“Call this a comedy-drama in which the comedy is only a surface symptom.” This sentence, found on a copy of the New York Times from 1963, is the perfect explanation of what Dino Risi represented (and still represents) for the Italian cinema worldwide. Not only was Risi one of the most talented Italian movie-makers, but also worked with some of the finest actors, including Sophia Loren, Vittorio Gassman, and Alberto Sordi. Hence, he is one of the originators of the "comedy Italian style", the popular Commedia all’Italiana.
Some of Risi’s movies are at the core of Cinema Italia, that comes back to the Castro Theatre in San Francisco on April 22nd, for a day full of history, stories, and laugh, Italian style.
Amelia Antonucci, the Program Director, celebrates the fifth edition together with the Italian Cultural Institute and Istituto Luce Cinecittà. “I expect some surprises. Life, after all, is not all it's made out to be”, Director Risi once said. These words seem to best represent this 2017 edition.
Amelia Antonucci has been the Program Director since the first edition of Cinema Italia
Amelia, here we are again, with the new edition of Cinema Italia.
First of all, the festival moves from Fall to Spring and has now two editions per year and a completely new approach. We started by focusing only on authors, moving then to actors and actresses. Now we feature both, which means directors that worked with well known, international actors. For this edition, we have the pleasure to watch Vittorio Gassman, who became famous thanks to his early movies with Dino Risi.
Cinema Italia has become a not-to-miss event for the Italian-American community.
I am very proud of this fifth edition and all the achievements throughout the years. Cinema Italia has been presenting classic movie programs since 2013 with Pierpaolo Pasolini; followed by Bernardo Bertolucci, Vittorio De Sica, and Anna Magnani. We are happy to have the support of the Italian Consul General, Lorenzo Ortona. It is amazing to hear that we have become a steady event for movie viewers in San Francisco. This is an overwhelming joy for both myself and the team.
Back to Dino Risi, before he became a director, he was a doctor devoted to psychiatry. The interest for such discipline well explains his passion for the neorealist style, that turned to be the focus of his second career. Risi tried and succeeded at breaking up some Italian stereotypes. From the charlatan to the cheating husband or the immoral father, the funny characters of the commedia come together with tragic endings, revealing depth and moral rigor behind the laughs.
"Il Sorpasso" is one of the movies to watch at Cinema Italia
Tell us about the choice of the movies.
I usually choose four films for each edition. As for Dino Risi, "Il mattatore" is a trade movie that gave Vittorio Gassman his name for a lifetime. He had seen Gassman at the theatre and also playing a role in a dramatic movie. He used to be the evil man, or the thief. Risi was the first to feel that Gassman had a comic potential. He made of Gassman his favorite interpreter, a kind of "alter ego", the symbol of his histrionic, exhibitionist cinema. He has dignified his image to the public, making him more human and pleasant: a middle class little man, yet so fascinating.
Which ones do you like the most?
One of my favorite movies is Profumo di donna. That movie inspired also Al Pacino, who ended up doing a remake. However, it never reached the powerful and moving portrait of the blind captain. I also love Il sorpasso: it will be amazing to have a pristine restored copy by Cineteca Nazionale. Big surprise, we will also have the famous Aurelia - that Gassman and a young Jean-Louis Trintignant rode through the Tuscan roads - on display in front of the Castro Theatre. We will close the night with “I mostri", to experience a great moment of the Italian cinema that will surely bring to tears and make laugh in a fast and breathless rhythm, that is the unique Risi’s trend.
Finally, the heritage of the Commedia all'Italiana...
As many probably know, the expression can be found in the Treccani dictionary with a definition by Masolino d'Amico. As the movie critic stated, Dino Risi is "Il padre della Commedia all'Italiana”. His movies made history because they portray funny, sad, and - often - hilarious stereotypes of the "Italian homo novus" for contemporary audience and young generations. Risi was able to show the economic boom and the way Italians were enjoying their life, following the misery and the tragedy of a destructive war: dancing, riding expensive cars, going to the beach, and seducing women. Risi did it by producing 84 movies and by working until the last days of his long life. He is a master of irony and rhythm.
Dino Risi passed away in 2008, yet the memory of his works is strong. "What we do will never be enough when it comes to understand the impact of the Commedia all’Italiana on the ‘50s and the ‘60s in Italy as well as on the perception that Italians get when abroad”, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute, Paolo Barlera, pointed out. “Dino Risi has probably been the most representative icon of the Commedia all’Italiana, while his stories and characters are the best at depicting the Prima Repubblica and its unique path."