Thursday, May 19, 2016

La congiuntura / Hard Times for Princes

La congiuntura. Please click to enlarge the image.

Cent millions ont disparu / Veijarin viuhka / Skojarflax / En miljon dollar i baksätet / One Million Dollars / Auf eine ganz krumme Tour. IT/FR 1964. PC: Compagnia Edizioni Internazionali Artistiche Distribuzione (CEIAD), Fair Film (Rome), Les Films Concordia. EX: Pio Angeletti. P: Mario Cecchi Gori. D: Ettore Scola. SC: Ruggero Maccari, Ettore Scola. DP: Alessandro D'Eva (Sandro d’Eva) - Technicolor - Techniscope 2.35:1. PD+set dec: Arrigo Breschi. Cost: Ugo Pericoli. Cost Vittorio Gassman: Angelo Litrico. Makeup: Otello Sisi. Hair: Gustavo Sisi. M: Luis Bacalov. Songs: "Lei sta con te" (Sergio Bardotti, GinoPaoli), "Ritornerai" (Bruno Lauzi). ED: Marcello Malvestito. S: Sandro Occhetti, Guido Ortenzi. SFX: Aurelio Pennacchia. C: Vittorio Gassman (Don Giuliano), Joan Collins (Jane), Jacques Bergerac (Sandro), Hilda Barry (Dana), Adolfo Eibenstein (nonno Enrico), Pippo Starnazza (Francesco), Dino Curcio (Salerno), Aldo De Carellis (Eduardo), Halina Zalewska (Luisetta), Paolo Bonacelli (Zenone). Loc: Rome, Florence, Portofino, Rapallo (Italy), Lugano (Switzerland). Helsinki premiere: 16.9.1966, Capitol, distributor: Columbia Films, Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Elisa Hillo / Ragnhild Troupp – VET 73855 – S – 2780 m / 102 min
    A vintage KAVI print deposited by Columbia Films viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Ettore Scola), 19 May 2016

I saw for the first time La congiuntura, Ettore Scola's second film as a director; he had debuted with the slight but interesting Se permettete, parliamo di donne. In both the star is Vittorio Gassman, a key actor for Scola, and both were shot by Sandro d'Eva. La congiuntura is minor, too, but worth seeing.

Vittorio Gassman was Scola's favourite actor. Scola directed him in nine films, including in his first three feature films (the third one was L'arcidiavolo), and Gassman appeared also in central roles in Scola's later big ensemble pieces (La terrazza, La famiglia, La cena). In Scola's debut film Gassman had no less than eight roles. In each of the eight episodes he was the male lead while the female lead changed.

Gassman was a versatile actor, a great talent of the theatre, and, since the mid-1950s, a tv celebrity (he was also a director and a writer). He played Shakespeare and Ibsen and was Stanley Kowalski in Visconti's A Streetcar Named Desire. In I soliti ignoti he became a key actor for commedia all'italiana, and somehow some of his most memorable performances were in grating and grotesque caricatures of machismo and egoism. He was an unsurpassed "monster" in comedies such as Il sorpasso. In such roles he cultivated parodies of the calculating, cynical and shallow mentality of Italy's economic miracle epoch. Gassman suffered from the bipolar syndrome, and he also made a blessing of that curse in his manic-depressive performances.

In La congiuntura Gassman is Prince Don Giuliano, a scion of an old and distinguished family. The story starts in a solemn and dignified atmosphere in a pontificial ceremony in which Giuliano participates in full ecclesiastic dress. Scola cuts abruptly to a dance hall where Giuliano seems to be the unofficial master of ceremonies, able to dictate the playlist of the orchestra, occasionally even substituting the lead vocalist.

Gassman gets to display many skills of his in this role: the mercurial comedian, the athlete, the acrobat, the dancer, and the fighter. Also for Scola this is a special showcase of physical comedy and action comedy. The chase scenes and the fight scenes are funny and well executed. They are not what Scola was best known for, but here we have proof that he was an expert even in them.

The dancing Giuliano, a bored middle-aged playboy, is caught in the crosshairs of the beautiful Jane (Joan Collins in Italian), and Giuliano starts to focus on her. He proposes to escort her to Lugano in Switzerland via Rapallo on the Riviera. Giuliano is chronically frustrated in his attempts to have his way with her, and gradually it turns out that Jane is only interested in his CD (Corps Diplomatique) Mercedes Benz which can pass the border to Switzerland without customs control. It gets even more complicated than that. Everyone has been fooled, and in the finale it seems that the plot has been invented by Giuliano's brother-in-law to smuggle a fortune to the Swiss tax paradise.

La congiuntura is an unromantic comedy. Both Giuliano and Jane are predators, and both fail in their attempts with each other. There is a nominal happy end which remains difficult to believe in. Giuliano is a smooth operator who only meets Jane's cold, hard shell. It is impossible to relate to Giuliano and Jane as human beings, as is sometimes the case in commedia all'italiana and its merciless satire of the price of success.

On the other hand La congiuntura is full of juicy, charming observations. It belongs to the films in which there are no bit parts. The small roles (Adolfo Eibenstein as nonno [the stern grandfather], the hitch-hiker, the little girl with the ice cream, the gang of thieves in Rapallo, its head known as "Il Pulpo", the old Rolls Royce lady...) are full of life while in the lead roles we sense an inner void beyond the external excitement.

Visually La congiuntura, photographed by Alessandro D'Eva, is a feast of location shooting. It is a road movie with Rome, Rapallo, and Lugano as the central locations. The travelogue aspect is very enjoyable.

The colour is intact in the vintage Technicolor print conveying a warm and delightful sense of a joy of life, also a counterforce to the plot which proceeds in the "icy water of egoistic calculation".

OUR PROGRAM NOTE COMPILED BY SAKARI TOIVIAINEN:
OUR PROGRAM NOTE COMPILED BY SAKARI TOIVIAINEN:

Ettore Scola (s. 1931) aloitti humoristisena kirjailijana samassa Il Marc’Aurelio -lehdessä, jossa myös Federico Fellini oli ollut avustajana, samoin kuin Scolan ikäpolvea edustavat käsikirjoittajaässät Steno, Age ja Scarpelli. 1950-luvun mittaan seurasi pitkä ja runsas käsikirjoittajan ura: paljon mm. koomikko Totòn elokuvia yhtenä käsikirjoittajana, sitten omia töitä kaikkiaan viitisenkymmentä kappaletta ennen kuin Scola täysinoppineena ”commedia all’italianan” mestarina ohjasi esikoiselokuvansa Se permettete parliamo di donni vuonna 1963. Tämä liioitteluun, sketsimäisiin rakenteisiin, estottomiin tyyppitutkielmiin ja tabuista piittaamattomaan yhteiskuntakritiikkiin erikoistunut genre on kernaasti nähty ”halpana” lajityyppinä, mutta sen vahva paikallisväri ja rohkeat otteet tekivät siitä juuri 1960-luvulla italialaisen neorealismin oudon mutta kenties autenttisimman jatkajan, ja Scolan omassa ajattelussa ”huumori on kiistattomasti ainesosa joka ei voi ikinä olla taantumuksellinen”.

Veijarin viuhka oli Scolan toinen ohjaustyö heti esikoiselokuvan jälkeen, kitkeränsuloisiin nykyaikaiskomedioihin erikoistuneen tuottaja Mario Cecchi Gorin ja hänen Fair Filminsä suojissa. Tarina tehtiin mittatilaustyönä Vittorio Gassmanille, joka esittää velttoa mutta charmikasta roomalaista aatelismiestä, ja Joan Collinsille kurvikkaana houkutuslintuna. Tämä kuuluu koplaan, joka salakuljettaa rahaa sveitsiläisen pankin turviin, ja onnistuu ilman suurtakaan vaivaa saamaan mieheltä kyydin ja kunniallisen julkisivun rajan ylitykseen. Matka kulkee halki Pohjois-Italian valikoitujen maisemien ja sen varrelle kehitellään sattumuksia sekä naurun että jännityksen merkeissä, kunnes lopussa sankari korjaa niin rahat kuin (helposti) parannuksen tehneen tytönkin.

Ruggero Maccarin ja ohjaaja Scolan käsikirjoitus on funktionaalinen: ajoittain älykäs ja aidosti hauska, toisin ajoin kuluneisiin banaliteetteihin lankeava. Mutta yleensä sävy on kepeä ja rento, ihmiset hurmaavia, maisema värikäs ja vauhti kohtuullinen. Gassman loistaa hyvin räätälöidyssä roolissaan veijarina, jonka itserakkaus tavan takaa himmentää hänen älynsä. Joan Collins on kaunis katsoa, vaikka hän usein näytteleekin yli. Jacques Bergerac on merkillepantava pienessä roolissaan aivona suunnitelman takana, ja monissa sivuosissa on erinomaisia luonnetulkintoja kuten Adolfo Elbenstein Gassmanin purevana ja perinnesidonnaisena isoisänä, tai Hilde Barry vaaleana miestennielijänä, jolta Gassman saa nauruhermoja kutittavan peukalokyydin ja jonka takaa-ajokohtaus pitkin sveitsiläisen lomakaupungin katuja pyöristää siististi lopun kehittelyt.

Tuotannon ulkoinen puoli on hyvää tasoa. Sandro d’Evan Technicolor-kuvaus tarjoilee soveliaasti Rooman kauneutta, Rivieran kohokohtia ja monia sveitsiläisiä miljöitä. Luis Bacalovin kevyisiin popsävelmiin tukeutuva musiikki istuu yhtä lailla tunnelmaan.

- Peter von Baghin (Sodankylän ohjelmalehti 1990) ja Hawk:n (Variety 21.4.1965) mukaan ST

No comments: