Wacky musical and socially relevant drama - all in one entertaining package
By the time Yuppi Du was released in 1975, Adriano Celentano was already a household name, famous for his endlessly popular songs and film roles. Yuppi Du, however, was a bit of a gamble, given he would fill all the important positions himself, playing the lead, directing, writing, producing, editing and scoring. The gamble paid off when the film was accepted in competition at the Cannes Film Festival (where it won a quite fitting award for the music) and has since become a cult classic in Italy (the special screening at the 2008 Venice Film Festival was as hugely anticipated as the world premiere of Burn After Reading).
Appropriately enough, considering its recent "revival", the film takes place in Venice, where people are upset over a series of fatal accidents that occur in unsecured work places at the docks. Among those who work there - for a ridiculous salary, too - is Felice Della Pietà (Celentano), who lives happily with his wife Adelaide (Claudia Mori, the singer's spouse in real life) and his daughter while trying to deal with the difficult conditions he and his friends find themselves in. Everything is turned upside down, though, when he discovers his past love Silvia (Charlotte Rampling), whom everyone believed to be dead, didn't commit suicide but actually ran off to Milan with someone else. As things get more complicated for Felice, both at home and at work, he and the others can think of no other way to express their frustrations but through music.
A musical with a social message is a rare thing, and it is to Celentano's credit that he had the guts to go all the way with his ambitious project. The big surprise is that the film works almost perfectly, despite jumping from one genre to another every five minutes: first there's the social realism, then we get a bit of farce (Felice's reaction to Silvia's return), then some more elegiac scenes (courtesy of Venice's lagoon landscape) which go hand in hand with the more colorful musical numbers (the titular song especially). Not counting an unwelcome horror-like digression in the form of an unsettling rape scene, the genre blend makes for a fascinating collection of moments that make up for a not-so-brilliant plot and the occasional lack of proper acting skills (Celentano is better as a singer, but he isn't bad here, particularly when he squares off with Rampling).
More than anything, Yuppi Du is driven by its director's enthusiasm and energy: it's a tribute to the beauty of nature and the endurance of the human race, both of which are exemplified by some whimsically original musical acts. Plus, musicals are a rare breed outside the US: when one has the courage to attempt something similar in Europe, it's hard not to show some sympathy for the achievement.
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