Mario Monicelli: the great father of the Italian comedy who knew how to make laugh, cry and think

Mario Monicelli

The golden years of Italian cinema begin in 1948 with Bicycle Thieves, by Vittorio De Sica – the film most loved by Woody Allen – and end in October 1993, when his great pagan god dies: Federico Fellini.

From now on and until today, as if an immense funeral mantle had fallen on his temple, Cinecittá – and with few exceptions -, none of those thaumaturge was repeated: just a few glimpses …

But the great god had very dignified and no less great vicars.

I choose two: Ettore Scola (We had loved each other so much, Una giornata particolare (¡!!!), Ugly, dirty and bad, The Dance, The Family, Splendor (of final as touching as unforgettable: it starts more than a furtive tear ).

Second vicar – not necessarily in that order -: Mario Monicelli, sixty films as a director, eighty-four scripts, four appearances as an actor!

Teacher of the Commedia all’ítaliana

Mario Monicelli

A sacred monster, undisputed teacher of the Commedia film streaming HD all’ítaliana, Roman, son of a journalist (Tomaso), student of the University of Pisa, but much more street student and unrepentant prankster: many of the hooters trapped of the four protagonists reflected in Amici miei (1975) are pure autobiography.

But among his sixty films you have to open the jewelry box and look for emeralds, diamonds and pearls from the best east. That is what it is: to return to the best cinema of a great, an unrepeatable time that will not return …

In 1977 he writes and directs Un borghese piccolo piccolo. The petty little bourgeois is the immense Alberto Sordi: gray employee, gray character, fearful of everything, until his only son is killed. And there, Monicelli turns that meek comedy into a black story worthy of Stephen King.

Before two of his craziest comedies

I swear: before two of his craziest comedies, L armata Brancaleone and Brancaleone alle crociate (1966 and 1970), I have seen people fall from the armchair, collapsed by almost pathological attacks of laughter. And not least with the immortal I soliti ignoti (The Strangers of Always, 1958), and that phrase of Toto (Dante Cruciani): “As a film, a schifezza.” Or the “Sportivo!” Carlo Pisacane, and a millionaire cast: Vittorio Gassman, Claudia Cardinale, Marcello Mastroianni …

Impossible to avoid The Great War (1959), fierce anti-war satire in which two cowards – Gasman and Sordi – become tragic heroes. (Data for the uninitiated: this film is the version, with comic strokes but the same message, from The Hellish Patrol, by Stanley Kubrick).

But I’m coming to my most beloved port … In 1963, Monicelli writes with Age-Scarpelli, a fetish duo, and directs I compagni (The Companions), held with the best possible cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Annie Girardot, Renato Salvatori, Folco Lulli, Bernard Blier, and a girl: Raffaella Carrá …

Political cinema of clear and bitter message (the painful end), fiction and non-fiction, tells the story of the strike in a textile factory, late 19th century, rise of the Industrial Revolution, with a more than modest objective: that the bosses reduce an hour of the brutal fourteen from Monday to Saturday, with barely half to eat.

The accident is decided by the accident on a loom that costs a hand to its operator, overcome by fatigue. Furious and determined to go on strike, they do so in disarray, without a plan, and without total consensus: ergo, total failure.

Until shortly thereafter, from a train, with no more luggage than a basket and an old-fashioned flush – his only possession -, Professor Sinigaglia comes down. Disoriented, somewhat clumsy, he asks: “Sit down, scusi, what do you think? And one of the striking workers answers:

– A paese di merda!

Sinigaglia is a man alone, poor, transhumant, homeless or barking dog, but he is also a professional agitator who knows how a strike is organized so that it does not end in failure.

Cinema Review November 21, 2019

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