Commedia all'italiana: Three Films by Dino Risi
Comedy ruled the box office in Italy from the late 1950s to the 1970s where the commedia all’italiana also found critical success. Great talent behind and in front of the camera delivered a series of brilliant films that gave an incredible spin on familiar genres with comedic overtones that often held a dark and biting critique of social mores that would provoke a challenge to a society in need of change. Feted at local awards ceremonies and European festivals as well as garnering attention from the Academy Awards this prestige would propel the films and filmmakers to international stardom but many would go unreleased in the UK for home viewing. At last, this ongoing series shines a light on this misunderstood filmmaking style with the first collection focusing on three films by master director Dino Risi, presented from new restorations and featuring a suite of contextualising extras.
From a prestigious lineage in the ancient art of satirical theatre in commedia dell’arte, the Italian-style comedy distinguished itself in the late 1950s from the earlier broad comedies popularised by the likes of Toto and Vittorio De Sica with a ruthless approach to social satire focused on cynicism and the grotesque. An early example of the switch in tone can be found in Dino Risi’s Il vedovo, in which Italy’s preeminent comedy actor Alberto Sordi plays a philandering husband of a wealthy and successful woman who simply tolerates her husband's ineptitude. Until he sees a potential plan for her death, which would result in a great inheritance for him.
One of the greatest Italian actors of all time, Vittorio Gassman (Bitter Rice), known as Il Mattatore ‘The Showman’ earns his name from this film and his wonderful performance as an actor with the uncanny ability to mimic regional accents, allowing him to pull off a series of scams. Ingeniously plotted by screenwriters Ettore Scola and Ruggero Maccari who were behind some of the greatest films in the commedia all’italiana including Il sorpasso and Ugly, Dirty and Bad. Alternately known as Love & Larceny, Dino Risi (Lost Soul) directs this classic comedy which was nominated for the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and makes its English-subtitled Blu-ray debut.
A career highlight for director Dino Risi and his star Vittorio Gasman, Il sorpasso isn’t just one of the heights of commedia all’italiana but of all Italian cinema. Jean-Louis Trintignant (The Conformist) plays Roberto, a shy law student who meets Bruno (Gassman), a larger-than-life Roman playboy who convinces Roberto to join him on a road trip from Rome to the Tuscan countryside. Their travels teach them about each other and themselves, oscillating between comedy and tragedy with powerful and affecting commentary on the easy life. Long admired in Italy, the film has influenced comedic filmmakers including Alexander Payne (Sideways) and Aziz Ansari (Master of None). Radiance Films is proud to present this seminal film in the UK for the first time from a new 4K restoration.
BLU-RAY LIMITED EDITION BOX SET SPECIAL FEATURES:
IL SORPASSO [THE EASY LIFE]
IL MATTATORE [THE SHOWMAN]
IL VEDOVO [THE WIDOWER]