Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mario Monicelli (1915-2010)

When Joseph E. Levine released the four-part Italian anthology film Boccaccio 70 in the United States in 1962, he made it a three-part film to make the running time more manageable. As a result, while Mario Monicelli was presented to fellow Italians as the peer of fellow directors Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti and Vittorio de Sica, and had recently scored an art-house hit in the U.S. with Big Deal on Madonna Street, he was symbolically left off the A-list of Italian auteurs of the country's cinematic prime, at least as far as Americans were concerned. When the complete Boccaccio 70 was issued on DVD in the U.S. more than forty years later, Monicelli's contribution pretty much stole the show, as far as I was concerned. His "Renzo and Luciana" is a neorealist comic romance filmed on a massive if not epic scale, a vividly composed portrait of work and play for ordinary Italians. By the time I saw the film, Monicelli had outlived all his collaborators, and had directed a film as recently as 2006, in his nineties. I resolved to watch more Monicelli films, but haven't found the time yet, though I have his Girl With a Pistol on my Netflix queue. The news that Monicelli has killed himself following a diagnosis of prostate cancer, leaping from a fifth-floor hospital window at the age of 95, makes me regret my negligence. His death all but ends a heroic era in Italian and international cinema, while the man himself ought to be better known.

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