Signore e signori, buonanotte (1976) Poster

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7/10
Corrosive, acid, punch-in-your-stomach political satire
debblyst26 November 2003
"SIGNORE E SIGNORI BUONANOTTE" is a commedia all'italiana in segments made in 1976, when Italy was at the height of political turmoil, and corruption scandals, terrorist attacks, strikes, kidnappings and political murders were daily routine. Political dramas (by Rosi, Petri, Lizzani, Montaldo, etc) were reflecting and criticizing the harsh reality in a denunciative, bold way like no other national cinema ever did before or after. "Signore..." is like a pizza with mozzarella, mushrooms, olives -- and bile.

"Signore..." is certainly special: the directors and writers (a who's who of Italian comedy: maestri Scola, Magni, Monicelli, Comencini, Loy and writers Age, Scarpelli, Benvenuti, Maccari, De Bernardi, Pirro) made the film as a cooperative enterprise and the credits are unspecified (we don't know who directed or wrote which segment, and it's fun to keep guessing). Nonetheless, the film has a remarkable "unity", due to the fact that the filmmakers shared the same leftist political views and had repeatedly collaborated in many films throughout the years.

Marcello Mastroianni plays a TV news speaker who loosely links all the segments. The film begins "naively" with the usual "imbroglios" about Italian comedy's favorite subject: the self-mockery exercise -- Italians portraying Italians as disorganized, chaotic, incompetent, lazy, sex-driven, work-phobic etc. But it grows increasingly acid, bitter, violently critical to the point of discomfort, with staggering attacks on police and political corruption, the chaos in health and labor welfare, the ineffective and arguable policies on education and abortion, child labor and abuse, TV and the media, the Vatican, the army and the judicial system. It's machine-gun artillery here and no one is spared!!!

The first episodes - about an alarm-clock placed in a police department that is mistaken for a bomb, and a TV English lesson developing into a political murder by a CIA agent - are relatively "tame". Things get violently critical and corrosive in the heart-wrenching episode in Naples about the Cathlic Church's anti-abortion policy and its practical results - child crime, labor and abuse, and which ends tragically (and unexpectedly). It's a punch in your stomach, and may have you revise your thoughts on the issue (if you're anti-abortion).

This is followed by the episode with Paolo Villaggio as a German-born/U.S.-based sociology professor (complete with a delightful/scary American-Italo-German accent) who has the "perfect solution" for over-population and child abandonment in Naples -- that poor children should be bred as cattle to be eventually eaten, quoting the infamous sarcastic "solution" proposed by Jonathan Swift concerning Irish babies born into poverty.

Very impressive are the two Tognazzi episodes: in the first one, he portrays an army General who is -- well, how can I put it politely? -- in a W.C. defecating while his troops are parading outside. As he is called to present himself before the troops, one of his medals falls into the filthy toilet - and, in a physical comedy tour-de-force, he struggles to get back his medal, with nauseating (and metaphorical) results. In the second one, he is an impoverished, worn-out retired man living in rich Milan, trying to keep his dignity even when confronted by a TV reporter about his horrid condition. The episodes will make you cringe with discomfort, and marvel at this all-around-accomplished actor that was Ugo Tognazzi.

The Gassman episodes (my guess is they were directed by Dino Risi) aren't quite as poisonous or good - but what a pleasure to see Gassman do his stuff! Mastroianni's episode interviewing 4 Neapolitan politicians is a mix of Fellini (the incredible casting and overlapping dialog) and Buñuel (the surrealistic ending). Wonderfully gross!

Manfredi is a knock-out as an moribund, bed-ridden Catholic cardinal whose vote can decide the election for the new Pope, inspiring his peers to come up with Machiavellian plans to influence him -- by ANY means! The conspiracy plot was considered alarmingly prophetic (according to some conspiracy theories) of what happened 2 years later in the Vatican with Pope John Paul I's sudden death. Mind-boggling!!

The last episode - a gala ceremony at the Court of Justice - is a triumph of direction, costume design and casting. Without one single (intelligible) dialog and using only unknown (unprofessional?) actors, the film manages, in few minutes, to make one of the most daring and violent attacks on the Italian (or any) Judicial system ever put on the screen, denouncing its decadence, anachronism, corruption and viciousness. It's a mandatory sequence in any compilation of political cinema anywhere. Scary and terrific.

The film has highs and lows - but the highs are very impressive and the lows are never boring. Subtlety has no place here -- these were no times for sitting on the fence. It's not exactly a black comedy: it's a political manifesto using comedy form, with top-notch Italian stars (Manfredi, Mastroianni, Tognazzi, Gassman, Villaggio) who could perform in any key they chose to, written by champ Italian pros, and directed by masters of this specialized Italian cinematic genre -- the politically concerned critical comedy -- about the traumatic, radical days of Italian political life. Really worth looking for, though it may be difficult to find. If you're into political cinema, you won't be disappointed.
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6/10
GOOD NIGHT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN (Luigi Comencini, Nanni Loy, Luigi Magni, Mario Monicelli and Ettore Scola, 1976) **1/2
MARIO GAUCI27 April 2007
This was the second of three films I watched in tribute to Luigi Comencini's passing, which happened over the Easter period. It's one of a myriad of portmanteaus to emerge from Italy over the years: usually, these came in the form of a number of sketches on a particular subject; this one, emanating from the mid-70s - a time of political strife in the country where kidnappings and assassinations were commonplace - it couldn't help being a scathing satire on religion, politics, the legal system and TV. In fact, so single-minded was the concept that a group of top directors and writers received credit for all the various episodes as a sort of co-operative! For this purpose, some of Italy's finest actors were summoned - Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni, Nino Manfredi, Ugo Tognazzi and new comic star Paolo Villaggio.

However, as can be expected, the end result is variable - being generally heavy-handed but occasionally inspired. Mastroianni appears in the linking sequence as a flustered TV newscaster; Gassman's two episodes are rather weak; Tognazzi also appears in a couple of segments, but is at his best in the one with scatological overtones - where a military hero loses his dignity along with his decorations and most of his clothing prior to a parade and, unable to face up to this humiliation, opts to take his own life; the same applies for Villaggio's contribution: two episodes, but the one involving the "Disastrometer" quiz show - where the most wretched of three contestants will eventually emerge victorious - proves to be superior; Manfredi is featured in just one segment, but it's the longest and possibly best one overall - revolving around a battle for the Papacy which descends to base intrigues and, eventually, mass murder (also proving somewhat prophetic, given Pope John Paul I's mysterious death in 1978 after just 33 days in office!). Two other amusing episodes involve the chaos brought on by a presumed bomb (with its ironic denouement) and a critique on outdated court laws - in which an assembly of senile members deliver unintelligible speeches and engage in a dance to an operatic aria (the scene recalled a similar episode set in the House Of Lords in THE RULING CLASS [1971]).

Among the supporting cast are the likes of Adolfo Celi, Senta Berger, and several regulars from Villaggio's popular and long-running "Fantozzi" series (then just at its beginning). Furthermore, two of Italy's major singer-songwriters, Lucio Dalla and Antonello Venditti, were responsible for the soundtrack of GOOD NIGHT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
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9/10
great movie
kdimov7623 November 2007
Excellent and entertaining comedy. What makes it even more enjoyable is that the things they made fun of in 1978 didn't change much in our present society - politicians, religion, the army, police, corruption... Even though it is very funny – almost everything in the movie has a deeper social/political sense and tells you something about life. Even the WC scene is more than a dumb physical sketch. The movie will be interesting especially for people interested in politics, power, religion, government – which actually is all about power. Although I see in the keywords – that the movie is about 'female nudity' – unfortunately I didn't see any... Another great thing about this movie is the casting - even for the small parts.
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