Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Pizza with Marcello, Monica, & Romy

A Marcello double-bill: Italian comedy with Monica and a ghost story with Romy ..

THE PIZZA TRIANGLE or JEALOUSY, ITALIAN STYLE or GRAMMA DELLA GELOSIA was a surprise hit in 1970 - Pauline Kael gave it a rave review too, but it had vanished without trace until recently. I should have been watching a new sub-titled disk but it has gone astray in the post (a replacement is on its way), so I am remembering it from back then. It shows Marcello Mastroianni and Monica Vitti as gifted farceurs as this trio of working class lovers clash, the third point of the triangle being Giancarlo Giannini. The prolific Ettore Scola, still writing and directing now, and who also directed Marcello and Sophia's hit A SPECIAL DAY in 1977, and Marcello as Casanova in THAT NIGHT IN VARENNES, fashions a hilarious tragedy as our bricklayer Marcello falls for flower-seller Monica, who then falls for pizza chef Giancarlo. Cue endless farce as they love, fight, bicker, and end up injured in hospital.
As IMDB puts it: An engrossing farce about a love triangle in modern Rome. Bricklayer Marcello Mastroianni meets flower-seller Monica Vitti at a political demonstration. He decides to ditch his fat, older wife for her. All goes well until a pizza, in the shape of a heart, arrives. It is sent to the girl by a young pizza-chef, played by Giancarlo Giannini. The pizza man becomes Vitti's lover, and poor Marcello goes mad with jealousy and attempts suicide, as do each of the other two at some point in this hysterical soap opera. The three lead performers, among the best that the Italian cinema has ever had to offer, are magnificent, as is the direction and comic timing by Ettore Scola creating a tragedy and comedy with political overtones and social satire.
Vitti and Marcello had not been this good in years (they were co-stars in Antonioni's LA NOTTE in 1961). Giancarlo Giannini of course went on to those towering performances in Wertmuller's SEVEN BEAUTIES, Oscar-nominated in 1975, and that chilly lead in Visconti's last, L'INNOCENTE in 1976 (both reviewed at Giancarlo  Giannini label), and again is still working now. 

A decade later, in 1981, we see an older Marcello with an older Romy Schneider - a year before her death (aged 43 in 1982). This for some reason, despite its two European stars, never played in London as I would have wanted to see it. It was only in Italian but I have now sourced a sub-titled print, 
I don't usually go for ghost stories, but this turned out to be a totally absorbing drama, with supernatural tones, which kept the interest, It is set in Pavia, a gloomy city as shown here, as Marcello's accountant catches the bus for a change, and an ill-looking, shabby woman boards the bus and does not have the fare, so he gives her a 100 lire coin. She thanks him and runs away and seems to know him. Then she rings him at home, where he and his wife lead separate lives. He did not recognise her, the woman on the bus, as she had changed so much due to illness, but she is Anna, his long lost love who has come back. He is astonished but agrees to meet her. 
She is now looking like her usual attractive self .... it turns out though she is married. Then he is told by a doctor friend that she died 3 years ago, which he cannot believe. They meet again and go out on the river in a boat, but she falls over and drowns .... there is also a mysterious murder where a man who abused Anna kills his aunt. It turns out Anna is unrepentant about that (before she falls into the river) .... then a body turns up, but it is not Anna but the man who abused her and who killed his aunt, who was also unpleasant to Anna. Is she a vengeful ghost bent on revenge? He has to find out and goes to see her husband, who also confirms that Anna died 3 years ago. Her aged servant also takes him to where she is buried ..... So what is the real truth.  The aged ill Anna turns up again on the bus - she keeps being drawn back to him as he keeps remembering her, and what does that odd priest know about it all. They have to part one more time ...... 
Ok, it is a ghost story, one can accept that. But what does one make of the final scene, where he returns to a large house (which may be a hospital or asylum) and the nurse in white uniform coming towards him is Romy/Anna too and she smiles as she leads him back in. It is all the ravings of a lunatic? or has he simply gone mad from it all? We have to make up our own mind .... Its an endlessly fascinating puzzle well directed by Risi, and made bearable by the stars, Marcello is fine as usual; Romy transcends the material and is a fascinating presence. They are a perfect team too, like Marcello with all the others: Sophia, Anouk, Gina, Anita, Monica, Silvana, Faye, Catherine, Brigitte, Belinda, Claudia etc. 

In due course, more Marcello rarities: with Silvana Mangano (DARK EYES, her last, in 1989) and maybe two dreadful ones, long unseen here: A FINE ROMANCE with Julie Andrews, and USED PEOPLE with Shirley McLaine, both from 1992. There is also something called MACARONI, another late '80s Marcello comedy also by Scola, with Jack Lemmon in crabby, annoying mode as an American in Naples (shades of AVANTI ?) ....I will have to resist that.
More Romy coming up too, and Catherine Deneuve.

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