In Shakespeare's classic play, the Montagues and Capulets, two families of Renaissance Italy, have hated each other for years, but the son of one family and the daughter of the other fall desperately in love and secretly marry.
Beppe Agosti (Mario Angelotti), a cunning yet naive young man from Florence, is sent to Sicily when drafted in the army. There he falls for one of his comrades' fiancée, the dark and stern Maria Antonia (Elena Varzi), and seduces her to eventually marry her. Some weeks later, during a short stay in Milan, Beppe meets the fair and hearty Lucia (Irene Gemma). He soon proposes her... This is how Beppe learns (a little bit too late, perhaps) that the penalty for bigamy is to deal with two wives. Not a very wise move, especially when the two wives live at the two opposite ends of Italy...
Castellani's first film, "Un colpo di pistola" ("A Pistol Shot"), was released in 1942; but it was only after World War II that he made the trilogy of the poor people and young love for which he is best remembered: "Sotto il sole di Roma" ("Under the Sun of Rome") (1948), "È primavera" (a.k.a "It's Forever Springtime" or "Springtime in Italy") (1950), and his most successful work, "Due soldi di speranza" ("Two Cents Worth of Hope") (1952). While "Under the Sun of Rome" and "Two Cents Worth of Hope" got both awards in prestigious international film festivals (Venice and Cannes), "È primavera" did not get the same attention. No wonder why: in spite of a script co-written by Suso Cecchi d'Amico and Cesare Zavattini (who were frequently associated with Visconti and De Sica), this potentially promising work fizzles out towards the end, as if the screenwriters and director didn't know what to do with all their ideas. Performed by non-professional actors, and shot on location from one end of the Italian peninsula to the other, the film follows the steps of Rossellini and De Sica, but in a much lighter way for "È primavera" has indeed more in common with the Italian-style comedies of the 50s than with "Bicycles Thieves" or "Paisa". Castellani's taste for farcical plots and happy endings have led critics to brand him as a "pink neorealist". The burning questions of that time (the opposition between the industrial North and underdeveloped Mezzogiorno, unemployment, Christian ethics vs. modern society...) are cloaked in humor and an optimism that official Italy found probably reassuring after the bleak view exported by the above-mentioned masterpieces. Mario Angelotti is a true natural for portraying Beppe; the rest of the cast is maybe less convincing. It is really a shame that the ending of the film is a little bit of a mess, because Castellani had obviously some skills -- but not enough to match the great masters of neorealism or Italian comedy. Therefore "È primavera" is nothing more than a nice old-fashioned little film, the type you enjoy if you are in the right mood but forget very quickly.
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