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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

IL SORPASSO / THE EASY LIFE (1962)

Dino Risi’s Italian road movie, a commedia all’italiana classic, earned quick word-of-mouth success, but took decades to gain equally well-deserved critical mass. Perhaps because Risi is so technically gifted when on form, with unerringly ‘right’ shots, an example of the-art-that-hides-art. Especially so when you’re dealing in comedy. (Fellow filmmakers noticed quickly, from EASY RIDER/’69 thru SIDEWAYS/’04 and NEBRASKA/’13, with many stops along the way. Though in filmmaking style & attraction to the painfully funny side of mid-life crises, Risi is closer to Blake Edwards.) Vittorio Gassman is phenomenal as the id-driven hedonist on the verge of out-pacing his looks & luck over a holiday wknd outside Rome. Jean-Louis Trintignant, pale & delicate next to Gassman’s robusto presence, is the emotionally constipated law student picked up as a companion after Gassman borrows his apartment phone. Not in any way a sexual pick-up (or is it?), these two hit the road, hunt up dates, eat a lot of fresh seafood & share awkward visits with relatives. Gassman, alternately exasperating & exciting, compellingly free-spirited & adolescently self-centered (often in a dangerous manner), makes Trintignant feel more alive, more in touch with the world and its possibilities, even with his anger, than he’s ever felt before. All this, brought off by both actors without special pleading for sympathy. Gassman's character, in particular, is often an appalling person, yet you see what draws people in. And few films give so much more on repeat viewing.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Gassman drives a great, if hardly pristine, Lancia Aurelia B24 Sport. Great on its own, but this one comes with a built-in 45rpm record player for those ‘60s ‘pop’ singles. So cool.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: When he’s working in French, Jean-Louis Trintignant is so well spoken he can often be understood by us non-natives.  In Italian . . . not so much.

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