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Colourful comedy with a surreal edge, and Monica Vitti!
There's a wonderful surreal character to Mario Monicelli's comedy La Ragazza con la Pistola (The Girl with a Gun), particularly in his fanciful depiction of the strict moral codes of life in a little Sicilian village which exiles a young woman for spending a night with a man. The remainder of the film as Assunta travels across Scotland and England in an effort to track down the terrified Vincenzo with a pistol in her handbag to restore her lost honour, is somewhat episodic and variable, but retains its colourful character and comic touch. Principally however, it's only able to remain as engaging as it does thanks to the irresistible presence of Monica Vitti.
The spectacular opening scenes are actually filmed not in Sicily, but Polignano in Puglia, the geometric structures of its white buildings perched on a crumbling rocky cliff face that seems to be on the verge of toppling into the sea. It does give the surrealism of life in the village an almost Kafkaesque edge that the director exploits marvellously. Despite strict segregation of the sexes and a tight guard, Assunta is abducted by men from Vincenzo's all-male dancing school. Assunat believes that Vincenzo has been watching her through her window, but Vincenzo tells them they got the wrong girl, that he was more interested in Assunta's larger-sized cousin Concetta. "Could be worse", Vincenzo reckons however, and doesn't see any reason why he should let the operation go to waste.
Vincenzo however gets more than he bargained for, as Assunta seems a little more experienced and not as retiring as he might have liked. Knowing that the potential consequence of spending the night with Assunta is marriage, Vincenzo packs his bags and flees the country. Assunta, abandoned, is greeted with wails and laments from the entire village, who come out in numbers to bemoan her lost honour. She is cast out from the town, but not without a pistol in her bag and an address in Scotland where Vincenzo might be found. The strict codes of Sicilian honour demand nothing less.
Vincenzo soon gets wind of Assunta being on his tail, and skips out of the Capri Italian restaurant in Edinburgh fairly quickly and flees across the length of England. Assunta, an avenging angel dressed in black - particularly fetching in sunglasses and black plastic Mac - is however never far behind, always on his tail. Along the way, Assunta meets various men who fall in love with her and experiences all the colour of England in the swinging sixties as well as the industrial greyness of Sheffield, and even ends up on an anti-Vietnam protest in London. La Ragazza con la Pistola eventually runs out of steam in Brighton, but there are plenty of moments of comedy and glamour along the way.
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