Movie Diary 5/28/2018

The Passionate Thief (Mario Monicelli, 1960). This was two years after Monicelli did Big Deal on Madonna Street, a consensus comedy classic that I do not find all that great. But oh, this film: Not only hilarious in an incorrigibly escalating way, but directed with a shot-for-shot sense of how the camera can layer the funny pieces atop each other. It’s set on New Year’s Eve in Rome, where various idiots try to enjoy the long evening. Anna Magnani (in blond wig) is a movie extra, as is Toto, the latter drafted into partnership with a suave thief (Ben Gazzara, dubbed); they step on each other’s intentions throughout a long night. Fred Clark pops up periodically as a boorish American with money. There are Germans, who seem a little to quick to line people up against a wall and shout “Schnell!”, plus jokes about La Dolce Vita, which had opened a few months earlier (apparently it was already famous for inspiring people to jump into fountains). Magnani is great, and Gazzara seems to be in good humor about the whole thing. The newly-restored print looks fabulous (screened at Edinburgh Filmhouse).

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