Italy’s Alberto Sordi directs himself in this commercial comedy meant largely for local consumption. And it’s just that provincial outlook that gives this minor dramedy both its modest interest and its cultural limitations. Sordi, rich & happily married to Monica Vitti, is shocked to hear her confess to loving another man. It’s a secret; even from the handsome guy she’s fallen for, but still throws Sordi’s rational, modern husband for a loop. A real love affair might burn itself out, but undeclared passion is a shadow forever. Someone’s got to tell the third party. Even if it has to be Sordi! A fine set-up for marital discord, and Sordi & Vitti (showing unexpected physical comedy chops) are swell, but the film feels uncomfortable in all the wrong ways. Not so much in its sticky situations, but in its making. Sordi, even with Carlo Di Palma lensing, tends to work too close, with angles that won’t cut. Worse, after his big (non)confrontation with the (non)lover, a darkening tone (slaps & beatings for wife & son, a downbeat ending) feels dramatically unsupported. Still, not without interest, thematically and as evidence of declining standards in late-‘60s commercial Italian cinema.
DOUBLE-BILL: Stateside baby-boomers may recall Sordi from THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES/’/’65. Get to know him properly in classic Fellini I VITELLONI/’53 or classic Lattuada MAFIOSO/’62.