|Index||9 reviews in total|
A solidly produced, very entertaining, low budget comedy-drama with a fine
leading cast providing excellent, more-than-satisfying performances.
During World War I, a poor Italian private (Orsini) and a peasant girl (Lisi) capture an aristocratic Austrian General (Steiger). The Italians trek back to their own lines, hoping to gain a fortune of 1,000 Lira for the capture of the general.
The movie focuses on the three leads for virtually the entire film. The only supporting characters involved are a few Austrian soldiers and one Italian who appears at the beginning, only to be captured and instantly forgotten. Otherwise, the film is all about the central characters. Each actor makes their character come alive. Orsini is excellent as the somewhat dimwitted, illiterate Italian private who, like thousands of others, was drafted. It's just his pure luck that he captured the General. Lisi, like Orsini, is illiterate. She, however, is a civilian. Her everyday life has been disrupted by the war. She has to beg, scour and scrounge for food, water and clothing. She knows that the money can benefit her, also, and is constantly double-crossing Orsini - although the two inevitably fall in love.
Steiger, on the other hand, is great in an offbeat role as the General. He's not a loud, maniacal general a la WATERLOO. Instead, he is sympathetic to his captors for one moment; but, taking advantage of their slight stupidity, he is constantly escaping - only to be captured again. He has a few sentimental moments - teaching the girl to write her name; explaining that he only fights in war because his father did before him; comforting the girl during her last moments. By the end of the film, Steiger has transformed into a caring, likeable father figure; Orsini has gone from a selfish young man to a more sacrificing husband; and Lisi is a more concerned wife.
The movie, while being basically a character study - drama, has quite a few memorable comic moments. Men locked inside a water barrel rolling into a river; long, witty dialog scenes between the smart fool Orsini and the pompous General Steiger; etc. It's all funny in a subtle way; nothing will have you outright laughing, and most of the gags don't really kick in until AFTER they're over with.
The Italian scenery is absolutely stunning. Every shot is filled with breathtaking background images of blue skies, green mountains, rocky valleys and rushing rivers. Ennio Morricone provides (as usual) a perfect music score. At times, it's ultra-weird, with a mix of Italian lyrics and odd instrumentation; some pieces have a strong resemblance to his later, war-time theme in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY - most recognizably during the scene with the drunken Union Captain.
Turner Classic Movies plays a nearly perfect print of this movie. The colors are fresh, accurate and intense. There is hardly a print flaw. It is presented in an aspect ration of about 1.77:1. I wish TCM would release more Italian war films - or, just more Italian films - with the same great digital restoration.
THE GIRL AND THE GENERAL is an overlooked, funny and dramatic anti-war picture. It is not instantly a classic, by any means, but still holds its place in the genre and is worth seeking out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sentiments in several previous comments rang true with me as well. I also discovered this film one late sleepless night thanks to the wonders of TCM, and found it delightful for it's realistic story and complimentary offbeat camera style. One thing seems to have been overlooked, however. One of the previous comments stated that the movie is focused almost entirely on the main characters. While technically true this comment misses an easily overlooked but very important aspect of the film. Until about the last 15 minutes before the end of the film we are not entirely sure who the main characters are. We start with general scenes of the war, not a particular story. We focus on the General, then cut to one Italian private. He disappears and we focus on another. The general is constantly on the verge of escaping. "The Girl" at one point ejects the soldier from the picture for about 10 minutes. Even the title misleads us into thinking that only the girl and the general are major characters when, it is at least arguable, that they are only 2 out of 3. The loosely centered visual style only increases this impression, since the landscape often takes up almost as much frame space and focus as the characters. In a much more subtle way it resembles the moment in the Princess Bride where the main characters disappear from view and we are invited to presume them dead. We watch the swamp, an animal wanders through the frame and we wait for **something** to happen. In the last half hour of the girl and the general "something" does happen and we finally get a sense that these are the characters and this is their story. After the first hour and a half of the movie it almost seems a bit cliché. Yet one might say, as has already been said, that the war has been a secondary factor, one more event that complicates the character's lives. In a way, however, the war is as much a star of the show as anything else. The landscape, the war, the soldier, the girl, the general; in different periods and with different intensities each have taken up a very roughly equal part of our focus until the last segment of the movie. Finally as we head into in the minefield we get a sense that we are watching a stable party of adventurers, or at least a fairly constant bunch of people (and their donkey) try to make it through one last obstacle before the can reach safety. But will they "make it"? Just a little before the end a classic war movie cliché gives the game away, but till very near that point we don't know who will make it and who will not. More than any war buddy movie that I have seen this film preserves, for most of its length a very tenuous understanding among the audience. We have seen other characters not just be assembled and then subtracted from, but freely come and go. Will these characters make it to the end? Until very near the end, we just don't know.
More than anything this resembles a spaghetti western updated to a different, more modern, period setting. In as much as it follows the picaresque adventures of three bickering travelling companions in a search for treasure against a background of war it is strikingly similar to parts of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. In addition it has a typically Italian soundtrack from Ennio Morricone and uses breathtaking landscapes to good effect. Unlike that film, however, this has no clear sense of what it is or even what it would like to be. There are elements of the war film, there are certainly moments of broad comedy, a dash of romance, and, towards the end a touch of tragedy. While none of these go to make it a coherent narrative, and there is precious little plot to speak of, they combine to form a diverting film which goes nowhere in particular. It also put me in mind of Argento's LE CINQUE GIORNATE although the attempts at social commentary in Festa's effort are slighter. He deals well with the struggle of peasant people and indeed soldiers to find food during wartime, a theme which runs throughout the movie. To his credit Festa does manage to extract a less-mannered than usual performance out of Steiger. This was the first film of Lisi's that I had seen and while she makes an impression as the feisty Ada I couldn't say that she was in the same league as Claudia Cardinale. Umberto Orsini is okay as the soldier but perhaps overplays the 'stupid but loveable' angle. Perhaps the best moments involve a lazy donkey, including some great scenes where Lisi tries to get it to drag the other two along in a giant barrell!
This film will unfortunately not be remembered for Rod Steiger's
performance. There are very few films that Steiger has not
dominated--this is one of them. It will be remembered for the story and
the direction, an interesting performance by Virna Lisi, and a somewhat
creditable score by Ennio Morricone.
The director, Pasquale Festa Campanile, one should should recall has written scripts for and collaborated with great Italian directors such as Pasolini and Visconti. I do not know much more about Campanile but he must have been very good at writing screenplays for Visconti to work with him on 'The Leopard' which is not an easy novel by any consideration. According to the opening credits in the English version of the film "The Girl and the General," the director is one of the two authors of the original story--a fact missed out by the IMDb's current details on the webpage for the film.
This is not a war film. It is film that uses war as a backdrop to evaluate human values and what money means to the wretched and the poor. A bumbling soldier played convincingly by Umberto Orsini captures a General, not for heroics, not by design but by mere chance. The soldier is illiterate while the General is an understandably a well-read individual. Thus the Geneva convention and the city that Julius Caesar built is of little significance to the soldier. Yet, what is significant for him is the fact that few Generals die in the war front and what the soldiers were given to drink before they clashed with the enemy at the front and met their death.
Neorealistic Italian cinema used the post-War scenario to examine study the human condition. Hunger is a great leveller: the General and soldier are the same when they are hungry. The soldier grudgingly shares his food with the General; the General steals a frog caught by the soldier. The writer-director clearly states where his sympathies lie. The soldier as an honest individual may appear stupid, but earns the respect of the viewer with his tenacity to come up with great ideas of making a General look like a cow to gain a few hours of sleep. His use of the word "Sir" to address his prisoner over the length of the movie is a fine aspect of the character build-up by the writer.
The film moves into top gear with the arrival of the illiterate girl played by Virna Lisi. For her, too, taking the captured General back is simply for the the 1000 Lire split between two individuals that will allow for a good life. Her character is benign, honest and rustic. For a few potatoes she bares her breasts and the humiliation of the act is wonderfully portrayed without histrionics.
The sexual arousal of the soldier, the importance of sleep over the need for sex, the urinating General whose one arm is useless are vignettes of superb cinema. The simplicity of the film, as in most neo-realist Italian cinema, is disarming. The film even goes on to make a hero of a donkey, while conversation revolves around tasty donkey-meat.
The film reverses the traditional concept of heroism by presenting a woman being superior to a man (the General), a honest foot soldier superior to a General.
I am surprised the film has been glossed over by casual viewers. I will be looking out to catch up with Campanile's work. I am pleased to note that Virna Lisi has finally been accepted as a serious actress in the Nineties for her work in "La Reigne Margot".
Ennio Morricone's score in this film is very close to the music he provided for the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone. His score like the performance of Steiger is reigned in by the director to emphasize the role of the soldier and the girl. My only problem with the title of the movie is the lack of importance provided to the soldier, who is the central figure.
When I saw the film, the film brought back memories of de Sica's "Bicycle Thief". This film, which provides equal importance to hens and donkeys as it does to human characters, is as real as they come and yet so removed from the values of Hollywood's screenplays, then and now.
The Girl and the General has a special place in my heart - I saw this
late one night when I was about 10 years old when cable TV was brand
new and they were desperate for programming. Lucky for me. This was my
first real exposure to the wonderful explosion of realism in Italian
cinema from the '60's.
The movie does a wonderful job of depicting war as something that happens during peoples' lives, not vice versa. Rather than the defining element of the time, its another element in of life, where people fear, and hope, and struggle.
Wonderfully acted, good cinematography (as long as you remember that this is realism), and decent editing. Full of humor and pathos.
I caught this film on Turner Classic Movies and it kept my interest throughout the entire movie. It was my first viewing of an Italian postwar piece, and I was quite impressed. The only noted actor in the film was Steiger, and his performance certainly was not his best, but the movie was still very good. Overall, I thought that it reflected the futility of war through the struggles of these three characters very well, inserting comedy where appropriate. The Soldier and the Girl had several great, very funny scenes interacting with each other, and the comedy of the movie, though hard to place in a somewhat depressing war movie, actually worked very well. A hard-to-find but worthy film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a small gem, apparently totally forgotten and ignored by the multitudes of clueless movie fans and critics, who are very much focused on showering praise only on crap that they dig out from the past. I was surprised to find myself enjoying an Italian movie. The humour is slightly odd, at times very funny. There are those who consider Steiger not to be at his best here, but I guess for some people only frantic over-acting, complete with manic hand-waving and mugging, counts as good acting. ("Show mee the moneeeyyyy!"). Steiger is subtle yet everything he does that is in any way connected to escaping his dumb captors is hilarious: the way he touches the soldier's rifle, the manner in which he dashes away with the cow bell attached to his neck... Priceless. TGATG is strange little film, almost inventing a new sub-genre: the "war road movie". The trio of main characters move in war-torn territory that comes off almost as another planet, where food is about as scarce as brain-cells are in Sean Penn's bloated head. The struggle for the egg is a good example. The guy playing the Italian soldier isn't that great, but Virna Lisi is quite sexy. The fairly interesting Morricone score helps, too.
This movie from Pasquale Festa Campanile goes someway towards bridging
a gap between the two forms of cinema for which Italy is generally
noted: realism and 'Spaghetti' westerns. Another distinctive score from
Ennio Morricone swings from the quirky hiccups of wordless vocals to
the lush, melancholic strings that swell each time Umberto Orsini's
private and Virna Lisi's illiterate peasant woman enjoy a tender
moment, while the obvious eye on an international market is displayed
by the casting of Rod Steiger in the role of the general.
More a road movie than a war film, the conflict merely acts as a backdrop to writer Luigi Malerba's examination of the lengths to which people will go to survive and the manner in which personal honour is forsaken at times of extreme hardship. The three principal characters can be seen as representatives of the characters of war officers, foot soldiers and civilians. All are mistrustful of the other for much of the film, and constantly betray one another; despite entering into an uneasy liaison to transport the General behind Italian lines in return for a 1000 lira reward, the private and the peasant woman steal or hide food from each other, even as they fall in love, while the General treats both with a kind of weary contempt for much of the picture. However, the simple wisdom of the otherwise vaguely oafish private ("If the world were full of gentlemen there'd be no war" he declares when the General tries to explain the Geneva Convention as a gentlemen's agreement to him), coupled with the desire of the peasant woman to better herself, gradually chip away at his cold exterior until, as the film approaches its climax, the trio are transformed from captors and prisoner into travelling companions who must work together to survive. Ironically, as the imbalance of their relative social standings is erased, another lower class must be found and is done so in the ragged form of a one-eared donkey.
Filmed in lush colour that almost saturates the screen at times, the film offers some marvellous landscapes of Italian countryside contrasted with frequent shots of rocky terrain. The characters stumble through this landscape with little idea of where they are headed, following the sounds of battle as they seek to catch the retreating Italian lines. Steiger rarely stretches himself in his role as the General, which isn't necessarily a bad thing; in full flow he can be a little overbearing, and this isn't the kind of film to benefit from that kind of performance. Orsini, seemingly a little-known actor outside of his native country, gives a decent performance in a role that is occasionally in danger of becoming a little bland at times, while the wonderful Virna Lisi puts in a terrific performance that indicates how badly Hollywood misused her talents during her brief unsuccessful sojourn in the States. Only some abrupt cuts at moments when it appears that we are about to gain a little more insight into the characters, and some poor continuity between scenes mars a film that could otherwise be highly recommended.
The production values of this movie are pretty low but the movie is
still made entertainment by its characters and fun adventurous
In its core, the story is pretty entertaining. It's an adventurous story, set in a WW I Italian environment. However the execution of it all isn't always good. The movie suffers from some horrible editing at times, which doesn't help to make the story flow well. The character treatment at times also doesn't feel right. It's for most part unclear which character is supposed to be the main character. Some characters are introduced too late into the movie for that and disappear also out of it for too often. Also of course the idea of making a comedy set during WW I is already a pretty odd idea. It's not the most tasteful movie because of that but if you can look past all those weaker and weird things of the movie, you'll get to see a pretty decent (enough) entertaining movie.
The movie does a fairly good job at creating a war time environment, with constant background explosions (but to be honest the explosions seem pointless, since no forces are nearby- or battles are going on) and nice looking costumes. But its just not impressive enough all. The movie makes a 'low-budget' impression, which is probably also due to the typical simplistic way of Italian film-making. If done correctly, this style can work wonderful and realistic for a movie but this movie does really feel amateur like at times. The musical score by Ennio Morricone is also a pretty weird one, even for comedy standards.
It's pretty weird to see Rod Steiger in a movie like this, in the same year he won an Oscar for his role "In the Heat of the Night" and two years after his "Doctor Zhivago" role. But yes, sure he has played in much worse and even lesser known movies. Plus, he has always been pretty entertaining to watch in comedies, so it's not really a complaint anyhow. The rest of the cast obviously isn't very talented and play their characters very formulaic and without much enthusiasm.
Really no must-see and far from a great movie but when you do decide to watch it, you'll most likely still be entertained by it for most part.
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