A businessman from the United States returns to Italy for the first time in four decades, only to discover that old friends have involved him in a massive hoax.A businessman from the United States returns to Italy for the first time in four decades, only to discover that old friends have involved him in a massive hoax.A businessman from the United States returns to Italy for the first time in four decades, only to discover that old friends have involved him in a massive hoax.
In Antonio, Mastroianni reveals a man of integrity, caring, love and a sense of what makes us all human. Juxtaposed in Robert, Lemmon initially shows us a tired, bitter and disconnected man who no longer sees the real beauty in life. One cannot find two more opposite men at their respective stages in life. But it is here that the audience enters into their world or re-discovery.
As always, Jack Lemmon inhabits the soul of his character (Robert) while portraying the angst felt by a man in deep internal turmoil. But being the great actor Lemmon always displayed, he does not leave us with this one dimensional view of Robert. Rather Lemmon takes us, as the film progresses, on a journey into his re-discovery of a time in his life when happiness was real, taken for granted and lost. And in that realization, Lemmon gives us the real bitterness of his character. Having once loved Antonio's sister during his days in the Army while stationed in Italy, Robert knew, perhaps for the only time in his life, real joy and kinship with others.
Mastroianni gives a masterful performance of a dedicated bank employee who while he is not rich monetarily is rich in the knowledge of the love and respect he enjoys from family and friends. When Robert returns to Italy on a business trip in the present day, Antonio becomes overjoyed with the thought of rekindling the friendship he once shared with Robert. Mastroianni plays, with youthful enthusiasm, his excitement in seeing his 'old friend' Robert again. Antonio, in his simple way, has never lost sight of the true wealth of life. It is in this simplicity that Robert finds, at first, exasperation and then regret.
But watching these two masters of cinema go to work with their characters is liking watching a sculptor taking a lump of stone and turning it into a recognizable form. Lemmon and Mastroianni take the basis of their characters and give a master class in blending the two diverse characters. It is in this blending that both Antonio and Robert learn the real lesson in life - people's lives may change but their core does not. In the end, Antonio is aided by Robert who understands the importance of taking swift action to save Antonio's son who has gotten involved with some unsavory characters. Antonio comes to realize that his friend never stopped caring for him, he was just side tracked by his life in America. For Robert, he has once again felt that exhilaration that we can all know if we allow ourselves. And that is the exhilaration of unconditional, ever present love by friends and family which is the basis of all human relationships.
The final scene of the film is very fitting as we see Robert and Antonio's family sitting at the family dinner table being served pasta. The two staples of life are joined here just as Robert and Antonio were once again.
- Feb 8, 2006