Of The Bygone World Of The Lupari
Uomini E Lupi is not as well known as De Santis' earlier,more political neo-realist work, and he disowned it after the editing was taken away from him, but it is a lovely depiction of the ongoing struggle of small Italian hill towns against marauding wolves. As the population of these wild animals in Italy had dwindled by the time the film was made in the late 1950s, wolves were brought in from Russia, and some of the village of Vischio, where most of the story takes place, was constructed in the studio. De Santis also uses such elements as color, music (by Mario Nascimbene) and melodrama for an overall romantic effect. In a way he has recreated the world of the wolfers, or "lupari," the way Robert Flaherty recreated some of the Eskimo life he was documenting in Nanook Of The North. The drama centers on the rivalry between a serious, stubborn, independent wolfer who doesn't want to work for a boss (played by Mexican star Pedro Armendariz) and a womanizing, more playful vagabond (played by French star Yves Montand) Montand flirts with both Armendariz's wife (played by the sexy Silvana Mangano) and the daughter of the town's bigwig. In a key scene early on, Armendariz has tried to prove himself by single-handedly fighting a growling, restlessly pacing wolf that has fallen into a forest trap he had made; when a pack of other wolves come to its rescue, Armendariz is killed. Montand will later prove himself after two captures that were somewhat tarnished: one in which he tried to pass off a dead dog as a wolf, another in which the kill was done by a whole group of countrymen, strikingly shown in dark cloaks sweeping through the snow on skis.The tradition is then shown where the victorious wolfer goes through the neighboring towns where the local sheperds have similarly been threatened by the wild animals, and solicits gifts from them. (As they reach each village, the call is heard, "E arrivato il luparo"- the wolfer is here.) Mangano and her little boy travel with Montand, and bring with them two captured wolf cubs they were lucky to have found, as their mother wolf follows along and stalks them. One of the towns they find completely deserted, as there has been an earthquake On the festive night of New Year's, Mangano decides to release the cubs. In the climax, when they are back in Vischio, wolves approach the village at night and attack the sheep, cattle, and horses that are penned in. A fight ensues through the winding streets, culminating in Montand's own one to one struggle, in a shed, with a wolf. This time he has truly proved himself. As winter ends and things turn green again, a decision has to be made where he will go- will he run off with the younger woman, or join Mangano and the boy, with whom despite initial distrust there has been bonding? The standout scenes in this fascinating film are the footage of the animals, which deserve comparison with the underrated Hollywood film, Sequoia. I think as well that Jack London would have liked this movie!
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