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Monicelli is another genius and poet of the Italian cinema. We can only bless him for the long list of masterpieces he created for all of us: I soliti ignoti, Guardie e ladri, L'armata Brancaleone and of course La Grande Guerra. Two cowards, one from Rome (Sordi) the other from Lombardy (Gassman) try to save their lives during one of the most tragic moments (for Italy) of the WWI (the defense on the river Piave). While in some parts the film is truly a blame against the horrors of war, in other parts is somehow patriotic. Even the tragic final changes the protagonists into heroes, but really a strange kind of heroes, very different from the American icon (muscles and bravery). In conclusion, you will find a lot of fun but also thoughtful moments. I beg everyone who read this message to see this movies, it's truly one of the best ever.
I've only seen it twice, and it's already one of my favorite Italian
movies of all time.Directed by legendary Mario Monicelli, this
excellent comedy is set during WWI, when the Italians had to defend the
river Piave from the Austrians.Two of the Italian soldiers happen to be
really lazy cowards:Giovanni Busacca(Vittorio Gassman) from Milan and
Oreste Jacovacci(Alberto Sordi) from Rome.They would rather spend their
time at home with the mates and the ladies instead of fighting for
their country.The only fights they have are with each other, both
insulting the other one with their particular accents and dialects (you
probably have to be Italian yourself to really appreciate most of the
gags). The most interesting thing is perhaps how the two actors handle
their roles: Sordi is very calm, controlled and "normal", while Gassman
just can't stop being nervous, shouting and gesticulating all the time.
Just like La Vita è Bella, this movie's purpose is to blame the horrors of war as well as making you laugh as much as you can.
For those who like Italian cinema, La Grande Guerra is a must-see.
Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1959, this
film deserves more attention from movie lovers all around the world.
Some critics regard "The Great War" as Monicelli's finest work - and
they might be right. Set in Northern Italy during World War I, of
course the film is definitely antiwar. As Monicelli once said in an
interview : "I wanted to show things as they were -- as usual, badly
conducted and led, and no one wanting to fight, or knowing what they
were fighting for." It is history from the point of view of the humble
people, with a good deal of irony. Starting as a light comedy, "The
Great War" ends on a very poignant note, while it doesn't hide any of
the horrors of trench warfare.
To me, Mario Monicelli and Dino Risi were the masters of Italian (tragi)comedy back in the 50s and 60s. Their best films (like this one) offer a combination of levity, social criticism and black comedy which is extremely appealing and unique. That said, Monicelli and Risi would never have done such great films without great actors. Here, Gassman and Sordi are a wonderful pair as two army mates caught in a conflict they don't really care about. The film also features beauty queen Silvana Mangano in a small but important part as Gassman's love interest.
A classic, unmissable.
La Grande guerra is a real lucid vision of the war that's because the point of view is moved on two characters of the common people with real emotions and feelings, so their military adventures at first creates a sense of funny but step by step everything becomes more dramatic because the war shows absurdities and contradictions that creates real human destruction. The maximum point is touched at the end. Because of this antimilitary soul in 1959 the movie was a real proof of intelligence.
I think this is one of the italian masterpieces of all times, disguised as a "comedy", just because the main characters are the best italian comedians of all times, Sordi and Gasmann. I would call it the "Divina Commedia" of comedy and of deep feelings against war but for the defense of one's country.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(Includes spoilers!) THE GREAT WAR stands as one of the essential films exemplifying the "commedia all'italiana" genre, that is, films which while being comedies often have a serious, even tragic undertone. Take our two heroes here, the Roman Oreste Jacovacci and the Milanese Giovanni Busacca (Alberto Sordi and Vittorio Gassman). Caught in the insanity of World War I, this Abbott and Costello duo will do anything to escape danger and responsibility. After being fairly successful at the game, they have the misfortune to fall into the hands of the enemy Austrians, who want to pump them for information. But these two connivers and shirkers, in a rush of untapped patriotism, are unwilling to cause the possible deaths of their compatriots and so will chose or allow themselves to die instead. Circumstances turn cowards into heroes, much in the same way the con-artist played by De Sica in IL GENERALE DELLA ROVERE soars to lofty nobility at the end of that film, completed that same year. Talented director Mario Monicelli has filmed a gritty panorama of the World War I, Italy's first real film on the subject, in which the visuals and the overall "feel" are utterly convincing. The great cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno has captured the same period feeling that is akin to old-photographs-come-to-life that we would see later in his 1963 I COMPAGNI (THE ORGANIZER). Here he works in wide-screen CinemaScope that is especially effective in following movements of large numbers of soldiers in the battle scenes. The music by veteran Fellini-composer Nino Rota is appealing, and we get the songs and popular chants of the era. Silvana Mangano provides feminine interest as a crafty prostitute. This is a major Italian film of the 1950's and it should be far better know
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Italians don't have a problem making fun of serious things. Roberto
Benigni got the whole world laughing with a Holocaust movie. Lina
Wertmüller satirized man's will to survive in her WWII dark comedy,
Pasqualino Settebelezze. Mario Monicelli's La Grande Guerra, perhaps
the grandfather of such movies, aims its satire at World War I.
The movie follows Giovanni Busacca and Oreste Jacovacci, two comical anti-heroes who are drafted and spend most of the time trying to find ways to stay out of the front or acquire some rare comforts amidst the war. The movie is mostly plot less and instead emphasizes amusing episodic situations. This gives the movie maximum freedom to explore as many situations as the imagination of the screenwriters allowed.
However this movie never stoops to frivolity. Amidst the horrors of war, there's a strong criticism of war in general and also of the way the soldiers are treated by their own country. Monicelli's camera shows the squalor of the trenches, the hunger, the worn boots and uniforms. The battles are bloody, chaotic situations; when it shows Giovanni and Oreste watching a bombardment in the distance, we share with them the relief we're somewhere else. We rejoice when they think their way out of a dangerous situation and commiserate with them over fallen friends.
And like the best war movies, La Grande Guerra manages to show the best of mankind. Comradeship, selflessness, courage, loyalty are in display here.
La Grande Guerra is over 50 years and yet remains an impressive experience. Modern movies can be technically more authentic, have better sfx, better make-up, have better sound mixing, etc., but $100 millions of budget won't buy them the emotional core of this forgotten movie.
I saw this in Czechoslovakia way back in 1960's and still remember it. I am glad it lists here as a "comedy", it sure is one. That is why it will not be available to us on video of any format in any language under any circumstances. It subverts the "enetertainment' concept. An alternative ? Try Roberto Begnigni, the schlemiel nouveau.
Italy, 1916. Roman Oreste Jacovacci (Alberto Sordi) and Milanese
Giovanni Busacca (Vittorio Gassman) are reluctantly recruited to
Italian army during Austria-Italy war . They both attempting a great
number of schemes to get out for fighting and working . Giovanni bribes
Oreste, believing to his fake pledges to make him evading the army .
Both of whom try in every way to avoid serving the army but their
circumstance dictates otherwise , as the destiny make them meeting
again on the train headed to the front. However , Oreste stolen money
to Giovanni they become friends and in first times are allocated to a
secondary front . As two Italian soldiers find themselves in the mists
of Austrian front , much against their will . Here they spend some
months in relative peace and Giovanni finds time to have affair with a
whore named Constantina (Silvana Mangano married to producer Dino De
Laurentiis) . But war is getting everyday closer and unfortunately,
they fall in the hands of a stiff officer Lieutenant Gallina (Romolo
Valli) and a tough sergeant (Livio Lorenzon) . During the most
important battle among Italians and Austro-Hungarians, when the
Italians had to defend the river Piave from the Austrians , Giovanni
and Oreste are in charge to deliver a vital message to the Italian
headquarters , but they are trapped . Austrian officer (Gerard Herter)
that, under life menace, starts an interrogation to find out the
Italian message . The Great War is hell at its hottest , men at their
mightiest , the screen at its greatest!
This is an amusing film about two rogues called to serve the army in the WWI , as all the Italian youths , as the Italian Army fought against the Austrians during World War I , being excellently re-enacted by including movements of large numbers of soldiers during battle frames that are well come-to-life . This is a zany comedy seeing the misfit couple in all kinds of troubles involving Italian Army . This entertaining Sordi and Gassman recital provides too much amusement in detailing the duo's exploits in the wartime front . Slightly muddled but generally nice performed . Lots of comedy and hilarious dialog , including some spectacular battles with hundred of extras provided by actual Italian infantry . The film relies heavily on the continuous relationship between Albert Sordi and Vittorio Gassman , but it doesn't makes tiring , neither dull but entertaining . The main premise results to be two bungler as well as coward soldiers who under twisted circumstances turn into heroes . Special mention to Silvana Mangano as prostitute Costantina who falls in love for Giovanni . Very good Italian support cast such as Folco Lulli , Bernard Blier , Romolo Valli , Carlo A'Angelo , Livio Lorenzon and Gerard Herter , among others . Evocative and adequate photography by master cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno , Federico Fellini ordinary . Imaginative as well as sensitive musical score by the great Nino Rota , conducted by usual Franco Ferrara .
The motion picture was well directed by Mario Monicelli who gets to capture the same period feeling during the Great War . Mario Monicelli was born in 1915 Tuscany and died in 2010 , Rome ; being a good writer/filmmaker expert on comedies . As he was a writer and director, known for The army Brancaleone (1966), La ragazza Con Pistola (1968) , The marquis of Grillo (1981) and his greatest hit : Rufufú (1958). In fact , his movies Rufufú (1958), The Great War (1959) were Oscar-nominate for "Best Foreign Language Film". Furthermore , The Great War won Golden Lion in Festival of Venice .
A comedy (or perhaps more accurately a dramedy) about two lazy, cowardly Italian soldiers in the first World War. Sordi and Gassman are both terrific, there's some funny bits and touching commentary, and the film is very well shot with realistic battlefields. It's a sharp, humorous anti-war sentiment. I'm a bit at a loss to explain why I wasn't more taken with it. Maybe it was too scattershot, too episodic. While this does sort of mimic the chaos and randomness of war, I never felt like I could settle into the movie. Some event would start to develop and then be over a few minutes later. Then again, I can think of other movies I enjoy that do something similar (M. HULOT'S HOLIDAY) so maybe that's not it. For whatever reason, I didn't get fully engaged with this film, although I do recognize its assets. One of them being the fantastic, and very appropriate, ending.
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