Lo scopone scientifico (1972) Poster

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The Last Of Bette
arichmondfwc21 December 2004
It was Bette Davis last great film and in the States we don't even know it exists. I think it was released in secrecy under the title "The Scientific card-player" and if I'm not wrong dubbed in English, I wonder who was the marketing genius behind that move. The film is a tragicomic gem. Bette Davis speaks a few words in English and the very few words in Italian she utters where dubbed but, I swear to you I thought it was her. The work of the dubber is astonishing. Totally seamless. I hear she didn't get along with Alberto Sordi, what a surprise. She referred to him as "Mr. Sordid". But beyond those little trivia things, let me tell you, it's a wonderful film. Alberto Sordi, one of the greatest but practically unknown in the States, gives a sensational performance. A brutally comic, full of pathos tour de force. Silvana Mangano playing an under proletarian is a delight and Joseph Cotten is Joseph Cotten in the loveliest possible way. I haven't mention what the film is about and I'm not going to. I couldn't do it justice. Try to find it somewhere. You'll thank me, but don't bother, the pleasure was all mine.
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A Brilliant Dark Fairy Tale
albertodr071 December 2007
Fairy tales are usually dark but very rarely are this human or that funny for that matter. Bette Davis plays a wealthy American with an addiction to card playing and to winning. She has become an expert on the local card games of different countries around the world where she owns houses. Bound to a wheel chair, the card games are her only close connection with the world of the living. In Rome, the card game is called "scopone" and she summons a married couple to be her adversaries. The couple, a magnificent Alberto Sordi and an unrecognizable Silvana Mangano, are the poorest of the poor, with a family of five children. As soon as Bette arrives to Rome, she calls them and gives them one million lire to play with. Sistematically, every year she will win the million back. Sordi and Mangano spend the rest of the year practicing, dreaming that one day they will win. The building up to the climax is one of the most painfully funny things I've ever seen. Pathetic and uplifting at the same time. Bette Davis is superb as the capitalist torturer/benefactor with a great Alberto Sordi at her side. Try not to miss it.
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Brilliant, but only if you speak Italian
claudette-crivelli11 March 2007
Horror! The DVD is released without English subtitles. I've been talking about this superb Italian blackish comedy ever since I saw it for the first time. I was puzzled by the fact that such a beautifully made film, brilliantly written and with a cast that includes Bette Davis, Alberto Sordi, Joseph Cotten and Silvana Mangano wasn't some kind of "cult" classic in the States. It isn't because nobody knows about the existence of this jewel. Now, on DVD I hurried to buy as many copies I could find. What a great present for all those folks in the good old USA that have heard me talk about it and imitate Bette Davis saying "I want to play cards" in her death bed. Imagine my shock when I opened the DVDs to find out they didn't include subtitles. I was livid! I rushed back to the shop to return them. The shop manager, in typical Italian style, shrugged his shoulders like saying "What can I do about it" I'm really disappointed by whoever perpetrated this moronic release without any, if nothing else, commercial sense.
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A modern fable.
dbdumonteil4 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers
The cast for this fable is fabulous:two great American actors ,Joseph Cotten and Bette Davis,two great Italian ones:Alberto Sordi and Silvana Mangano. Pepino and Antonia ,two Italian proles are waiting,every summer,for "the old lady",a wealthy and disabled American in order to fleece her.How? By playing cards with her in a game called "lo scopino scientifico= the scientific broom sweep" We 'll never know the name of "the old lady".They always refer to her like that.In fact ,she epitomizes capitalism.Bette Davis is wonderful and sadistically smiling all the way.Always with him,an old beau(her former lover?)whom she enjoys humiliating(brilliant Cotten). Against the Money Goddess,two miserable wops,(pitiful Sordi and authoritarian Mangano) always short of the readies,to whom the old one is always compelled to lend some dough to begin a game. And a game that will be the funniest ever filmed:the Italians begin to win,they win more,more and more and they want to call it a day?But the old woman is not prepared to accept it.She wants to play more,even after a heart attack!There's the rub:the money game is allowed to these who can go on and on indefinitely.That's Pepino and Antonia's downfall.They lose everything. As always in Luigi Comencini's movies,children are wiser than their parents.Cleopatra ,Pépino's elder daughter realizes that it's a foolish game,what can do two proles against the most powerful bank ?You've got to refuse such a game and start a realist fight.As far the Old Lady is concerned,Cleopatra will opt for the final solution,and,maybe ,her parents will come back to solidarity with their fellows. This is a must-see.This is a comedy of the first order,sometimes verging on tragedy ,Luigi Comencini equals Billy Wilder here,that means a lot!
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A Magic Potion of a Very Powerful Kind
albertoveronese14 December 2011
A masterpiece from Luigi Comencini. Another masterpiece of an unrestrained cinema that was (for a very long time) inspired and remarkable; Full, alike life... alike a work of art. Luigi Comencini's 'Lo Scopone Scientifico' is entertaining, funny, touching but also sharp, intelligent and intensely sad; it reflects the conditions of many of us: defeat, ignorance and inequality. It's a radiography on how persistent poverty creates a self-perpetuating cycle within the impoverished classes. It speaks of today's democratic societies! Check it out! You'll be amazed how much (today!) you can read out of this movie...Do you know what happens at this very exact time in our history? I'll say it again, check it out, watch this film, you'll know it. Wake up Folks!
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1970s: Italian cinema at its best!
cezy_ur12 March 2011
Rome, 1970s. While a few benefit from the wealth of the modern world, many live in misery. Peppino, his wife Antonia and their five children live in a shanty town, populated by all sorts of tramps, pimps and prostitutes, plus a "professor" in disgrace who lectures everyone on the importance of reading and the beauty of Marxism. Every year a millionairess turns up to play cards with Peppino and Antonia, and every year they hope to win enough money to change their lives, not that they would need much, as they have nothing! The villa in which the old woman (la vecchia) lives is stunning, surrounded by the most beautiful roman trees, in stark contradiction with the grey poverty surrounding Peppino's family. The underlying theme of the film is class struggle and how the rich keep teasing the poor with the promise of a better future which never comes. But Comencini is not as bitter as his contemporaries (Monicelli, Petri etc): he celebrates love and humanity, something the old millionaire will never own. Needless to say, the performances are formidable.
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picture of ordinary cold world
Vincentiu17 February 2013
nice, sad, predictable. gray, salted, seductive. a great cast. an ordinary story. crumbs from Visit of Old lady. and scene for extraordinary performance. a film about laws of poverty and people as toys. about power, cruelty and different worlds. about a game as root of so many feelings, emotions, hopes. and about the cold death of dreams. it can be a parable. or slice from reality. in fact, it is itself. a picture of a place. few characters. Bette Davis , Silvana Mangano , Joseph Cotten and irresistible Alberto Sordi around a table, playing cards. so, a meeting. a rite. shadow of life ashes. and strange image about your world. because it can be, in many senses, a manifesto. not about sins or fall, but about borders of gestures. cold, nice, seductive, bitter. a source of reflection. and testimony about a way without end.
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Delightful respinning of 'Sunset Boulevard'
laursene29 May 2006
One of the previous respondents compares Commencini's work on this film to Billy Wilder, and I can't agree more. In fact, this yarn reworks Sunset Boulevard into a full-bodied Italian comedy about how the tyrannical rich use their money to string along the poor and humble.

Remember, there was a card game in Wilder's film too! Here, Bette Davis, as poised, professional, and grandly self-assured as ever, is the Norma Desmond character. She's shrewd, not crazy, but she's got everyone twisting their lives out of shape to humor her in much the same way. Joseph Cotten is the Max von Mayerling character - the artist who threw away a brilliant career to serve this imperious creature. The twist is that Commencini replaces William Holden's wry screenwriter, Joe Gillis, with Alberto Sordi and Silvana Mangano as the poor couple who've unwittingly staked their lives on whatever they can get from the old lady. Ultimately, of course, it's not just them, but their entire neighborhood who Davis is leading on her merry chase -strictly for her own amusement. The twist at the end is just as perfect, in its own, thoroughly Italian way, as the finale of Wilder's film.

Absolutely delightful - especially the wonderful body (and facial) language of all four principals at the cardtable. They could have kept it up twice as long and it would have been just as amusing. Four expert screen actors, directed to perfection.

Can the bizzers-in-charge PLEASE find a decent print of this and DVD it right away?
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Italian black comedy
skulli9910 November 2001
Another of those Alberto Sordi black comedy's which reveals his acting excellence ! As usual it always the poor,humble and(too) honest Italian trying to get rich the easy way,(to satisfy more his wife's ambitions than his own) but his efforts has disastrous consequences !! As the previous commentator wrote, it is the usual fable of the little Italian who 'dares' to challenge the high and mighty, but ultimately fails miserably.....the moral being everyone must remain to their stations, if you're born poor don't reckon you can fight the rich and get away with it !A typical Italian way thinking especially in the 1950's and 60's. The quality of this film is only further confirmed by the presence of such high calibre Anglo-American artists as Bette Davis and Joseph Cotton.Surely they would never play in a rubbish European film ! European films (as all U.S. actors know) pay poorly , bur often offer great roles....surely good for their future careers ! A great film....but best appreciated if you are familiar with South European more's and culture.A 8 vote from me.
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revenge against the system
mjneu592 December 2010
Poverty and wealth confront each other over a (not very) friendly game of cards in this often nerve-wracking black social comedy. From her luxurious Italian villa overlooking the ghettos of Rome, a rich, miserly American widow extends her annual invitation to a poor young local couple for an evening of Scopone, the regional variant of bridge. Every year it's the same story: the old widow lends them money before ruthlessly winning it back, building their anticipation and then dashing their hopes for victory and a quick fortune. But this year the desperate Italian couple has been practicing their strategy, unaware that their pragmatic young daughter has been doing likewise, with different motives and with chilling consequences. The casting of Hollywood veterans Bette Davis and Joseph Cotton is relatively meaningless since their voices have been (poorly) dubbed into Italian, but the film is both sharp and lively, and the climactic showdown at the card table generates surprising intensity, too much to be simply funny.
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bitter comedy
Kirpianuscus16 July 2016
Bette Davis. and Alberto Sordi. Silvana Mangano . and James Coltrane. and a game with profound implications. one of films who impress first for the cast. than, for the Italian art of bitter comedy. so, an adventure. about dream to become rich. than, for the a character who could not have better interpreter except Bette Davis. because her presence , her voice, her gestures are the pieces who transforms a comedy in a social manifesto. the old economic difference North - South, the different perception about important thing, the fears of each - so different but, in fact, the same. Silvana Mangano as the Meridional wife who leads the house, who impose new step to his husband, making plans and imposing rules. the final is the most inspired solution to a crisis who is only reflection of so many dreams.
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You get the Bette Davis eyes, but not that voice.
mark.waltz9 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Dubbing Bette Davis in Italian with another woman is like watching "The Wizard of Oz" in Spanish and hearing somebody else's voice other than Judy Garland singing "Over the Rainbow". (Fortunately, the Spanish version of the MGM classic did not dub the songs.) But for Bette, that clipped speech which accentuated her mannerisms, that missing voice is like missing half of her performance. She's a wealthy American industrialist who, now wheelchair bound, travels the world, and when visiting Italy has regularly night card games with two local experts, poor natives learning everything they can in order to win all they can from her (whom they continuously refer to as "the old one") to improve their situation.

Other than Davis, this is interesting only for a look at the lives of peasants in Italy as well as many location shoots. A great deal of the time deals with their family situation, showing the children making flowers for funerals and all the struggles the parents must go through. Joseph Cotten, appearing with Davis for the third time, plays her partner, yet is greatly wasted. The art direction of Davis's estate is lavish and colorful, and Davis seems to have intentionally made herself look like the old Mrs. Skeffington, in color and with garish blue eye shadow.

This is an interesting footnote in Davis's career, coming around the time when her theatrical films were either outrageous camp ("The Anniversary"), barely released ("Bunny O'Hare"), not released in main U.S. markets ("Connecting Rooms") or not seen in the U.S. at all (this one). No wonder she turned to TV guest appearances, talk shows and movies of the week to keep herself active. Yet she's hardly a shell of herself, and her drive would keep her going for nearly another two decades. If you are interested in the subject matter of cards, this will interest you, otherwise it is pretty difficult to get into.
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