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I'm a fanatical Ugo Tognazzi admirer, but MENAGE Italian STYLE proved to be even too much for me. Perhaps the ultimate example of his screen persona in action, it is way too exaggerated to work. Best aspect of the picture is a terrific Ennio Morricone musical score.
He's a bigamist, with many passports, and we see him get married numerous times in the course of 102 rather tedious minutes, to all types of women. Perhaps most notably to a noticeably underage girl, played by Romina Power, culminating in a distasteful sequence where he poses as a doctor to bamboozle her family and get close to the attractive jail-bait.
I don't think this particular segment of the film would pass muster today in an anti-kiddie porn environment. (Actress in question was 13 years old and Tyrone Power/Linda Christian's daughter to boot! Too bad Polanski didn't direct.)
What must have been a big deal back in 1965 is casting opera star Anna Moffo in the lead female role, including a recording session. She does a good job, as do the innumerable other femmes in spot roles. Another pop star Dino shows up in performance, and ends up stealing Power away from Ugo.
Along the way Ugo is his smug, inimitably self-assured macho self, somehow irresistible to all womankind. Film is bookended with a funeral procession where literally a score of women are mourning him, but not to fear, he's still vertical, watching from his window.
The problem with this type of exercise, which many of the greatest comedians from Chaplin to Alec Guinness have essayed, is trying to make believable the protagonist's fantasy-like exploits. Unfortunately fledgling director Franco Indovina (all of whose films have interesting casts but apparently none of which were successful) muffs it, with Ugo's ability to keep romancing and marrying women coming off as merely a scripting gimmick rather than credible.
Visually the black & white film is striking, with impressive interior sets and sometimes amazing compositions keeping one's interest, but the absurdity of each successive sequence piles up uncomfortably.
Main theme music plays like a run-through for Morricone's classic INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN theme five years later, and besides the romantic motifs he includes all sorts of music to fit different scenes, from jazz to pop.
For sheer Ugo-intensiveness, MENAGE can't be beat, but I would suggest that my favorites THE FASCIST and COME HAVE COFFEE WITH US represent the best display of his talents, alongside LA GRANDE BOUFFE in ensemble with his peers.
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