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Here’s the challenge. Pick five films from the copious oeuvre of the legendary actor Marcello Mastroianni for a one-day tribute. Of course there will be Fellini’s LA DOLCE VITA, with its dizzying aerial shot giving way to the debauched ennui of 1960 Rome as seen through the eyes of Marcello’s reporter, and 8 1/2 (1963), wherein Marcello ponders his romantic past (or is it Fellini’s?) in oneiric wonder . Of course there will be Pietro Germi’s DIVORCE ITALIAN STYLE (1961), which satirizes Italy’s then lack of divorce, and what it will drive the love-crazed to do. But the two other spots the schedule affords? On September 22, 2018, a collaboration with the Leonardo da Vinci Society, the Italian Consulate General, and the Italian Cultural Institute accepts the challenge in an all-day programme called CIAO, MARCELLO! AN HOMAGE TO MARCELLO MASTROIANNI, at the fabulous Castro Theater here in equally fabulous San Francisco. A celebration that focuses on the directors with whom he shared a symbiotic relationship, and the leading ladies who were his equal in every sense.
Italy knew how good Marcello was, but the rest of the world didn’t find out that he was more than just a pretty face until time had begun to take its toll on his looks. It was only then that he made such films as A SPECIAL DAY (1977), in which he plays a repressed homosexual opposite Sophia Loren’s neglected housewife in Ettore Scola’s film set in Fascist Italy. That’s the fourth film playing in the line-up, along with de Sica’s YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW (1963), an earlier pairing with Loren three vignettes about passion in various permutations that comment as much about society as it does about the effect of lust on its hapless victims.
After spending a day with Marcello, you will want more, and rightly so. May I recommend his pompous vaudevillian in Fellini’s GINGER AND FRED; or his Oscar-nominated performance in Nikita Mikhalkov’s DARK EYES as an aging romantic who played the game of love well, but perhaps not wisely.
For every DIVORCE ITALIAN STYLE that made it to our shores early in his career, there were some real gems that weren’t considered commercial enough. These are the films in which the divine MM was permitted to show a range beyond light comedy and steamy romance. These include Valerio Zurlini’s FAMILY DIARY, or Cronaco Familiare as it’s known in Italian. In this 1962 film, Mastroianni barely has a line of dialogue for the first 15 minutes of the film, in fact, he spends part of that time as deep background, and yet, his presence draws the eye irresistibly. Not because of his undeniable beauty, but because of the edgy nervousness lightly played with devastatingly effective results. In Carlo Lizzani’s 1954 CHRONICLE OF POOR LOVERS, he plays a fruit-vendor with anti-Mussolini views in 1925 Florence. For a special treat, find the documentary, I REMEMBER, I REMEMBER, The latest, a filmic memoir with Marcello reminiscing for the camera, held by longtime companion Anna Maria Tatò about his life and philosophy.
My only complaint about the series is that the films are not shown in chronological order. It starts at 10am with YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW, moving through 8 1/2 at 1pm, A SPECIAL DAY at 3:30pm, LA DOLCE VITA at 6pm, and DIVORCE ITALIAN STYLE at 10:30.