Friday, October 28, 2011

7. Alberto Sordi Personification of the Average Italian part seven


by Ernesto G. Laura

The ideal sequel to TUTTI A CASA (EVERYBODY HOME), but more facile and conventional in its development, is the succeeding I DUE NEMICI (THE TWO ENEMIES, aka THE BEST OF ENEMIES), written again by Age and Scarpelli in collaboration with Suso Cecchi d'Amico and the English scenarist Jack Pulman, on a story by Luciano Vincenzoni of LA GRANDE GUERRA (THE GREAT WAR); the director was the Englishman Guy Hamilton, better-known later as the director of James Bond films. It is not easy to laugh about a lost war, and it is unquestionally a bitter laugh, but not a superficial one. In 1941 in Ethiopia, the film confronts two "enemies", the British major, Richardson, impeccably performed by David Niven, and the Italian captain, Blasi, who take each other prisoners, then establish a temporary alliance for want of provisions and ammunition in the middle of the savannah, and in the end go back to being "enemies" when the defeated Italians are definitely taken prisoner with, however, the honors of war. As in the previous film, Sordi plays an officer, who is forced to come round to an ambiguous reality in which the questions of for whom and against whom blur and overlap. He goes on doing his duty even though the negative outcome is inevitable.

The transition from war experiences to post-war experiences was not calm and easy for everyone. Rodolfo Sonego writes one of his best scripts for Sordi, tailoring to measure a character who moves precisely in this compilicated and contradictory span of time: the character of Silvio Magnozzi in UNA VITA DIFFICILE (A HARD LIFE), directed in 1961 by Dino Risi. Could this Magnozzi be the Innocenzi of TUTTI A CASA (EVERYBODY HOME)? Like him, on September 8th, he is a dispersed reserve officer without orders, until he ends up becoming a partisan in the North. After the war, he carries on his commitment as a journalist on a leftist paper until the left is excluded from the government in 1948. In the different political and civil atmosphere that follows, Magnozzi loses his job, tries to get a novel published, tries to write movie scripts, in other words, lives from pillar to post, even momentarily ending up in jail. Throwing to the dogs the ideals that had sustained him during the Resistance and after the war, he decides to make money as a "hanger-on" to an important businessman, until, however, his conscience gains the upper hand and he shoves his boss into the swimming-pool of his villa. Sordi shows extraordinary restraint in the role, playing down the comic situations without ever letting them become farcical, lending them a rather more grotesque flavor.

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