Burned-out, over-the-hill actor Giovanni returns to Bologna for the funeral of his twin, Pippo, a wealthy suicide unlucky in love. The family tells Pippo's mother it was an accident, but ...
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Pier Giorgio Bellocchio,
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Burned-out, over-the-hill actor Giovanni returns to Bologna for the funeral of his twin, Pippo, a wealthy suicide unlucky in love. The family tells Pippo's mother it was an accident, but there's a problem: Vanda, Pippo's one-time fiancée, won't grieve and refuses to come to the funeral. At a family dinner, Vanda talks about the note Peppo left. Again the family tries to keep mom in the dark. They assign Giovanni to persuade Vanda to keep up appearances. He sees her unhappy relationship with her father, who suspects her of sleeping with a doctor. Why she sees the doctor, how Giovanni and she deal with their mutual attraction, and his rebirth become the film's focus. Written by
Meatless attempt by Bellochio to regain past splendour.
The normally high quality of director Marco Bellochio's body of work assailing the Italian bourgeoisie is compromised by this disordered affair that is marked by what is perhaps his least inventive efforts, particularly as they concern the screenplay and the soundtrack. Bellochio's first feature, I PUGNI IN TASCA (Fist in the Pocket), from 1965, established him in the forefront of Italy's Neo-Realism school of cinema, but his attempt to emulate its success by utilizing his original leading player, Lou Castel, and theme: a man reluctantly returning to the family which he has discarded, fail to yield a satisfactory result. Castel plays twin brothers (Pippo/Giovanni), the former of whom has committed suicide, apparently due to his failure at love with his pregnant fiancée Vanda (Angela Molina), and when Giovanni becomes in turn her lover, he finds himself in a position of serving his family's immediate purpose: to shield his highly religious mother (Emmanuelle Riva) from knowledge of the sinful cause of Pippo's death. Despite Castel's rather outrageous essay to depict Giovanni's inner turbulence, the film suffers from an emotionally removed composition throughout, certainly not helped by inferior sound quality and a decision to give several major roles over to dubbing undeftly from original Spanish and French into Italian. There are several citations to PUGNI, even an instance in a theatre wherein a lengthy and important scene from that film is shown, all conducive to a bothersome perception that Bellochio is developing a vanity piece here, one signally lacking in originality. On occasion, a glimpse is to be found of Bellochio's wonted strengths, including his emphasis upon the language of bodily movement, but his attempt to unite his customary theme of socio-economic inequality with a form of magic realism brings forth an enervated and oft incoherent production.
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