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The genius lost
2 December 2003
`C'era un cinese in coma' is the proof, if one was needed, that Carlo Verdone has lost his way. Verdone is a genius. But a genius lost. After making some of the funniest comedies in Italian cinema history, the Roman movie maker started to stray. His desire to depart the jovial and thoughtless comedies, in favour of more serious and thoughtful movies, was just too strong. He had to disappoint million of fans just to please a few movie critics. Anyway back to the movie. Overall is not too bad. One will laugh at the slapstick bits (I roared with laughter at scene were Verdone and his protégé are robbed by two female thieves) and yawn at the preposterous serious parts. Had the movie been made by an up and coming director, it would have been very nice indeed. But coming from Verdone is yet another major disappointment (after the disastrous `maledetto il giorno che ti ho incontrato and `perdiamoci di vista'). Why does he have to try and explore areas of film making that are so alien to his background? There are scenes of a sexual nature (sex in a Verdone movie!) which clearly are filmed in an embarrassed and clumsy manner. There are scenes of high drama that disastrously made me laugh more than the laughable bits. Beppe Fiorello is wooden to say the least. The young actor has the command of two (!) expressions, happy and unhappy. I understand that Verdone wanted to cash in on the success that Fiorello had had on Italian television just prior to the start of shooting. But a more vigorous direction would have been better for the movie and for the budding actor career. I was very disappointed by this movie and would only recommend it to somebody that has never seen Verdone at his best.
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What a joy!
25 July 2003
Fantozzi is such a lovely little movie. It narrates the antics of a lower class office worked employed by a faceless corporation. Paolo Villaggio used to work for a large international company and experienced the daily little humiliations and frustrations so often present in large offices. He used this experience to write a bitterly satirical book by the same title as the movie. Masked behind the funny stories of Fantozzi, there are the horrible realities of the daily work life of a humble worker. The movie is far less profound than the book. The slap-stick comedy is so good that everything else is forgotten. The attention to detail is impressive and can only be appreciated after a second or third vision of the movie. All the characters are very real and can be found in every day life. A must see for all those people that can see through the layer of basic comedy and find the bitter satire of a pointless life. Everybody else will enjoy the slap-stick bits. It can be considered as the granddad of modern classics such as `The Office'.
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Verdone masterpiece?
21 February 2001
Is this movie Verdone's masterpiece? Many think so. I think the movie is a pivotal point in Carlo Verdone movie making career.Verdone makes a massive effort in trying to blend the character based style of many previous films with a new, more story based, kind. Verdone is tired of the old formula, but at the same time is not ready to make a movie that does not include strong life-like characters. The final result is a mixture of the old character based formula with a more story oriented one.The movie itself is rather good, but don't expect the side splitting scenes that made Verdone an household name. Expect more a sort of "Un sacco bello" meets "Borotalco".The Roman characters are still there, Angelo Finocchiaro the butcher is a master stroke, but so is the sadness of "Un sacco bello".Verdone character is an adult version of "Mimmo" from the early movies. But this time Mimmo has got a girlfriend; this is the bit that makes me think that Verdone is tired of acting the part of the unlucky sweet guy.The artist is torn between the sure and familiar style and a new more interesting one. But the new style is also very dangerous, will the public understand the change of direction? Will it follow the beloved Verdone even if the movies are not so funny anymore?. After this movie the great Roman actor/director/writer was to start making a new breed of movies where the characters are less prominent. Basically Verdone leaves Rome, and all its colorful but sometime heavy characters, for a more "international" background where new and less worn characters can develop. The results are a mixed bag. Some movies are good, some are very bad. But overall the bad ones will outweigh the nice ones. So much so that Verdone went back to the tried and tested character based formula with his latest productions. "Compagni di scuola" deserves to be seen.The movie can amuse almost anyone, but Verdone fans can really see the painful transformation of Verdone old style in the new one. A must see for fans, a good movie for anyone else.
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The beginning of the end
16 February 2001
Verdone started showing the sins of the crisis that was to hit him in later life with this movie.The gags are still there and so are some of the real-life characters (Bracconieri's Enzo is very good indeed). But overall the movie is very poor.Borotalco was out the year before, and that was a very good example(probably the best) of Verdone's ability to portray the Roman way of life on the silver screen, and have people laughing at it.After this movie Verdone was to make some very nice films, but the sparkle was lost forever.Acqua e Sapone is what one may call a "plain" movie.The story is nothing special,the acting is rather bad,the gags old and not very funny.The only good bits are the ones where Verdone and Bracconieri are in the same scene, the interaction between the two Roman actors is explosive.But again these scenes are small and only used as links between the more boring and badly acted love scenes. If one is fond of the Roman dialect then the movie is worth watching for the hilarious antics of Lella Fabrizi, the Montesacro style acting of Fabrizio Bracconieri and , of course, for the funny Verdone bits.But if one is not so amused by the Roman dialect,the movie can be one of the dullest ever.
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A very good example of Italian comedy
16 February 2001
Fracchia la belve umana, not to be confused with the abysmal "Fracchia contro Dracula", is a very good example of Italian comedy. The story line (usually the weakest point in this sort of movies) is somewhat interesting, the acting spot-on and so is the gags' timing.Villaggio is at his best in the dual role of Fracchia/the belva.Fracchia is a toned down Fantozzi, so not such an effort from the man that invented that hilarious character, but the belva is a very different thing.Villaggio manages to portray the belva in a very nasty sort of way.The Genoan actor uses his old stand-up comedy ability (Villaggio used to be very famous in 70's Italian TV for inventing a character called Dr. Franz: a nasty nazi-type of tv presenter that attacks his audience!)to create a very belivable Belva.Then, of course, there is the genius himself, Lino Banfi.Banfi plays the Police inspector that is after the Belva. As usual Banfi is as funny as one can get and his Commissario is the proof,if one was needed, of how this comedy master can make the audience laugh to tears.The scene where the inspector gets his leg pulled (to put it mildly) by a singing waiter,only to reveal his Police badge and get his own back from the rude servant, is side splitting. The movie is funny, entertaining, even bitter in the nasty ending.A sure fire hit with any fan of classic Italian comedy
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Side splitting, masterful, Monicelli comedy
13 February 2001
Once somebody asked Robert De Niro who was the actor that inspired him the most. The legendary actor's answer was "Alberto Sordi".The same somebody asked the same question to Jain Maria Volonte'.The answer was ,You have guessed it,the same. The Roman actor is surely the greatest Italy ever produced, and this movie is the perfect example of the power and purity of Sordi's acting. The Marchese antics are well known in Rome,told in endless jokes and stories.Monicelli takes all these stories and makes a fusion in order to create the perfect screenplay.The only thing one could not like about the story is the fact that the Marchese character is so large that almost all the others are left to play in the background.But again the Marchese was indeed larger that life! The only actor that could play the main role had to be Sordi.No one could have portrayed the Marchese so well.And no one could have played two characters so well.Because one must not forget Gasperio er carbonaro. The red neck carbon dealer is even funnier than the Marchese.Sordi shows what acting is all about when wearing the dirty clothes of the drunken Gasperino.The scene where Gasperino is woken by the Marchese trusty butler has to be one of the funniest ever. Overall the movie is a classic.If one is a fan of Italian comedy,this movie is a must see.If one also loves Sordi,then the movie is indeed a gem.
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Borotalco (1982)
Carlo Verdone purest comedy
7 February 2001
Borotalco is the purest example of what Carlo Verdone used to be all about. The mid-life crisis that was to hit the great Roman actor/director, resulting in such movies as "Maledetto il giorno che ti ho incontrato",was still in the distant future.Back then Verdone was still capable of portraying the incredible characters that made him a legend.Angelo Infanti's Manuel Fantoni is alone worth the bother of finding this movie.Mario Brega(of Sergio Leone fame)is at his prime in the role of the ultra-Roman shopkeeper.The movie is a very good comedy that is a must for all Verdone fans.
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Banfi's acting career pinnacle.
4 February 2001
Lino Banfi reached the pinnacle of his acting career,as a comedian,in this robust comedy. The movie is very enjoyable from the very start.One of the film assets is Franco Bracardi.This often forgotten comedy genius is the perfect sidekick for Banfi; a perfect example of this special relationship is the scene where Bracardi mimes to Banfi, and the Apulian actor has to act in front of Bracardi's character wife.Overall a very good comedy that is up there with the likes of "Febbre da cavallo" and "Fracchia la belva umana".
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the pinnacle of Italian comedy
5 January 2001
Febbre da cavallo is THE pinnacle of Italian comedy. Never before, nor after, there was a movie of such power . The casting, the storyboard, the masterful direction of that genius that was Steno, all make the movie a true milestone in the history of Italian comedies. A must-see for all the self respecting fan of Italian cinema.
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