No Shame Films presents
Boccaccio '70 (1962)
"What's wrong with looking at a naked woman?"- Anita (Anita Ekberg)
Stars: Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg, Peppino de Filippo, Marisa Solinas, Germano Giglioli, Romy Schneider, Tomas Milian
Director: Mario Monicelli, Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Vittorio de Sica
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for sexual themes, partial nudity, adult themes
Run Time: 03h:15m:34s
Release Date: 2005-04-26
DVD ReviewQuestions about this movie begin with the title; why "Boccaccio" and why "'70," when the film was made in 1962? Obviously, the producers wanted some connection with Boccaccio's famous (and occasionally saucy) work, The Decameron, and thus the use of his name, but the "'70" part of the title is just marketing ballyhoo, since we're supposed to believe this is the film that would get made in 1970 if we jumped ahead several years. Too hot for 1962, but not for 1970! Wowza! Never mind the completely ludicrous nature of that idea, was it too hot for 1962? No, not really. It seems exceedingly tame now of course, but the four films contained within this two-disc set provide an entertaining evening or two in any event.
The four parts don't have any real overriding theme, unless you want to claim it's male-female relationships, or perhaps the commodification of women, but those are pretty vague. The four parts don't have a consistent tone, either, as they range from bittersweet to satirical to bitter to jovial, in that order. The bittersweet is to be found in Mario Monicelli's Renzo & Luciana, a story of illicit interoffice romance. The titular characters are both employees at the same company, one that has a rather draconian attitude toward relationships in the office, namely automatic dismissal. Fearing Luciana (Marisa Solinas) is pregnant, the pair marry on their lunch break, and then work to hide it from Luciana's lecherous boss, all the while living with Luciana's family in an already cramped apartment. Neither is happy with the arrangement, especially sexually frustrated Renzo (Germano Gilioli), and it puts a strain on their relationship. When the opportunity comes to move on, they think it's a dream come true, but things turn out somewhat differently.
This section was dropped from the film before release, ostensibly for length (included, the film is about 195 minutes here, after all), but considering the differences in material in the other three stories, they may as well have left it in. It has a light wit, and the final sting of the end is handled subtly, as the couple, together but separated by their upward mobility, are framed with their yearned-for apartment itself keeping them apart. Monicelli places the characters so a wall or other item splits the frame between them to underline their situation.
The satirical part of the anthology was helmed by Federico Fellini, who followed up La Dolce vita with this, his first work in color, The Temptation of Dr. Antonio, starring Anita Ekberg as a fantasy version of herself, and Peppino de Filippo as the title character, a puritanical killjoy who rants against the increasing permissiveness of society. His blood pressure is sent skyrocketing heavenward with the arrival outside his apartment building of a giant billboard, which features the pneumatic Ekberg in all her glory, wearing a slinky gown to promote milk (cue lascivious chuckling). The good doctor finds the ad nothing less than pornographic, which is going a tad overboard, but there's no doubt the advertisers are using sex to sell their product, just as Antonio is arguing. The funniest moment in the film comes (ahem) when the workmen have finished putting the billboard up and are wetting it down. Just before cutting away, Fellini shows us a blast of water originating offscreen, which splashes directly into Ekberg's oversized cleavage.
The doctor's fight against the billboard leads to his slow breakdown, as he starts to see the billboard making faces at him. When he goes to take a better look, he discovers that Anita has climbed down from the billboard and wants to talk. What follows is fairly amusing if a little overlong, as Antonio berates Anita for her destructive effect on society, which obviously cuts no ice with her. While this isn't prime Fellini, it has its charms, and is worth seeing if for no other reason than seeing a 50-foot tall Anita Ekberg cavorting about. Fellini's bases Antonio's prudishness within a religious context, pointing out the damaging effect religion can have, and he presents the religious authorities as doddering weirdos. Priests even show up during the billboard's construction, enjoying the spectacle as much as the lay people. A beginning and ending sequence with Cupid is fairly pointless and should have been dropped, though.
Next is the bitter in Luchino Visconti's The Job, starring future spaghetti western legend Tomas (billed as Thomas) Milian and the lovely Romy Schneider. This film has the most meat of the four, but it has its problems as well. The tale revolves around playboy aristocrat Ottavio (Milian), who has stupidly been caught cavorting with several call girls. As the film begins, he is meeting with legal advisers to determine what he should do, given a torrent of press reports about his behavior. Having placed his fortune in his wife Pupe's (Schneider) family's name for tax reasons, he is distressed when he finds out that her father has blocked access to those accounts, leaving him effectively penniless. So, he must woo and cajole his wife into getting his money back, not to mention making a press statement in support of him.
Ottavio finds Pupe in her bedroom, writing poetry, which Ottavio immediately scoffs at. The two verbally joust, and it's clear that Pupe is much sharper than the glib liar Ottavio, though Pupe is just as complicit in their marriage of convenience. Pupe mocks Ottavio for his need to solicit prostitutes and informs him that she is going to get a job of her own, a move that ends up shattering whatever faith she had left in their marriage.
While Pupe's eventual realization of the nature of her marriage is heartbreaking for her, I found it hard to believe she didn't understand what she was getting into from the start. We don't know enough about her to truly understand her, though from what Visconti shows us, we can see she's used to the good life. Her husband is clearly a sleazebag, so while his ready, almost eager acceptance of her new "job" is disheartening, it isn't a shock. Schneider is simply excellent as Pupe, and it's the best performance in any of the four parts.
After that downer, we need something to cleanse the palate and leave us on a more pleasant note, and that is Vittorio de Sica's The Raffle, starring Sophia Loren. Loren plays sex bomb (a stretch, I know) carnival worker Zoe, who makes money by being the prize in raffle competitions. When she meets Gaetano (Luigi Giuliani), a young stud who saves her from a runaway bull, the sexual sparks fly and she wonders if her sideline is such a good idea. The town's men, meanwhile, frantically search for the winner of the raffle, in order to buy the winning ticket at any cost.
Watching the reaction of the town's menfolk to Zoe reminded me of seeing Some Like It Hot in a high school film class. The class (I went to an all boys school) hooted, hollered, and drooled everytime Marilyn Monroe appeared on screen, and that attitude is present in The Raffle, as Loren is objectified to an obnoxious level by the men. When Gaetano acts like something less than an animal toward her, Zoe is naturally attracted. Generally speaking though, I liked this the least of the four "acts" of Boccaccio '70. I didn't have a whole lot of sympathy for Zoe's situation, though there are some cheap laughs to be had. It's diverting, but not much more. Loren flaunts her goods as required in what is a fairly thankless role, and the rest of the cast is well-suited to the rustic qualities of the story.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||1.66:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: No Shame has presented Boccaccio '70 in a generally good-looking anamorphic transfer reproducing its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1. On the downside, it appears to be an interlaced PAL conversion, though the runtimes don't quite fit together. The box lists a runtime of 208 minutes, which at PAL speed would run 199. The actual runtime is 195, so I'm not sure why there is a discrepancy. The picture does look pretty good overall, all things considered.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: You have two choices, the original Italian or English mono soundtracks. Both are decent, depending on your aversion to subtitles. I thought the English versions of The Job and The Raffle were quite well done. One point about the soundtracks is that the film has footage restored to it in some cases that was cut for the American release, so it has no English dub. In these cases, there is a second set of English subtitles for the undubbed portions only. Kudos to No Shame for going the extra mile here. The soundtracks both sound fine, though the Italian track seemed a little more vivid than the English track.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (2) with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
- Booklet with essays and reporduction of original press book
- Newsreel footage
- Poster and photo galleries
- Original English titles
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsAn interesting collection of lesser-known works by some of Italy's great directors, Boccaccio '70 makes a long overdue debut in Region 1, thanks to No Shame. The two-disc presentation is solid, though a touch light on extras. Well worth looking into if you're interested in any of the directors or Italian cinema.
Jeff Wilson 2005-07-08