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From the fresh 'Bergluft' (mountain air) in the Dolomites, through the
charm of Piazza San Marco, romantic evenings in gondolas at Venice,
grandeur of Santa Maria Del Fiore, art of Piazza Della Signoria and
breathtaking view from Piazzale Michelangelo at Florence, Umbrian
mystic hills appreciated by great medieval saints, grandiosity of Rome
to the idyllic beauty of Naples and Sorrento... do you dare fall in
love with these? Indeed, you do in a similar fashion like the
characters of this little charming comedy of the late 1950s.
First, it is important to mention one fact about this movie and about the entire German cinema of the time. We cannot forget that while the German cinema of the Pre-war period (particularly 1930s) was very promising and becoming more and more respected, the Post-war German movies were neglected and ignored on the European, not to even mention the world scale. Although there were some exceptions to these, the films like this one and many others, including the German films with Romy Schneider, were only bound to be addressed to the German audience of the time. And there comes the idea of this sweetness, high morals, clichés, naive character development...something to cure people from the horror of WWII. The audience were too tired to get something thought provoking. All they wanted was to relax. And let me analyze this film in that very spirit.
As relaxation, ITALIENREISE by Wolfgang does a perfect job. It is decent entertainment through. From the very beginning of the movie when we get a glimpse of the various plots and characters, we, as viewers, seemingly become the observers of a package tour holiday to Italy. Different people, different intentions. Who are these people? Young and elderly, intellectuals and workers who have one thing in common 'L'AMORE PER ITALIA (the Love to Italy). The journey is a significant point in their lives and, foremost, highlights 'L'Amore' in a new light...
Since the film is a comedy, it is filled with various witty moments that move around flirting and sympathy. It makes fun of the way male-female affection grows; yet, it maintains good taste throughout. You can spit your sides at the way Robert Florian (Paul Hubschmid) flirts with Ilse Knopf (Susanne Cramer). She is an example of a young lady who looks for love but, as a matter of fact, is barely experienced in fulfilling it. He is a mature guy who uses all the tricks to attract a young subtle lady. The elderly couple, Frau and Herr Duevenasch (Gretl Theimer, Franz Otto Krueger) that take this journey on the occasion of their wedding anniversary constitute a beautiful example of an old marriage. They are consistent people who know exactly what to want and truly in love with an intellectual way of sightseeing. However, not only people fill the movie with humor... The sweet little dog, Erwin, which moves here and there adds to the tactful humor of the film. Do not skip his moment with the statue of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Some scenes, especially the ones filmed in Rome, remind me of some world known film, for instance ROMAN HOLIDAY with Gregory Peck. It again proves that Rome is also an eternal city in film. The scene at the Fontana Di Trevi (quite a famous fountain in film, considering for instance the renowned scene in Fellini's LA DOLCE VITA) is beautifully and humorously shot. Some moments in Florence and Venice are also worth attention.
As far as the performances are concerned, I will put it this way: if you are acquainted with the German films of the time (where acting was also a bit specific according to the needs of the roles), you will find them equally entertaining. Paul Hubschmid does an equally fine job as in his other portrayals of the time, including SCAMPOLO filmed one year earlier at the Isle of Ischia, Naples. The same can be said about young beautiful Susanne Cramer who was also adapted to filming in the region thanks to her role in VACANZE A ISCHIA filmed on the aforementioned island. The supporting cast also do nice jobs, particularly the aforementioned elderly couple and Walter Giller as a jealous vet Hans Fichte.
Therefore, before seeing this film, you should keep in mind that it is one of the strongest examples of the German cinema of the time. But the Italian landscapes, the lovely songs, humorous flirts, subtle smiles, women of girlish beauty and L'AMORE will open your heart to new discoveries and make the blood run faster in your veins.
In a smart move, all the characters are introduced while already aboard the
bus to Italy, sparing us a lot of exposition up front. The tourists include
all the usual types: a lonely secretary looking for love, a couple on their
35th anniversary, a stressed out bookkeeper and a fashion model with the
sexy name Ilse Knopf. When her veterinarian boyfriend has to stay home at
the last minute, he asks her little brother Herbert to keep an eye on Ilse.
This does not stop tour guide Robert Florian from putting the moves on her
little straw hat at the first stop, Venice.
They visit many famous Italian landmarks and churches. It is rather strange that all the way to the Coliseum, we are treated to instrumental versions of 'Arrivedeci Roma'. Sort of like leaving L.A. while singing 'California here we come'. Imagine the surprise when Hans the vet shows up with his dog Erwin in his classy convertible to join Ilse after all. A tug of war between Robert and Hans ensues with Ilse spending an equal amount of time on the bus and in the car (her brother is too busy dancing to his tiny transistor radio to be an effective chaperone anyway).
From here on all the other characters are pushed to the background in favor of this not terribly engaging love triangle. There are a couple of moderately amusing running gags (mostly involving Hans and the dog he carries everywhere) and the scenery is beautiful to look at, but some more emphasis on the other vacationers would have been nice. Now the rest of the tourists remain window dressing (Herbert gets a pointless sub plot and the lonely secretary somehow ends up with the least appealing man in the entire group).
5 out of 5
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