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Saturday, November 5, 2011


KINO/Lorber’s much-appreciated DVD upgrade restores Vittorio De Sica’s tri-part comedy to its gorgeous, sexy, hilarious self. The tour of Italy starts in Naples where poor women can only keep out of jail by staying pregnant. But even when your wife is Sophia Loren, seven squalling kids are enough to make Marcello Mastroianni too pooped to pop. Then we’re off to Milan where a chic Sophia tries to drive away ennui with a new Rolls-Royce & a new romantic prospect. But can Marcello’s bookish intellectual handle a luxury car & a luxury woman? Now, to Rome where Marcello’s businessman is stopping in town to pay a few bribes and spend some quality time with his favorite call-girl. Guess who. But there’s a distraction on the neighboring terrace, a young seminary student who’s thinking of ditching God for Sophia. (There’s a difference?) De Sica’s broad comic tone is wonderfully assured here, combining smooth film technique with warm-hearted perfs from his irreplaceable stars. It’s not only that he gets the details right, he makes them specific, The film is a tourist's dream, but not a tourist’s trap. A big difference. It’s often forgotten (and bizarrely held against him by film academic types) that De Sica, the great Neo-Realist humanist, was also one film’s greatest entertainers. Working beautifully with Giuseppe Rotunno on magnificent locations (and cunningly matched studio interiors, what editing!), he generates huge laughs just on the camera set ups. The middle segment, an adagio between allegros, is a bit thin, Antonioni & Visconti appear to be the targets, but it shares in the remarkable use of space & composition. Five decades on, the film remains the most civilized of racy entertainments imaginable.

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