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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

DOV’E LA LIBERTA . . . ? / WHERE IS FREEDOM? (1952)

For a director with the intellectual rigor of Roberto Rossellini, only a comedy with serious undertones could be worthy of interest. Thus, DOV’E, the story of a paroled prisoner who finds life on the outside more confining, more dangerous, lonelier and more untenable then the certain comforts of life in the Big House. In fact, he's trying to break back in! There’s little wrong with this set up, and the great Italian comedian Totó brings his sad-faced resignation to the role. But Rossellini seems to think that this basic idea is all the work he need do. With an idea so deep, so original, so trenchant, why complicate things with inventive comic ideas? Could he possibly have been unaware of how shopworn the bare ideas were, that Chaplin was pulling variations on this theme as far back as the ‘teens, with particularly brilliant results in THE PILGRIM/‘23? You need only go back a single year to find Totó working much the same terrain to far greater effect in Mario Monicelli’s deliciously funny COPS AND ROBBERS/GUARDIE E LADRI/’51. There’s a scene in that film, where Totó & comic actor Fabrizi chase each other on foot to the point of slo-mo, middle-aged exhaustion that has more humor & wisdom then you’ll find in this entire film. Yet, there are dozens of monographs on Rossellini, while I have yet to read a serious appraisal or appreciation of GUARDIE & LADRI.

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