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Alberto Lattuada

November 21, 2009

The Overcoat, 1952

overcoat.gifIn an early sequence in Alberto Lattuada's The Overcoat, the mayor (Giulio Stival) relishes the idea of history having to be rewritten as a result of an archaeologist's discovery of ancient artifacts that had been unearthed during the groundbreaking of his commissioned, large-scale urbanization project. Designed to transform the landscape of the town's main square - one that strategically obstructs the view to the impoverished, outlying suburbs - in time for a dignitary's official visit, the project receives overwhelming support from the council despite its steep price tag in the belief that the investment would elevate the city's status on a national level. This idea of exploitive economics and window dressing as a means of gaining respect and dignity also foreshadows the plight of lowly office clerk, De Carmine (Renato Rascel whose reluctant purchase of a handsomely styled, fur-trimmed overcoat from the local tailor (having been unable to convince him to repair his well worn, but still functional overcoat) unexpectedly gains him entry into the rarefied world of high society. Retaining Nikolai Gogol's idiosyncratic fusion of social commentary, wry humor, and gothic tale, Lattuada, nevertheless, diverges from the dreamlike narrative of Gogol's short story, and instead, frames De Carmine's bumbling encounters as a realistic, if satirical, exposition on the arbitrary and superficial nature of privilege and exclusion. Transplanting Gogol's cautionary tale from nineteenth century St. Petersburg to contemporary Italy, Lattuada creates an incisive allegory for the underlying reality of postwar reconstruction and its inequitable human cost under the illusion of collective rebuilding, cultural development, and social progress.

Posted by acquarello on Nov 21, 2009 | | Filed under 2009, Alberto Lattuada, Ancillary Film Notes

September 28, 2006

Mafioso, 1962

mafioso.gifAlberto Lattuada irreverently - and uproariously - explores the nurtured regionalisms, preconceptions, and ethnic stereotypes between the more progressive, industrialized north and more conservative, old world traditions of southern Italy - and in particular, Sicily - that continue to pervade and shape the social attitudes between the two divergent cultures of contemporary Italian society in his underseen comic masterpiece, Mafioso. Told from the perspective of a well-intentioned, if perhaps too obliging and gullible Antonio Badalamenti (played impeccably by the great comic actor Alberto Sordi), an automobile assembly factory foreman and efficiency expert who moved from his beloved village in rural Sicily to seek his fortune in the north, the film throws caution to the wind with its delirious fusion of pitch black satire, gangster film parody, and comedy of manners, as the proud native son decides to bring his young, fair haired (and inescapably northern), visibly bemused family to his beloved ancestral home and into the crosshairs of an equally bemused and unsuspecting rustic town still lorded over in hushed tones by a reclusive godfather and town benefactor named Don Vincenzo (Ugo Attanasio) whose vast influence seems to ripple even to the distant shores of Trenton, New Jersey. Arriving giddily at the town square and into the surreal view of a funeral service from the window of a taxicab - an apparent gunshot victim for defying the will of (and consequently falling out favor with) Don Vincenzo - Antonio's homecoming soon becomes as riddled with as many complications as the pock-marked, tell-tale bullet holed walls that line the town when his wife's modern manners and unfamiliarity with local customs reduce the normally animated household into retreated silence and polite evasion, and Don Vincenzo decides to call in a personal favor in return for enabling Antonio's success on the mainland. Still as incisive and relevant forty years since its initial release, Mafioso continues to provoke and entertain in equal measures by casting its critical eye into the Sicilian code of honor to create an audacious, sharp-witted, and perversely funny satire on honor-bound duty and hypocritical tradition.

Posted by acquarello on Sep 28, 2006 | | Filed under 2006, Alberto Lattuada, New York Film Festival