Arts & Events

New: MOVIES IN THE MARGINS:Vittorio Gassman Shines in Delicious Dino Risi Italian Film Festival

Gar Smith
Friday April 21, 2017 - 06:35:00 PM

At the Castro Theater—all-day and all-night on April 22.

Here is a challenge for film buffs (and you'll need to be buff to survive this challenge)—a film festival that last just one day! Or, in other words: 13 hours.

On Saturday, April 22, Luce Cinecittà, in collaboration with The Italian Cultural Institute and Cinema Italia San Francisco are celebrating the work of director Dino Risi with "An Homage to the Master of the Comedy Italian Style."

The festivities include four classic films that start screening at 11 in the morning and won't finish until sometime around midnight.

Two bits of good news: (1) There will be a food break at 8:30 in the form of a Commedia all'Italiana Party and (2) the festival's four films are ingenious, wry, intelligent, subversive, and flat-out hilarious.

If you don't know much about the great Italian star Vittorio Gassman, this is a great introduction to a major talent whose work ranged from Shakespearian pathos to sketch-comedy brilliance. The chameleonic Gassman would have been a perfect host for Saturday Night Live.




The Castro Theater only screened two of Risi's comedies for the press—I Mostri (The Monsters) and Il Mathatorre (Love and Larceny). Both were offered in beautifully restored 4k versions for projection on classic 35-mm reels. 

I Mostri (The Monsters) has nothing to do with blockbuster CGI super-apes. Instead, it is a 118-minute comic extravaganza starring two Italian film legends—Vittorio Gassman and Ugo Tagnazzi. 

The hi-jinks in I Mostri begin with the opening credits where we see the names of the two stars. Then they immediately appear again but on different parts of the screen. And again, and again! That's part of the joke. I Mostri is a compilation of 20 wildly different sketches staring Gassman and Tagnazzi in shifting roles—together in some of the stories and going solo in others. They play thieves, con artists, overbearing fathers, priests, cops, and adulterers. In one delicious vignette, Gassman does a marvelous drag turn as a rather tall femme fatale. 

Some of these monster-tales are wordless and last less than a minute; others are so hyper-wordy that the subtitles start to flicker in an attempt to keep up with Gassman's verbal velocity. 

Risi gleefully explained that this "ultimate Italian omnibus film" was dedicated to celebrating his "distrust in humanity." (Note: Look for the running joke about Italy's post-war car-of-choice, the "Fiat 100.") 

Here's the Full Lineup  

1:00 PM - Il Mattatore (Love and Larceny) – 1960, 104 min 

3:30 PM – Profumo di Donna (Scent of a Woman) – 1974, 103 min 

6:00 PM - Il Sorpasso (The Easy Life) – 1962, 108 min
8:30 PM - Commedia all'Italiana Party
10:00 PM - I Mostri (15 from Rome – Opiate '67) – 1963, 118 min 


Il Mattatore (Love and Larceny), 1960  

In this tale of cheats and cheaters, Gassman is a failed actor whose timing is so bad he even gets booed off-stage when he attempts stand-up. Full of vim and lots of Italian vinegar, Gassman's flailing thespian channels his talents in a new direction and finds success as a con man. It's crime as performance art and funny as heck. He finds an engaging crime-partner in the vivacious Peppino De Filippo and embarks on the kind of tale where you would be well-advised not to trust anyone (and even then, you'll be surprised by a plot that takes some surprising turns). "It was a game of Chinese boxes," Risi said of this film. 

Profumo di Donna (Scent of a Woman), 1974 

Risi's Oscar-nominated hit was the inspiration for the 1992 American film, Scent of a Woman, starring Al "Hoowah!" Pacino. In the original, Gassman portrays a blind military vet who prowls Rome's streets and suites like a lecherous, wounded leopard. Recruiting a young sidekick, captain and kid set off on a road trip that takes the pair from Turin to Naples in a desperate search for carnal encounters. Gassman's performance scored a Best Actor award at Cannes. 

Il Sorpasso (The Easy Life), 1964 

The festival hosts describe The Easy Life as classic Italian comedy —"hedonistic, ironically detached, and at times vicious and gloomy." An acknowledged Risi masterpiece, the film goes on the road with two charismatic rascals. Bruno (Gassman) is the wild one and Roberto (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is the honest, dependable one. As they cruise the Italian landscape from Rome to Tuscany they encounter the kinds of tests and tribulations that can enrich—and disrupt—lasting friendships. "This was the first time Gassman had made a comedy with his own face," Risi observed. "Gassman's character was prone to wishful thinking, inconsistent, superficial, aggressive, a bit of a Fascist, but with a certain impact." And, Risi added, "I had a few people I knew in mind when I was creating him." 

PS: If you can't make the Film Festival, several of these classics are available for viewing online.