Sunday, October 06, 2013

Il gallo nel pollaio / [The Rooster in the Henhouse] (2012 Cineteca Nazionale restoration screened with vintage music by Vincenzo Scarpetta)

IL GALLO NEL POLLAIO (Palatino Film, Roma, IT 1916) D: Enrico Guazzoni; story, SC: Vincenzo Scarpetta; C: Vincenzo Scarpetta (Vincenzo), Elvira Radaelli (cugina/cousin Betta), Giuseppe Gambardella (un passante/a passer-by), Lorenzo Soderini (?); date of censorship: 21.12.1916 (no.12304); orig. l: 700 m.; 35 mm, 594 m, 30'14" (17 fps), col. (tinted and toned); print source: Fondazione Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – Cineteca Nazionale, Roma. Didascalie in italiano. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), e-titles in English, 6 Oct 2013

Italian version restored in 2012 on polyester film by the Cineteca Nazionale in Rome in collaboration with the Fondazione De Filippo, from a tinted and toned Norwegian nitrate print (636 m) found in the National Library of Norway in Oslo.

The music: The multi-talented Vincenzo Scarpetta was also a composer, and for this performance Antonio Coppola has assembled a score from recordings of his works made by the composer’s niece, Mariolina Scarpetta. The compositions selected are: Songs: “Canzona Spruceta”, “Nu Mistero”, “Piripignoccola”, “Senza Core”, performed by Lello Giulivo, accompanied by Gennaro Franco, piano; artistic supv: Maestro Nuccio Tortora, Venanzio D’Agostino. Piano pieces: “Tes baisers”, “Valse Violetta”, “Musica Meccanica”, performed by Carla Ardito, piano.

Aldo Bernardini: "This film is one of the first productions of Palatino Film, a company founded in 1915 by Enrico Guazzoni with the backing of Cines. Guazzoni had already been working with Cines for a number of years, and had attained international renown with a series of full-length historical epics (from Gerusalemme liberata in 1911 to Cajus Julius Caesar in 1914). But from 1910 he had also gained some experience in comedy, making short and short feature-length films. Il gallo nel pollaio was intended as the first in a series of productions planned by Guazzoni in tandem with actor Vincenzo Scarpetta (son of the better-known Neapolitan comedy playwright Eduardo) that were announced in 1914. The series actually went no further than the second film, Scarpetta e l’americana, shot in 1915 but not released until three years later. Besides playing the lead role, Scarpetta (1876-1952) probably also wrote the original story and the screenplay – its well-constructed plot fits in with the French-influenced light-comedy tradition so popular in the Italian repertoire. Such comedies generally featured stratagems adopted by young lovers to elude the control of sanctimonious parents and teachers, and exploited the deceptions and misunderstandings generated by the use of disguise (e.g., handsome young men who turn into charming maidens able to attract the attentions of elderly rich pleasure-seekers)."

"This tradition had passed effortlessly from the theatre to the cinema in the first decade of the 20th century. In Italy, the starting point was the 1907 Cines production Il ganimede, following which most of the leading lights in Italian comedy jumped on the bandwagon: Robinet (Robinet ama la figlia del generale, 1910, and Le furberie di Robinet, 1911), Tontolini (Tontolini ballerina, 1910), Cretinetti (Cretinetti dama di compagnia, 1911), and Kri Kri (Kri Kri e Lea militari, 1913), up to the feature-length Florette e Patapon (1913) and La zia di Carlo (two versions, 1911 and 1913). And there was no better setting for this type of comedy than the colleges and boarding schools exclusively reserved for the daughters of the middle class, brought to the forefront of Italian cinema by the success of films such as Santarellina (1912) with Gigetta Morano."

"Il gallo nel pollaio (literally, “The Rooster in the Hen House”) is a worthy representative of this genre, with the presence among the white-collared and pinafore-clad blossoming maidens of two older protagonists (one aged 40 and the other 49), who introduce a grotesque note – perhaps unintended – to the various mishaps which befall them. This dimension is accentuated by the histrionics in which Scarpetta, a man of the theatre, indulges in front of the camera, which only underlines and magnifies his grimaces and miming. Seconding this propensity for the grotesque are the stereotyped caricatures offered by the supporting actors – the lanky sexton (perhaps played by Lorenzo Soderini, formerly Cocò of the Cines series, and who would also be featured in Scarpetta’s second comedy film), the brawny gardener, and the severe, ramrod-straight headmistress of the boarding school – in contrast to the bubbly youthfulness and high spirits of the comely schoolgirls (among whom Elvira Radaelli mixes rather well)."

"Taking everything into account, this is still an enjoyable film, guided by Guazzoni with professional know-how and an appropriate sense of pace to its obvious conclusion. The comprehensibility of the various stages of the story does not seem to suffer by the absence from this print of about a hundred metres of the original. The restoration work has reconstituted its correct tinting; the only slip appears to be the attribution of the production to Cines rather than Palatino Film." Aldo Bernardini (The GCM Catalogue)

AA: Strengths of this movie include: a lively mise-en-scène, a joy of life in a familiar story of an (almost) reformed libertine. He gets caught in the bell tower of a girls' boarding house and needs to cross-dress as a girl. The rooster dressed as a hen is now a focus of attention, and he hands out cigarettes for everybody, but the odour of tobacco arouses suspicions. The rooster gets a separate chamber to sleep. The gardener and the bell ringer are infatuated with the new "girl", and he has to ward off their advances with force. A nocturnal romantic encounter amidst nature is charming, but witnessed by everybody. Expertly restored with a slightly digital or duped look at times. I love Antonio Coppola's concept of compiling the score from the songs of the leading actor Vincenzo Scarpetta. There is sometimes quite a distortion in the original records, but the songs are beautiful and enhance the movie splendidly.

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