Avanti! (1972)



(director/writer: Billy Wilder; screenwriters: from the play by Samuel A.Taylor/I.A.L. Diamond; cinematographer: Luigi Kuveiller; editor: Ralph Winters; music: Carlo Rustichelli; cast: Jack Lemmon (Wendell Armbruster), Juliet Mills (Pamela Pigott), Clive Revill (Carlo Carlucci), Edward Andrews (J.J. Blodgett), Gianfranco Barra (Bruno), Giselda Castrini (Anna), Pippo Franco (Mattarazzo); Runtime: 144; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Billy Wilder; United Artists; 1972-USA/Italy)


“It has many delightfully absurd moments in which Jack Lemmon and Brit actress Juliet Mills thoroughly exploit to the fullest.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A sly Billy Wilder (“The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”/”Some Like It Hot”/”The Apartment”) romantic/comedy in the same smart order as an Ernst Lubitsch black comedy. It’s based on a relatively unknown 1968 play by Samuel A.Taylor; Wilder’s co-writer is his usual collaborator I.A.L. Diamond. It’s never been acclaimed as one of Wilder’s better efforts, but though a bit untidy it has many delightfully absurd moments in which Jack Lemmon and Brit actress Juliet Mills thoroughly exploit to the fullest. It tackles the subjects of love Italian style, a comparison between Europe’s slow-paced lifestyle and America’s rat race, and bureaucracy, and does it in a charming way at a leisurely pace. It also is beautifully photographed by Luigi Kuveiller, capturing the golden natural enchantments of the touristy island where the film is set.

Strait-laced Baltimore corporation executive Wendell Armbruster (Jack Lemmon) arrives on the small Sicilian island of Ischia when he learns his father died in an automobile accident. While there he meets the warm-hearted and plump Pamela Pigott (Juliet Mills), whose manicurist mother also died in the accident and unknown to Wendell was his father’s mistress for the last several years as they arranged for a summer holiday annually at the Grand Hotel Excelsior. The wealthy exec is anxious to bring his father back for burial and resume his normal lifestyle of business meetings, golf and cocktails, but a barrage of red tape confronts him. It starts when the bodies are stolen by a vineyard owner, who wants to collect for damages because the car landed on his property. Then a traditional skinny-dipping ritual occurs and the hotel valet Bruno (Gianfranco Barra) takes photos of the nudes and blackmails Wendell, as he wants in the worst way to go to America.

After being cool to Pamela, slowly a romance develops as other bureaucratic things delay sending the bodies home and the mismatched twosome have a chance to know each other a little better. It culminates in obnoxious know-it-all U.S. diplomat J.J. Blodgett (Edward Andrews) arriving from Paris by helicopter at Wendell’s family’s request and expediting matters. But not before crafty hotel manager Carlo Carlucci (Clive Revill) helps fix things in an unorthodox manner in regards to the funeral arrangement. What finally brings the couple together is when revengeful pregnant hotel maid Anna pumps three bullets into her boyfriend Bruno after overhearing his plan to flee to America, and the murder takes place in Pamela’s room. Carlucci, on his own, decides it would be better if Pamela moved into Wendell’s suite and this way avoid being questioned by the Italian police. Room contact clinches matters, and father like son arranges for annual holidays at the hotel with a Pigott.


REVIEWED ON 12/22/2005 GRADE: B+