Tag Archives: International Comedy

The Seduction of Mimi-1972

The Seduction of Mimi-1972

Director Lina Wertmüller

Starring Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato, Agostina Belli

Scott’s Review #1,420

Reviewed February 4, 2024

Grade: B+

Lina Wertmüller, a visionary female director around a time when there were few female directors with notoriety, created The Seduction of Mimi (1972), a flavorful Italian adventure/drama/comedy.

Any fans of Federico Fellini will immediately draw comparisons to his films with saucy banter, odd characters, and lively music. But amid the fun exists importance.

Wertmüller produces a film with more of a defined plot focus than Fellini usually does.

The key to the enjoyment of The Seduction of Mimi is twofold. Actors, Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato starred in three of Wertmüller’s films together, usually as love-torn yet bickering couples with lots of drama and misunderstandings.

The other films are Love and Anarchy (1973) which I have not seen and Swept Away (1974) which I have seen.

The actors work so well together that anyone familiar with them will instantly be delighted especially during high-energy scenes when they spar or passionately solidify their romantic intentions.

Giannini was Wertmüller’s muse in a time when rarely if ever a male actor was a muse of a female director.

The other nicety is the title of the film. One might assume (I did) that the character of Mimi is female and is seduced by a male but in Wertmüller’s film, it is the reverse. This causes traditional gender stereotypes to be turned on their heads with more awareness of assumptions.

Mimi (Giannini) is a Sicilian dockworker who inadvertently becomes involved in an increasingly complicated series of personal conflicts.

After he loses his job after voting against a Mafia kingpin in a ‘secret’ election, Mimi leaves his frazzled wife Rosalia (Agostina Belli) to find work. He moves to Turin, where he engages in an affair with a Communist organizer, Fiorella Meneghini (Melato).

Soon Mimi finds himself juggling not two but three relationships and three children while plotting to take revenge against the corrupt forces that ruined his life.

The Seduction of Mimi is quite good but I’m more partial to her other films like Swept Away and the hysterically brash Seven Beauties (1975), her best work in my opinion.

Still, there is a lot to enjoy about ‘Seduction’.

Taking nothing away from Melato’s performance, Mimi is the focal point and Giannini is a pure delight. For viewers unfamiliar with his work, his dazzling green eyes and almost manic style fills the character with pizazz and passion.

The actor is also great at making his wacky shenanigans seem realistic.

Beyond the hijinks, Wertmüller offers serious messages about sexual hypocrisies, political dilemmas, and corruption. She mixes jokes with purpose so that the audience learns a thing or two while being richly entertained.

Like her obvious mentor, Fellini, she appreciates good satire and incorporates that into her films.

Visually, there’s some cool and wacky camera-angle stuff going on. Mimi repeatedly notices moles, beauty marks, or otherwise odd eccentric facial features which come into focus as shaky closeup camera shots.

Since the film is so Italian it’s joyful to watch it for this aspect alone. There are frequent sequences shot on location in Sicily, and around Italy, a treat for those partial to European films.

The Seduction of Mimi (1972) is a film I’d like to see again for more appreciation and further examination. It’s a film that has more going on than meets the eye and leaves its viewer pondering more specifically regarding the Union storyline.

Bread and Chocolate-1974

Bread and Chocolate-1974

Director Franco Brusati

Starring Nino Manfredi

Scott’s Review #996

Reviewed March 6, 2020

Grade: B

Bread and Chocolate (1974), known as Pane e cioccolata in Italian is a mixed dramatic and comedic offering by the director, Franco Brusati, a well-known Italian screenwriter and director.

The film is charming and tells of one man’s trials and tribulations trying to make it as a migrant worker in a foreign country- in this case neighboring Switzerland. He is conflicted by the opportunities presented and the catastrophic way his life is screwed up at every turn.

The film is meaningful and poignant but sometimes has no clear path. A commonality is the representation of differing cultures.

Nino (Nino Manfredi) is a hard-working Sicilian man who heads for Switzerland in search of a better life- the time is the 1960s or the 1970s when this was a common occurrence. Despite his best efforts to fit in with his neighbors, he never quite seems to make it, haplessly going from one situation to the next.

He befriends and is supported for a time by a Greek woman named Elena, who is a refugee and harbors secrets. He forages a career as a waiter and befriends a busboy. As his luck dwindles, he is reduced to finding shelter with a group of Neapolitans living in a chicken coop, with the same chickens they tend to to survive.

With bizarre gusto they frequently emulate the chickens, strangely parading around their quarters like animals.

The main character of Nino reminds me of the character that Roberto Benigni played in the 1997 gem, Life is Beautiful. In that film, Guido tries to shelter his son from the horrors of war. In Bread and Chocolate, Nino has a zest for life using humor to survive and get through daily situations, slowly realizing his dire straits.

Both characters are scrappy and daring; Nino humorously urinating on a tree or awkwardly finding a dead body in the woods.

The theme of the film is loaded with conflict over staying in Switzerland to find a better life or returning in shame to his homeland of Italy, assumed a failure. Nino constantly wrestles with this quandary and discusses this point with his family photos in his bedroom.

In two instances he nearly gets on a train headed back to Italy but changes his mind. The film does not do a great job explaining or showing what is so awful back in Italy.

Bread and Chocolate is difficult to categorize because it is neither a straight-ahead comedy nor pure drama. As the film progresses it loses some situational comedy moments in favor of exhibiting melancholia and sadness.

I am not sure this is a great decision as we wonder many times if we should laugh with Nino or feel bad for him. Perhaps both?

The film scores big when it focuses on comedy as evidenced by several laugh-out-loud restaurant scenes. Nino, clearly not knowing what he is doing, struggles to properly peel an orange to serve a guest. He emulates another waiter with hilarious results.

Later he offends a snobbish, sophisticated woman after she blames him for causing her to fall to the floor.

The strangest scene occurs when the chicken people spy on four gorgeous Swiss siblings bathing in a nearby river. Gorgeous and tranquil, they are the definition of stunning and lush.

Charmed by the idyllic vision of the group, Nino decides to dye his hair and pass himself off as a local. The images of the cackling and dirty Italian people, with their snickering and drooling set against the peaceful family, are both beautiful and odd.

The scene could almost be featured in an Ingmar Bergman art film.

Bread and Chocolate (1974) is a film about a man’s journey that can be classified as an adventure, drama, art film, or comedy, and sometimes crosses genres too much. The comedic antics draw rave reviews, but the film slips a bit when it goes into the dramatic territory and becomes middling and too preachy.

Actor Nino Manfredi breathes all the life he can into a film that is appealing, but not quite marvelous.

Toni Erdmann-2016

Toni Erdmann-2016

Director-Maren Ade

Starring-Peter Simonischek, Sandra Huller

Scott’s Review #686

Reviewed October 1, 2017

Grade: A-

Reaped with a slew of award nominations in 2017, mostly in the Foreign Language film categories, Toni Erdmann is a unique film that I must champion, but for its imagination and humanistic perspective alone.

At two hours and forty-two minutes in length, it can almost be watched in segments- miniseries style. The film is set in Bucharest, Romania, so viewers are treated to several exterior scenes of the bustling city and interesting European culture.

However, the film is German and Austrian made and produced.

Winfried Conradi is a hippie-type man in his sixties. Divorced and working as a music teacher, his dog suddenly dies resulting in his decision to reconnect with his corporate, power-hungry daughter, Ines. She is forging her career in business consulting, currently on assignment in Bucharest.

Winfried insinuates himself into Ines’s busy life as she wants little to do with him or the petty practical jokes he continues to play on her.

Gradually, involving a few hysterical antics and embarrassing situations, father and daughter reunite and forge the loving relationship that they once shared.

What makes Toni Erdmann an unusual film is simply that one will not know what to expect from the film or what direction the film will go in as we get to know and love the characters. We do know that Ines is a driven career woman, busy beyond belief, with no time for her father.

Yet, in all of the scenes that Ines and Winfried share, in large part due to fantastic and believable acting by the two principles (Peter Simonischek and Sandra Huller), there is an underlying love and appreciation for each other that comes across on-screen. This chemistry made me root for the father-daughter reunion and re-connection.

When Winfried dons his garish wig and horrid false teeth, naming himself “Toni Erdmann”, a series of hilarious scenes ensue. Winfried is successful at being noticed in important corporate functions and dinners he follows Ines to, as well as a ladies dinner with Ines and her friends as he explains to the women that he is in Bucharest to attend a funeral that a friend is having for his pet turtle.

The way that actor Simonischek fills his character with earnestness and dry wit is what makes these scenes so hilarious.

My favorite scene of all and, if this film goes down in history as remembered, is a scene that will surely be talked about for years to come, is the “naked party” scene.

Not only is the scene comical, but it is also fraught with meaning as it is a turning point for the character of Ines. Hosting a team-building party for her birthday, the party is set to begin, except Ines cannot get her dress on and her shoes do not match.

Frustrated, with a guest already at the door, Ines strips naked and decides to turn the party into a naked, team-building experience.

Some guests are disgusted and leave, others reluctantly agree to strip nude. It is the point where Ines sheds not only her clothes, but her stodgy, rigid persona and begins to appreciate and enjoy life again- thanks to her father.

Toni Erdmann is a unique and unpredictable film by a female director (Maren Ade), who has an interesting and strong perspective on the female psyche. She carves a thoughtful tale about a damaged father and daughter with characters to root for and realism.

The film is a fun, laugh-out-loud romp, that also goes into dramatic territory, careful to remain playful and not be too overwrought. I enjoyed the film tremendously.

Oscar Nominations: Best Foreign Language Film

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best International Film (won)

Amelie-2001

Amelie-2001

Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring Audrey Tatou

Scott’s Review #74

60022048

Reviewed June 27, 2014

Grade: C+

Amelie (2001) was a major disappointment for me. Critically acclaimed and admired, I did not get this movie at all.

First the positives: this film is French, which gives it an edge for the beautiful language and the setting of France.

The cinematography, art direction, and set design are inventive and unique. The movie has a magical, whimsical feel to it which is appealing.

The story, however, is an enormous drawback.

The central character, a waif-like, sweet, waitress is lonely and feels unloved, yet avoids meeting the man of her dreams by playing a cat-and-mouse game of leaving silly notes and sending him on wild goose chases because she is afraid of happiness, yet she does everything she can to ensure others find happiness.

The story did not work for me at all, but I admire the creativity of the film itself.

Perhaps I should allow myself a second viewing as this film received much fanfare.

Oscar Nominations: Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen/Original Screenplay, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best Foreign Film (won)

I’m So Excited-2013

I’m So Excited-2013

Director Pedro Almodovar

Starring Antonio de la Torre, Hugo Silva

Scott’s Review #25

70270748

Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: B-

The latest offering by superb Spanish director, Pedro Almodovar, who directed the brilliantly disturbing The Skin I Live In (2011) a few years ago, returns with a vast departure.

He delves into a campy, lighthearted, yarn about a group of passengers and crew aboard a troubled flight in I’m So Excited (2013).

The group turns to booze and drugs to console themselves and a circus ensues.

Someone had described this as the gay Airplane! (1980) and that is fitting. Everyone on board is gay, bi-curious, or otherwise sexually confused and the one-liners keep coming.

The premise sounds hysterical, but sadly, the film does not measure up to expectations.

FYI: I felt Airplane! was overrated.

Funny moments, but the “over-the-topness” was too much to take remotely seriously and somehow did not hold my attention throughout.

Not Almodovar’s best work by a longshot.