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"La donna della domenica" is an outstanding film, but one that is unlikely
to be fully appreciated by non-Italians, most of whom might see it as a
whodunnit of sorts. Its strength lies, instead, not just with its
cast, but also with the caustic way in which it describes Turin's high
society: full of characters that, behind their apparent stylishness and
elegance, betray a penchant for hypocrisy and an inability to look further
than the conventional way in which they live.
It looks more like a comedy, and a well-written, witty one at that.
The story is taken from the Fruttero & Lucentini's book of the same title. Mysterious murders take place in Turin, Italy; victims are always people from the upper class. The movie is not a masterpiece. The solution of the cases is not well explained, the director goes too fast in showing us who the guilty is. The movie lacks some dramatical moments. Nevertheless, "La donna della domenica" is still an enjoyable movie. First, the cast is excellent: Marcello Mastroianni is very charming in the role of the elegant policeman Santamaria; Jacqueline Bisset too is delightful in the part of the snobbish lady; also Jean-Louis Trintignant works very well. Other Italian actors (with a long experience in the theatre and at the movies) complete the cast, for example Claudio Gora and Lina Volonghi. Luigi Comencini, one the inventors of the Italian comedy, directs this 1975 thriller with a lot of humor. And, as usual, the music of Ennio Morricone is fantastic (actually that's one of the highlights of the film).
"Sunday Woman" is a stylish and ribald whodunnit that has plenty of things to hold your attention when you're frankly not particularly interested in who did it or why. The murder victim is a lewd, leering, seedy old architect who makes obscene gestures at women, like a character out of Fellini's "Satyricon." His body is found bludgeoned to death by means of a large ceramic phallus. "Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword," a character in the film comments. The inspector on the case is a bemused but persistent Marcello Mastroianni. His investigations bring him in contact with some of Turin's high society: Jacqueline Bisset, the bored wife of an industrialist, and her platonic friend Jean-Louis Trintignant, a wealthy homosexual. Trintignant is himself in love with Aldo Reggiani, a records clerk who does his own investigation which leads to his own murder. The film has a nice rhythm, some well-written dialog, and makes use of fascinating Piedmontese locales in and around Turin. Mastroianni, as always, is very effective. The director, Luigi Comencini, gained a substantial reputation in the past with films like "Bread, Love and Dreams" and "Everybody Go Home!"
Books are usually better than movies from books, one may say it's a universal truth. And Fruttero&Lucentini's novel is better indeed in this case, read it for proof. But - surprise, surprise! - no bad movie at all: a bunch of excellent actors and actresses, all at ease in their roles (especially Mrs. Lina Volonghi, a great actress whose kind Italy should regret) and the feeling they are all having fun while acting (see the hilarious scene with Mastroianni among a group of prostitutes in the police station). Just good for one of those boring Sunday afternoons in winter.
Well I can safely say that I never thought I would ever see Marcello
Mastroianni - star of several important Federico Fellini and
Michaelangelo Antonioni art films - appear in a room full of giant
ceramic penises. It's certainly a defining feature of sorts to have the
number one Italian actor of the 60's New Wave find himself in this sort
of scenario. But to be fair, aside from these giant phalluses having an
important part in the plot, The Sunday Woman is a fairly restrained bit
of Italian cinema. It certainly, partially at least, falls under the
giallo sub-genre but it has the feeling more of an Agatha Christie
style whodunit than of a typical Italian murder-mystery. The reason for
this is that the story revolves around a very unlikable murder victim
whose behaviour ensures that there are plenty of suspects, while the
overall emphasis of the film is squarely on the mystery side of the
story with very little thriller aspects at all.
The murders are committed off-screen and there is a distinct lack of suspense scenes. This sets it apart from the usual giallo conventions. To be perfectly honest though, if the movie had added more of that sort of stuff it would be even better and might have entered the upper bracket of its genre. As it is, it's a much less salacious affair giant penises aside and more reliant on its plotting and acting. It's fairly solid on that front with not only Mastroianni at its disposal as the police inspector but also the reliable Jean-Louis Tritignant in one of his less broody roles as one of the chief suspects, while it was good to see Aldo Regianni from Dario Argento's The Cat o' Nine Tails in another shifty role as Tritignant's homosexual lover. It's also worth pointing out the Il Maestro himself, Ennio Morricone, once more contributes a quality score. He produced so many during this period that is very easy to forget just how good they all actually were and, well, this is yet another one.
It's possibly a little overlong in fairness. The material doesn't really justify a running time just shy of two hours. Having said that it does remain compelling nevertheless and the answer to the mystery isn't too obvious and is quite satisfying. I also liked the strange moments where we see slow-motion fantasy flashbacks of the suspects striking down on the unfortunate victim with their ceramic penis weaponry. It's just so strange but somewhat memorable. I wouldn't necessarily describe The Sunday Woman as a must see for fans of Italian genre cinema though. It may disappoint some who seek the thrills of a typical giallo for example. But I personally consider it one, just a far more low-key entry, and one that has enough intrigue and strange moments to ensure that it works pretty well.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Sunday Woman" seems to have many ingredients for success: a superb (as usual) music score by Ennio Morricone, a first-rate cast (Marcello Mastroianni, Jacqueline Bisset (at her most exquisite), Jean-Louis Trintignant), and it's shot in Torino, a city rarely shown in the movies. However, the end result is rather weak. There is too much talk and not enough suspense. Part of the problem may be that nobody seems to miss the first murder victim that much, so you don't feel much urgency in discovering his killer. The film occasionally hits the mark as a social satire (e.g., the late scene of all the characters gathered at the police station accusing each other), but I still think Morricone's score is by far the best thing about it. ** out of 4.
One critic lists "La donna della domenica" (1975) as a neo-noir, so I
checked it out. I am certain that if scored and graded it will not
enter that category. It's told from the point of view of the
investigating commissioner, Marcello Mastroianni, not the criminals,
because this is a mystery done in comic fashion. There is no peril to
the protagonist. There is no sense of fatalism to speak of. There is,
however, some sense of alienation or at least class divisions, as the
middle-class Mastroianni mixes with some of Turin's upper class
inhabitants and also with prostitutes and others from the working
class. And there is a strong ironic feeling throughout the picture.
It's a reasonably enjoyable comedic mystery outing, if one understands that it's not a giallo and not a tough noir but something else altogether. Mastroianni is excellent. His face and expressions, his comments and reactions, they are the mirror held up to various of Turin's goings-on and characters. He's a master actor in conveying just the right degree and touch when confronted with a range of characters who seem to inhabit universes of their own, whereas his reality is to solve a crime.
He contends with Jacqueline Bisset, the bored wife of an older industrialist. He questions the wealthy and gay Jean-Louis Trintignant and his younger and poorer lover, Aldo Reggiani. The latter's insecurity with Trintignant is played for laughs, as is his interview with Mastroianni. Because Trintignant is a suspect in the murder of a lewd and gross architect, Reggiani conducts his own investigation. The blunt object used to kill the man was a large stone phallus. Eventually Mastroianni is led to the hand-made two-man manufactory of these objects, which are in demand, but it is Reggiani who has better leads.
Targets of the comedy include an art dealer, an art show replete with moneyed buyer ready to be taken, rich industrialists who ignore their wives and/or consort with mistresses, prostitutes who find a location for their work in a large untended garden area, the wealthy land-owners who find their locations being invaded by others, the flea market, and the police leaders who kowtow to the upper class powers.
This is not a hugely funny movie and it's a meandering mystery story too. The IMDb rating of 6.8 is in the ballpark, making this at least average and/or having some quite good moments. My rating is not quite so generous.
La "Donna della domenica" is definitely one of my favorite books and a
great movie. Despite being built on a murder story, this movie is not a
thriller. In fact, it is rather a comedy on the Torinese society,
spanning from wanna-be-intellectuals to the rich and the beautiful,
from rustic land owners to simple immigrants. And as a comedy, it is an
If you are looking for suspense or you are not familiar with Italian society, you should stay away from it. Also, I recommend that you need to understand Italian very well to appreciate this movie: I checked a bit the German version/subtitles, but at least 50% of the humor gets lost in the translation...
I have to say, I'm really disappointed with this film. I'm a big fan of the Italian thriller known as the Giallo and while I went into this film knowing that it is not a Giallo; I was still hoping that director Luigi Comencini would be able to make the film interesting enough to at least be entertaining. The plot provides a decent base for a murder mystery flick and begins with a murder, which is promptly investigated by Commissioner Santamaria. Any chance of this being a good film is promptly cut away however by the fact that it's all so boring. The film contains practically no suspense whatsoever and while some of the exchanges between the lead characters are fairly interesting and there's a few red herrings thrown in; it really is very difficult to keep focused on The Sunday Woman. The performances are all rather flat too and most of the actors look about as bored as I must have looked watching the film. It's clear that the director wanted the film to be of high quality, and while the tatty VHS I saw it on does the film no favours, I have to say he didn't succeed there either. There's a score from the great Ennio Morricone and some Italian humour thrown in too; but I've seen better of both in other films. The Sunday Woman does have some favourable comments on it so maybe I'm just missing something here; but personally, I can't see much to like in this film.
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