(director/writer: Dino Risi; screenwriter: Ruggero Maccari/story by Risi & Ettore Scala; cinematographer: Alfio Contini; editor: Maurizio Lucidi; music: Riz Ortolani; cast: Vittorio Gassman (Bruno Cortona), Jean-Louis Trintignant (Roberto Mariani), Catherine Spaak (Lilly, Bruno’s daughter), Luciana Angiolillo (Gianna, Bruno’s Wife), Claudio Gora(Bibì, Lilly’s fiancé), Linda Sini (Aunt Lidia); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Mario Cecchi Gori; Janus (Embassy Pictures); 1962-Italy-in Italian with English subtitles)

An influential road movie, that set a tone for the genre about unlikely buddies pairing off.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An influential road movie, that set a tone for the genre about unlikely buddies pairing off. It came out when Italy finally recovered from its postwar economic disaster and a middle class began to prosper. This kind of film became referred to as ‘comedy Italian style’ (Commedia all’Italiana), which flourished from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. This film was very popular in Italy, even better received at home than the art films of Fellini and Antonioni that received wide-spread international recognition. Dino Risi (“Love in the City”/”The Tiger and the Pussy Cat”) shoots the film in black and white, and keeps it energized with its screen-hogging protagonist Vittorio Gassman being a terror off and on the road. Risi co-wrote the story with Ettore Scala, and co-wrote the screenplay with Ruggero Maccari. The middle-aged motormouth cynical playboy Bruno (Vittorio Gassman) is vacationing in Rome, and while on the road needs a telephone to confirm a date. He gets the shy law student Roberto (Jean-Louis Trintignant ) to let him use his house phone. When Bruno can’t reach his party he coaxes Roberto to go with him for a drink and then to take a ride with him north in his expensive Lancia Aurelia sports convertible. Though Roberto is wary of how reckless Bruno is on the road, he’s charmed by the big talker and goes on a long ride with him for 2 days that will lead to a tragic end. On their impulsive August journey the two will tell each other their life experiences, they will go on a high-speed chase to try and meet two attractive German tourists, each will introduce the other to their families, and Bruno will run into unlikable rich business associates. The trip’s highlight is when Bruno and a tipsy Roberto crash late at night at the summer residence of Gianna (Luciana Angiolillo), who has been separated for many years from her dissolute hubby. While there Roberto meets Bruno’s beautiful 20-year-old daughter Lilli (Catherine Spaak), who is engaged to a middle-aged businessman (Claudio Gora). Roberto is told by her that she likes older men and is not interested in men her age. It’s easy to be fooled into thinking of this breezy comedy as merely an entertaining trifle, but it has hidden depths. Its soul searching social comments are made on modern Italy’s new found vacuous materialism, its soulless existence and its ridiculous homage to pop culture. It implies wastrels are capable of bringing fun into the lives of those who take themselves too seriously, but they are also dangerous because of their anti-art stances and ability to influence others to become wastrels. The good thing is that its messages are subliminal and don’t interfere with the entertaining story.

REVIEWED ON 9/10/2016 GRADE: B+    https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/