Tag Archives: marcello mastroianni

The Sunday Woman (1975)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Murdered by phallic object.

Based on the novel of the same name by Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini, the story centers on the investigation of the murder of Mr. Garrone (Claudio Gora). Garrone is found bludgeoned to death inside his apartment by a giant penis statue. Garrone was a well known architect and a lecherous ladies man who couldn’t help but make unseemly passes at every woman he came by. Commissioner Santamaria (Marcello Mastroianni) is put in charge of the case, which has many suspects. Two of the biggest ones are Anna Carla (Jacqueline Bisset) and her platonic male friend Massimo (Jean-Louis Trintignant). Anna had written a note, found by her hired help the next day, stating her desire to ‘eliminate’ Garrone. Anna, who’s quite wealthy, insists that it was all a innocent misunderstanding and Massimo backs her up, but Massimo, who has an alibi, is reluctant to divulge it because it would require him to admit that he’s gay and at Lello (Aldo Reggiani) his lovers’ house. Santamaria begins looking into other potential suspects as does Lello who wishes to get his boyfriend cleared, but the deeper Santamaria gets into the case the more he connects with Anna and despite their age difference they begin to have a romantic relationship all while she remains at the top of his suspect list.

The film, on the technical end, is well done. Director Luigi Comencini nicely captures the visual beauty of the Italian landscape and the posh older homes of Turin a city in northwest Italy where it was filmed. The soundtrack by Ennio Morricone has a nice bounce that keeps the film moving along even while not a lot is happening. There’s an array of suspects and enough red herrings to keep it intriguing and impossible to guess who’s the true culprit.

The story has its share of offbeat moments though it’s disappointing that the funniest character, Garrone, ends up getting killed as he was amusingly sleazy enough to have kept things consistently comical. While the death by giant penis statue, if memory serves me correctly, had already been used in A Clockwork Orange, it’s still a novel idea and it’s funny how Santamaria visualizes each suspect he meets bashing Garrone over the head with it as he interviews them. Traveling to the shop where the statues are made and being surrounded with hundreds of them is certainly good for a chuckle, but outside of this there wasn’t all that much that stood out, or made this any better than any other murder mystery. The ingredients are good enough to keep sufficient interest, but nothing the makes it really memorable.

I was most disappointed that Bisset wasn’t in it more. She’s fabulous, as she is in most of her movies, and though I suspect that her voice, where she speaks fluent Italian, is dubbed, I still felt she gives a spectacular performance. Mastroianni on the other hand looks tired and worn-out and like his peak years of being a international sex symbol had passed. Yet when he’s together with Bisset it clicks and Jacqueline’s superior acting camouflages their extreme age difference making them seem more like a perfect couple than it should. The two should’ve investigated the case together and become a team, as every second Bisset is not seen it flatlines. Had the two shared the screen this might’ve been special, but ultimately it misses-the-mark and never fully gels.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 16, 1975

Runtime: 1 Hour 45 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Luigi Comencini

Studio: Fox-Lira

Available: DVD-R (dvdlady.com) (Italian w/English subtitles), Amazon Video (English subtitles)

Ginger and Fred (1986)

ginger and fred

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Aging dance partners reunite.

Amelia (Giulietta Masina) and Pippo (Marcello Mastroianni) are two aging dance partners who haven’t worked together for years. They are asked to reunite for a TV-show special and do a famous Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers routine, but things have changed in their many years apart and the situation becomes more awkward than they imagined.

This is a genuinely amusing satire on television and celebrity status with Mastroisanni being absolutely engaging in every scene that he is in. Masina, who was director Federico Fellini’s wife in real-life, also gives a good performance and together they make a real fun team. The final dance sequence is terrific and the film manages to really come together at that point. The film is also sprinkled with some funny satirical snippets with the best ones including goofy billboards and a woman wearing edible panties.

On the negative end I found the techno music score to be overplayed and it becomes irritating especially at the beginning.  The film is also about a half-hour too long and it takes almost thirty minutes for Mastroianni’s character to even appear.

Overall I found the film to be enjoyable and mainly because the two leads are old pros who know how to work their magic although this is definitely not one of Fellini’s best films and at times it seems like he is just coasting.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: January 13, 1986

Runtime: 2Hours 5Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Frederico Fellini

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

La Grande Bouffe (1973)

la grande bouffe 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: They stuff their faces.

This film will start an annual Thanksgiving Day theme of reviewing movies that have something to do with food and eating. This one may be the most notorious of them all and despite its offbeat plot and crude scenes won the Cannes Film Festival’s International Critics award as well as attaining a large cult following and be one of the highest grossing movies in the history of Italian cinema.

The story deals with four middle-aged men (Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, Philippe Noiret, Michel Piccoli) who despite attaining affluence and wealth are bored with life and decide their only recourse is to get together for a weekend and commit group suicide by eating themselves to death.

At first the movie will make you hungry.  After an initial set-up the characters can be seen eating in just about every shot. The variety of foods and menu that is served is almost mouth-watering and features a wide array of exquisite dishes seen only in the most fanciest of restaurants. However, after visually seeing these people overeat I felt myself feeling as bloated as the characters and almost sick. The film also gets quite gross with several segments featuring loud sounds of flatulence and a scene where the toilet bursts and covers the men and room with feces that even drips down and gets into the kitchen.

Some may find this ‘hilarious’ while others will think it’s disgusting. For me despite the moments of over-the-top crudeness the strongest scene may actually be when the characters start dying and their dead bodies are carried into a freezer while the rest of them continue to make food and stuff their mouths like it is a compulsion.

la grande bouffe 2

The four leads are old pros who couldn’t give a bad performance if they tried. I started to wonder though how they could eat so much and whether the scenes were all done in one take with no retake as eventually I think they would all start puking. Mastroianni’s death scene is a stand-out simply because it manages to keep his expression completely frozen and does not manage to blink for several minutes, which I found impressive. Tognazzi’s death moment is also fun although it’s Andrea Ferreol who starts out as a proper school teacher, but ends up becoming as decadent and hedonistic as all the men combined that steals it.

The film makes a strong if not impactful statement about gluttony and how a life of prestige and luxury may actually be more of a trap and curse. The more some people get of it the more they want until it is never enough and death may end up being their only true source of salvation and escape.

The idea is outrageous and clever and I loved the concept, but the execution is lacking. The direction is too loose with scenes going on longer than they should. Some tighter editing would have helped the pace and momentum.  I also don’t think it is possible for a person to stuff themselves with food and then die as I think instead they would just vomit it all out.

la grande bouffe 3

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 17, 1973

Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes

Rated NC-17

Director: Marco Ferreri

Studio: Films 66

Available: VHS, DVD

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Gotta love Sophia Loren.

This is a delightful comedy that won the Academy Award in 1964 for best foreign film. It consists of 3 vignettes all starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni and directed by the legendary Vittorio De Sica.

The first segment is entitled ‘Adelina’ and is a story about Adelina (Loren) who lives in poverty and sells cigarettes for a living. She is arrested for selling contraband products, but is released when it is found that she is expecting with the condition that six months after she delivers the baby she will be forced to serve her sentence. However, Adelina and her husband Carmine (Mastroianni) decide that the best way to avoid the sentence altogether is by keeping her continuously pregnant. Once she delivers one child she immediately gets pregnant with another, which creates overcrowding as well as an exhausted Carmine.

This segment is original and amusing throughout. Watching them trying to handle and maintain a household with such a large brood has its share of funny moments including one scene where Adelina tries to give one of her petulant children his medication. This setting vividly shows the poor side of Italian society, but unlike De Sica’s neo-realist films of the 40’s this one has a very engaging and even upbeat quality to it. The impoverished townsfolk become like a third character and their resiliency and support of one another proves to be a major plus to the story. Loren is fantastic in every scene she is in and makes this one special. Mastroianni is interesting playing against type as he is usually debonair and sophisticated, but here is simple and dominated.

The second story entitled ‘Anna’ deals with characters on the completely opposite end of the economic spectrum. Anna (Loren) is a spoiled rich woman who in an effort to alleviate her boredom with her husband who spends too much time working she has an affair with Renzo (Mastroianni). Renzo though fears that he is being used and that Anna has no intention of ever leaving her luxurious lifestyle to be with him.

All of the action takes place in a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III convertible as the two characters discuss their relationship while driving through the streets of Rome. This story is not as lively as the first and the characters aren’t as likable. However, the part where Renzo has an accident with the car and Anna’s reaction to it is quite funny.

The third and final act is entitled ‘Mara’ and deals with a prostitute named Mara (Loren) who becomes interested in Umberto (Gianni Ridolfi) a young man living next door with his Grandmother (Tina Pica) and studying to become a priest. The grandmother does not approve of Mara’s ‘profession’ and openly shuns her causing a major discord between the two, but when Umberto decide to drop out of the seminary the two work together to try and bring him back to his senses.

This story, like the first, has many amusing moments. Loren shows impeccable comic ability. I loved how the character goes from sexy seductress to a woman pleading with Umberto to go back to seminary and escape this ‘wicked world’. The shift between having Mara and the grandmother hating each other to becoming friends is equally funny. Mastroianni doesn’t have as much to do here, but still makes the most of it playing one of Mara’s customers who is just looking for a little sex, but is reluctantly thrown into the middle of the controversy.

This segment became famous at the time for a striptease that Loren does for Mastroianni. However, by today’s standards it is not much and hardly even seemed worth mentioning. I actually thought the part where Loren walks outside wearing nothing more than a towel and provocatively singing a flirtatious song to the young Umberto, who has a face that looks like it had not reached puberty, was much steamier.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: December 19, 1963

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Vittorio De Sica

Studio: Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix streaming, Amazon Instant Video