1958, Movies

Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958, Mario Monicelli)

This is supposedly one of the classic Italian comedies, considered an all-time great film by numerous people. It is apparently a parody of Rififi, a classic film I have yet to see. [I have since seen it but I don’t know that I care enough to rewatch this.] So, one of the reasons this film is lost on me would be because I haven’t seen the target of its satire. Maybe that’s why it feels more like a farce to me.

At this point, my dislike of certain aspects of Italian culture is well known to readers of this blog. Though  I love Antonioni and Leone, I struggle with just about every other major Italian filmmaker. (Oh, I like Rossellini too.) But my main objection to most Italian films isn’t necessarily the filmmaking, but rather the characterizations, which are too effective in reminding me that there is a certain type of Italian male character – and, to a lesser extent, a certain type of Italian female character – who I not only cannot relate to but cannot stand. What Italians find endearing in these over-confident, not particularly bright assholes, I find off-putting.

One of the key components of a successful comedy and a successful satire is being able to relate to the characters so that you laugh with them – or feel empathy for them – as much as you laugh at them. But when you’d never want to meet any of the characters and you think many of them are jerks, it’s a lot harder to enjoy the farce or satire. And this is my problem with this film. (Fortunately, Cosimo, the worst of the lot, dies! Yes, I used an exclamation mark. Good riddance to that character.)

I understand why people like this film. I think if I had seen Rififi first, I might have liked it more, instead of occasionally chuckling. But, without the proper context, and with too many obnoxious Italian small time crooks, I just wanted it to end.


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