Boccaccio '70 (1962)
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The first story "Luciana e Renzo" is directed by Mario Monicelli. Some of the contributors to the screen play included Italo Calvino, one of Italy's best writers. The story is simple. Luciana, a young woman working in the accounting department of a large firm, is going to get married to Renzo, who also happens to work for the company. The only problem is no marriage between employees is allowed.
The film follows them as they use their lunch time to go to a remote church and get married. The newlyweds must share her parent's small apartment. The head of the department, who obviously likes the lovely Luciana, decides to hit on her when he sees her at a public swimming pool. Things go from bad to worse until the boss finds Luciana embracing Renzo. An idea comes to Luciana's mind: If they both get fired, the separation bonus will let them put a down payment for an apartment of their own.
Beautiful Marisa Solinas is Luciana and Germano Gilioli plays Renzo.
The next story, "Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio" was conceived by Federico Fellini, who also wrote the screen play with Tullio Pinelli, a frequent collaborator, and others. The story is about Antonio a prudish man who is shocked when an enormous advertising ad is erected in a space facing his apartment. In it, a blown up figure of the actress Anita Ekberg is shown in a suggestive pose holding a glass of milk.
No matter what Dr. Antonio does, he is unable to get a friendly ear to help his cause. He becomes so obsessed that one day the gigantic figure in the billboard comes to haunt him. Anita Ekberg, towers over him and teases him mercilessly. What to do? In spite of his protestations Dr. Antonio, who perhaps has not seen a woman this close in his life, is rendered impotent to do anything against a goddess like Anita Ekberg.
The great Peppino DiFilippo appears as Dr. Antonio and the real Anita Ekberg, who made a splash in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" (no pun intended), have some fine moments in the movie.
The third story "Il Lavoro", directed by Luchino Visconti, presents us with Conte Ottavio, an impoverished nobleman married to the rich Pupe, the daughter of an extremely rich man. Ottavio, who has been surprised by paparazzi with a high class prostitute, has been shown in all of the tabloids in compromising positions. Pupe, who at the start of the film seems to be missing, appears in her own room. She obviously loves the lecherous husband and has made up her mind to begin earning her own living in a regular job. Ottavio, who pleads with her not to do it, realizes his financial dependence on Pupe will suffer. Pupe demands the same kind of payment he made to the call girl. At the end, we see as Ottavio is writing a check as he comes over to Pupe.
The fabulous Romy Schneider was excellent as Pupe and Tomas Millian makes a great appearance.
The last story, "La riffa", directed by Vittorio DeSica and written by Cesare Zavattini, takes us to a small town where Zoe, a beautiful woman who has a shooting gallery in a carnival must make ends meet. Her sister, who is having a baby, needs money that she doesn't have, so she ideates a raffle in which she will be the prize. Needless to say, all the men in town buy all the chances. The meek sacristan is the winner, but when he comes to claim his prize, Gaetano, who is secretly in love with Zoe, will not let the sacristan get the lovely Zoe.
Sophia Loren is marvelous as the tart-tongued Zoe. She had worked with Mr. DeSica before and she gives a wonderful reading. Luigi Giuliani is Gaetano and Alfio Vita plays the sacristan.
"Boccacio '70", the film, and the writer Boccacio showed they were ahead of its times in presenting strong women taking charge of their destinies.
Act 1, Monicelli's amiable modern tale of a pair of young newlyweds working in the same factory while conceiving their nuptial facts since it breaches the unfeeling regulation. Monicelli's devotion and affection to the general mass is ubiquitous, the camera follows intimately to record the lovebirds' daily work, diversion and quagmire, and the bittersweet ending is unerringly sanguine which should be the bloodline runs inside the Italian lineage.
Act 2, Fellini's ever-first colour endeavour, surrealistic, sumptuous and luscious fantasy of a moral watchdog's eventual relinquishment towards a sexy bomb (an enormous 50 feet-tall Anita Ekberg), a female-exploitation gag which is constantly overplayed (not inclusively) in Fellini's canon. But visually, Fellini's manoeuvre of projecting different proportioned characters (creates two identical settings with different sizes) is quite nimble without exposing any shoddy clues (except the forged beasts, which is a buzzkill).
Act3, Visconti's pleonastic noble Count whose brothel scandal evokes a major crisis with his wealthy but vindictive wife, a higher-tier pastiche ends up with a sloppy reference of a disparaging stinking rich's gauche prostitute fetish. At any rate Romy Schneider is the best thing in it, pairs with a well-suited Tomas Milian, presents a paragon of bourgeois vulnerability and emptiness.
Act 4, another "prostitute" farce in a rural background, De Sica seduces the world with Sophia Loren's vulgar and crude beauty, a sultry whore will spend one night with the man who guess right of the lottery number, but it turns out to be a mental masturbation joke, quite tedious and a bit offensive.
Apparently this is another patchy miscellany doesn't live up to the test of the time, Monicelli's neo-realistic part (which suspiciously is taken out completely in the original US release) is the standout and quite a pity it didn't make up to a feature-length piece of work which producer Carlo Ponti had promised then.
On the DVD distributed by the Dutch label Homescreen all 4 stories are included. Very odd though, it is a widescreen version, but from the top & bottom there are layers missing. So all the players standing up, get there heads chopped of. Astonishing, and very irritating. The sound every now and then echos, which is bad too. And the only subtitles available are in Dutch...
But to see these wonderful tales again, of Fellini, Visconti, De Sica & Monicelli, and to see Romy Schneider, Sophia Loren & Anita Ekberg play so majestically, might be well worth it to forget about the technical problems of this DVD. And let's simply hope CRITERION can obtain the rights shortly, for they will surely do this fourfold little miracle justice...
The common factor between the three segments is a (light) moral discussion about what sexual borders people can have and what must occur to make them actually think about it. Where exactly lies the border of your taboos? The film is also watchable as plain entertainment, for the three starring ladies are captivating and intense here (though in general I don't like Ekberg that much). Romy Scheider played a girl in the silly 'Sissy' (1955-57), but is already glorious with her subtle impression in this segment of a mature lady who gets double-crossed by her fiancee and takes revenge.
I didn't see the segment 'Renzo e Luciana' unfortunately, because it was unavailable :(, but I guess I liked Fellini's part best and De Sica's least (as most of his work): De Sica had some better short films in 'Ieri, oggi, domani' (1963, all starring Sophia Loren). Or it could be that I liked the first two segments best, because there was Nino Rota's (Godfather, Amarcord) score under them. De Sica's segment is just not interesting in any way. Nevertheless this is a triptych of the highest order: underrated.
Monicelli's Renzo E Luciana was intriguing. The love story is simple and very cute, and it is all delicately funny and charming with a touch of endearing sweetness. The two leads acquit themselves very well, Marisa Solinas is simply gorgeous, while it is beautifully filmed also. The story itself is rather slight though, with a couple of scenes that feel a little too long and not as tight in pace. It doesn't feel really all that rounded off either. However it is charming and cute and I'd definitely see it again.
Fellini's Le Tentazioni del Dottor Antonio is my personal favourite of the four segments. It has Fellini's style all over it, it does feel personal and nostalgic, and he directs superbly. The pace is slowly deliberate but never feels dull. The settings and photography are stunning. I also loved it for how funny and surreal it was, the Milk song is very catchy stuff indeed, the various characters have certain quirks and charms that do make them likable in alternative to detached and Anita Ekberg is a sheer delight by her body alone. The music is bright and cheerful also.
Visconti's Il Lavoro is perhaps my least favourite. That is not to say it isn't good, it definitely is, however I did find the pace sluggish and some of the dialogue dull and too talky. However, it is very touching on the whole and emotionally is the most complex of the four segments. It looks beautiful too, with skillful photography(love the close-up(s) of Schneider's eyes) and striking settings. The music is sensitively composed and orchestrated and doesn't feel overbearing in any way. What really elevates Il Lavoro though is the performance of Romy Schneider, sexy and very expressive, I identified with her completely, even if it was not quite the same with the rest of the cast.
De Sica's Il Riffa is second best to Fellini's segment. As with the other three segments, it is beautifully shot and scored, De Sica directs with a firm yet involved hand, and of the four it is the most exciting. It is most memorable though for the performance of Sophia Loren. This is not just for Loren's sexiness, and she is very alluring here, but the fact that she plays a very strong-willed woman while managing to evoke some poignancy. I was also genuinely moved by the final encounter between her and the sacristan, who is just as endearingly performed.
Overall, visually stunning with great lead performances(especially Loren), four great Italian directors doing solid to outstanding jobs on each segment and with generally interesting characters and stories. It is uneven, with Visconti's having many things to admire but somewhat wanting and Fellini's outstanding and possibly some of his best work, but none of them are unwatchable or anything. Well worth a watch. 7/10 Bethany Cox
Which was actually 1962 and not the 1970 that the title suggests. Portraying love, sex and lust in the 'modern age' hence the futuristic date in the title each part is 50 minutes long and in my experience, is best watched in two sittings. You'll probably have read that as well as Fellini, Vittorio de Sica, Luchino Visconti and Mario Monicelli, all but the last being very well known to knowledgeable film buffs.
It takes nine writers, including input and ideas from the directors themselves to mould the very different stories here. The women definitely hold the upper hand in every one of them, loftily placed on pedestals - busty Anita Ekberg in Fellini's; Romy Schneider in Visconti's and Sophia Loren in de Sica's.
The first segment, from Monicelli, is actually a bonus on the DVD as it was apparently cut from theatrical releases shown outside Italy. But, actually, that part is a good setting point - ordinary young female factory workers who live with the worry of everyday life and love and the hanging threat of old traditions, the Church and ruthless employers who attempt to quell their youthful desire for sex. Some scenes, with busy trams and bustling street scenes at rush-hour, remind me of the earlier classic 'Bicycle Thieves'.
Visconti's part is a talky - and fairly boring - 'discussion', fixed to one nice, very posh apartment. The subject is now rather ordinary, probably unlike then, that I'm wanting more substance and variety. There again, I never was 'into' Visconti - high on style and period detail but low on flair and exuberance, at least compared to the others.
Fellini was in the late autumn of his career at this point and this manifests itself by him displaying some trademark vaguely tasteless wit, swipes at Catholicism and Authority but surprising us with some truly inspiring set-pieces. His first foray into colour, it's a very bumpy and uneven ride, bounding from barely watchable to reassuringly great and familiar.
A young and very shapely Sophia Loren, under De Sica, is used to portray many themes in neo-realist Italian cinema - Life itself. Outdoor fairs, sultry night-times when lovers and larger-than-life characters come out to play and village pettiness all affect this red-dressed temptress, who, like so many, yearn for greater and better things. It's at a touch funny and sad, but oddly, not as compelling as it should be. Though never the greatest actress, Loren doesn't let the side down, but her raw physical beauty always means that is what is seen first, before emotional depth.
Critical reviews vary - some quarters saying that it's a lot of wasted talent. My immediate response is that all the directors and key players have done far better work and those seeking them out for the first time should look elsewhere - I'd hate for anyone to be put off potentially brilliant Italian cinema by them watching this and being disappointed.
However, for Completists, like me, who have seen and loved these great director's best films, then the draw will become insufferably great and purchase will become inevitable. At least this quality transfer Mr Bongo release allows us to sample this odd collection at a good value price.
Fellini's "Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio" (the second story) is really the highlight of the film. It could have been released separately and done very well, with its memorable sparring of a prudish doctor and a 50-foot woman (Anita Ekberg) who threatens to disrobe in public. The music in that section is also the best, with the children singing a milk jingle.
Part one is also strong, and speaks of a forbidden lower-class (or working-class) romance, and part three is alright. Part four is almost an afterthought, in that the movie is over two hours at that point and viewers would have already decided if they were fans or not.
Titled "Renzo e Luciana," it's probably my second favorite of the four films. It's just a very simple love story, a slice-of-life sort of thing. It may be a tad slight, but it's sweet and utterly charming. Marisa Solinas and Germano Gilioli play a young couple. As the film opens, they're secretly getting married, as Solinas' job as a secretary demands that she be single (probably so her boss can hit on her constantly). Gilioli moves in with Solinas and her family in a crowded little apartment. There is no privacy there. And it's nearly impossible to find it anywhere else, either. The short doesn't really have an ending, but it's so enjoyable it doesn't matter. Solinas is an incredibly beautiful woman (the women of Boccaccio '70 are definitely the major selling point).
Fellini's "Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio" is the highlight of the film. Peppino De Filippo stars as Dr. Antonio Mazzuolo, an upstanding citizen who wishes to protect Rome from temptations of the flesh. This proves especially difficult when a gigantic billboard of a scandalously dressed Anita Ekberg, with bare legs and heaving bosoms, declaring loudly "DRINK MORE MILK!" is erected outside of his apartment building one day. It attracts people from all over the city to visit and ogle and create an Ace in the Hole-like carnival right in front of it (not blocking Dr. Antonio's view, of course). After much protestation, though, the good doctor succeeds in getting the billboard's salacious elements covered. This has consequences, however, as Ekberg exits the billboard, giant-sized, to torment the man. This one is nearly as good as the other famous Fellini portmanteau segment, "Toby Dammit" from Spirits of the Dead.
Luchino Visconti directs the third segment, "Il lavoro," another more simple, slice-of-life film where a count, Tomas Milian, having been accused in the newspaper of visiting prostitutes, is tormented by his wife, Romy Schneider. It all takes place within a few rooms in their mansion, as Schneider threatens to leave Milian (and leave him poor, as the money comes from her father) and get a real job. She also insists that he pay her a prostitute's fee for all the sex she's given him for free during their marriage. This was probably my least favorite segment, but I still liked it a lot. It may be the most emotionally complex of the four.
Vittorio De Sica presides over the final segment, "La riffa." This one features the memorable image of Sophia Loren, at the height of her beauty, in a luminous red dress (and, when she takes it off a couple of times, a black bra). She runs a carnival booth, and all the men of the town are obsessed with her, frequently bothering her with their provincial horniness. She's entered in a lottery where she will go out on a date with whoever wins. Her admirers all lose the drawing to the meek, dorky sacristan of the local church and they desperately try to bribe him for the ticket. Meanwhile, the whole deal upsets the young man whom she's been seeing in her free time, and he attempts to sabotage their supposed sexual encounter. I've never been a fan of Loren, mostly because I felt she was almost too beautiful (that's definitely the reason that she bothers me so much in De Sica's Two Women), but she's wonderful here. I also really loved the performance of the sacristan (I don't see the actor's name listed on IMDb), an innocent little man who could never imagine getting within a hundred yards of a woman like Loren. His final encounter with her is genuinely touching.
The four segments together run nearly three and a half hours, but, since they have nothing to do with each other, it's easy to watch one at a time. Portmanteau films can often vary a lot in quality, and most (even this one) are forgotten pretty quickly. This one is definitely a must-see for fans of Italian cinema, or any of the individual directors. The print by NoShame is gorgeous. Unfortunately, it is out of print, but Kino is re-releasing it (apparently on Blu-Ray, too, which should look even more outstanding) in September.
The first tale is a whimsical piece about a moral crusader who is outraged by an advertising billboard featuring the buxom Anita Ekberg. What follows is a piece of fantasy with lots of satire and character humour added to the mix. It's fun and light. The follow up is about an aristocrat's predilection for prostitutes and the action his wife takes to right things. I found it a little dull by comparison, although it's nice to see Tomas Milian in an early role; previously I've only known him for his work in Italian crime cinema. The final story is the best, featuring the glorious Sophia Loren as a fairground worker who hates men but nonetheless sells herself in a lottery in order to raise funds. She gives a towering performance in this and is a real delight.
My interpretation of it is that the outward and blatant sexual aspect of each of the four episodes of this cinematic anthology is a mere superficial veneer, a literary artifice, if you will, that is used as a vehicle for a biting commentary on modern social life, a life disrupted and transformed by the emerging corporate and technological forces impinging upon the individual.
Although the outward social situation portrayed in each episode appears to be so different from the others, it seems to me that there was, at some level, a unified coordination behind the production of this film, ensuring that the social commentary portrayed by the film as a whole film was consistent, in some respects. Yet, each individual episode voices this unified social commentary from its own unique perspective.
The sexual aspect of the film as a whole is the common point in each episode that is used as a symbol of the basic humanity of the individual. Hence, it is during the execution of the sex act itself that the individual is stripped of all his assigned social roles, and their attendant assigned social personas, and where the individual is most closely in touch with his inner, true, genuine self. It is also during the very execution of the sex act where an individual can find a time in his life that is outside the scope, and the purview of impinging societal forces.
This film was skillfully constructed to project a superficial appearance, greatly along outwardly sexual themes, to ensure the commercial viability of the film, a superficial appearance that would appeal to the masses of the ticket buying public who hunger for simple entertainment. Yet beneath the veil of this general public appeal, lies a carefully constructed harsh social commentary that provides much fodder for intellectual, and artistic analysis for the minority of film viewers who are inclined to such reflective thinking.
Boccaccio '70 (1962) is a truly remarkable cinematic achievement for many different reasons, at least in my opinion.
The plots of the 4 segments meander and go nowhere. Act I seems like a first attempt by a student studying film. Act II is a sophomoric joke--stereotypically Italian. Women are their (titter! titter!) mammaries, so "Drink more milk" (giggle giggle). And Fellini (a master elsewhere) is literally trotting out what come across as merely cinematic clichés for the audience only this time in color. There's a bus-load of "cool, hip, black" American jazz-savvy Americans; a quick-step marching brass band wearing black feathered hats who mid-march do a wild and crazy 360 turn as they march, right out of a previous Fellini flick. What's their point here? Oh, boy, I felt like I was really sopping up Italian culture then. Act III about the young couple suffering from modern ennui is lifeless drawing room "comedy". It drags on and on, and Schneider seems to be sleep-walking through it. Act IV, perhaps the most intelligent and entertaining of the segments, repeats itself maddeningly, and some of the lottery-exchanging tricks by the locals just don't seem to make much sense.
Supposedly Boccaccio was noted for his naturalistic dialog when he wrote. This film is mis-titled. It shares nothing in common with Boccaccio or "The Decameron". One thing that struck me while I was watching this lesson in boredom was how idiotic the dialog was. Someone says something like "I wish you would close the door," and the response is "But Mario needs new shoes, and my heart is broken." WHA? Non sequiturs abound. Oh, I felt so artsy. The dialog in the film comes across as a parody of Italian art films from the '60s and '70s. Only thing, THIS is the real thing. Yuck! Would I have felt that way about this film back then? Hard to say. I don't remember even having seen it then, and perhaps those visions of Italian culture that now seem stereotypical or trite may have been boldly decameron-esque back then.
The first film (the one that was dropped when released internationally) is a pretty cute little film about a couple whose experiences as newlyweds are just awful. The segment is directed by Monicelli and I heard it was dropped partly due to the excessive length of the overall film and because his is the only portion without a big name international star. The poor couple are forced by finances to live with the bride's family (who won't give them a second of privacy--with a glass door to their bedroom and a noisy meddlesome house), but for some odd reason the lady was told she would lose her job if she got married! This is all very strange and I can't imagine any job enforcing this in this day and age. So, they can't tell anyone other than her family that they are married and it creates many complications--particularly when her boss makes advances on her! The film is cute and very watchable but suffers some from being a bit too long (it probably would have been better to end it a few minutes sooner--right after they moved out of her parents' home). Also, for the faint of heart, you get to see the boss in a very skimpy bathing suit--he was so unattractive and yechy in it, my eyes are still burning! I'd give this segment a 6 or 7.
The second segment, and by far the best, is the Fellini film. Now I am NOT a fan of most of his work--I truly believe some of his films are overrated and too indulgent. This time, however, his film, while not perfect, is not to be missed. It's a very silly and rather surreal piece about a nasty little man who spends all of his energy trying to enforce his crazy views about sexuality on EVERYONE. Practically everything he sees he thinks is dirty and even the most innocent things are attacked by this self-appointed crusader for virtue. The old prudes in town like him but most others think (correctly so) that he's a nut. The last straw for this guy is a giant billboard featuring the voluptuous Anita Ekberg for a milk commercial. I goes up right outside his apartment window and he practically becomes unhinged and tries in vain to get it removed. Later he even resorts to tossing paint on the 80 food image! Eventually, the man becomes so wrapped up in the fight over the advertisement that he begins hallucinating! At first he sees or hears her--such as an arm here and a voice there. Then later, the film gets REALLY weird as Ms. Ekberg walks off the billboard and chases the man because she apparently finds him irresistible! It's a lot like ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN but much, much funnier! The only negative at all is the billboard--it sings and sings and sings the same jingle again and again and might drive some of you crazy! Still, this one deserves a 10!
The next segment by director Visconti I frankly found pretty dull. It's about a young couple who have two problems--their marriage is in trouble and they are young, attractive and rich! This is a rather familiar theme in many of Visconti's films--rich bored folks. I really felt no connection to them and people whining about their lives when they have SO MUCH made me frustrated that I almost skipped ahead on the DVD to the next segment--it was THAT dull and irritating. Despite having a very sexy Romy Schneider dressing and undressing (again and again), there was nothing memorable about it. This one, at best, gets a 5 or 6--and that's just for Schneider.
The final was a cute short by director DeSica--my favorite Italian director. It was the second best segment but just couldn't keep up with the Fellini piece--and you really can't blame DeSica for this, the Fellini was definitely at his best. In this odd piece, an illegal lottery is being conducted but instead of the usual prize, sex with Sophia Loren is the prize!! All the ugly old guys in town are pushing and shoving, scrimping and saving to sign up! Despite being a very sexy segment, it really isn't all that explicit and ends very well. It's very good and quite cute. It's deserving of an 8.
Overall, it's a very interesting but inconsistent film. Some portions are must-see segments but others are not--but the overall effect is excellent.