Thursday, March 9, 2023

A Difficult Life

Una Vita Difficile is the title of the novel, Silvio Magnozzi (Alberto Sordi) the feckless protagonist of Dino Risi’s film is writing.  A Difficult Life (1961) is an ironic understatement. Sordi’s character is a maudlin Chaplin clown, buffeted by historical forces which begin with Mussolini’s surrender in l943 and end with the founding of the Italian Republic and the advent of the Communist party. The tone of the movie is sad and at the same time hilarious. In his helplessness, Sordi’s character emanates the tristesse of Giulietta Masina in La Strada (1954). BTW Silvio, unable to sell his book to publishers, heads to Cinecitta where he pleads for the attention of a director who swings away from him on a boom. In Alberto Lattuada's Mafioso (1962), Sordi played a character who was also torn, in that case between the urbane North and the South with its dark criminality. A scene which takes place in the aftermath of the plebiscite, which resulted in the defeat of the monarchy, epitomizes how the movie finds the humor in life and death issues. Neither Silvio, who barely makes a living writing for The Worker nor his wife Elena have eaten for days. However, they inadvertently find themselves at the table of monarchist aristocrats where food and wine flow freely as the votes are being counted. If they declare their allegiance to the Republic they won’t eat, but they pile the food high, at the same time carefully "mincing" their words. The denouement of the movie is redolent of similar ironies. Silvio who seems to be selling out as part of his attempt to win back Elena (Lea Massari) finds himself totally humiliated when his imperious capitalist employer sprays seltzer water into his face. In a final gesture of defiance he throws his boss into a swimming pool. This moment of triumph is truly tragic-comic since, leaving Silvio right back where he started, ie nowhere, it walks a thin line between the two. NB. The choreography of the comedy in one scene where Sordi staggers out of a nightclub onto a highway filled with tourist buses is a cinematic classic. A Difficult Life is completing a run at Film Forum. Don't miss it!

read Francis Levy's review of Fit Nation, The East Hampton Star

and watch the trailer for Erotomania

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