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Blu-Ray Review - BOCCACCIO '70 (1962)

boccaccio '70 review
Anthology from four acclaimed Italian filmmakers.







Review by Jason Abbey

Directed by: Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli, Luchino Visconti

Starring: Anita Ekberg, Sophia Loren, Marisa Solinas, Peppino De Filippo, Romy Schneider

boccaccio '70 blu-ray cult films

A quartet of stories from some of Italian cinema's heavy hitters featuring some of the most glamorous ladies of 60’s cinema should reap rich rewards. However, a bloated running time and sense of familiarity leads to an enjoyable but essentially lightweight three hours plus.

Consisting of our tales of morality and love in the style of renaissance poet Boccaccio but set in the modern day, Boccaccio '70 was initially released internationally without the lesser known Mario Monicelli segment, which has now been restored, although placed as the final story when initially released as the first.

boccaccio '70

Federico Fellini’s The Temptation of Dr Antonio feels almost like a caricature of his signature style as the titular moral pest of the title attempts to block the progress of a giant advertising hoarding of Anita Ekberg flogging milk. That Dr Antonio’s (Peppino De Filippo) actions may be an effort to stifle his own lustful thoughts is hardly a shock, and with the broad acting there is a sense of playfulness that makes this an enjoyable soufflĂ© that has been overstretched. Antonio is a Daily Mail letters page made flesh, but once things become hallucinatory as the doctor is attacked by a 50' Ekberg and, by Jove, loses his umbrella, things take a turn for the better.

The Job is a much more sombre affair regarding the gallivanting antics of and aristocratic husband (Tomas Milian) with a predilection for prostitutes, and his wife (Romy Schneider), who may hold all the cards as the wealthier part of this family but wearily accepts her husband's behaviour for fear of being seen as bourgeois. Instantly familiar as a Luchino Visconti piece, this offers quick fire repartee (you need to be quick on the subtitles) reminiscent of screwball comedy but with a profoundly depressing heart. When one of Conte’s indiscretions are revealed in the press he assembles a team of lawyers to assist him in the financial fall out once his wife Pupe goes missing. Pupe returns after a night of Jazz and soul searching, coming to the conclusion that she needs a career financed independently if she is to be happy. The badinage and bickering between the couple is both amusing and poignant. Visconti has a knack at making you care about people who in the wrong hands should be truly insufferable. This is a world of the rich, the servants only getting a look in when they feast upon the opulent scraps left by their employees, or when a change of plans interrupts the downstairs shenanigans the staff may have planned.

Pupe’s putative career ideas are frivolous whimsy until she hits on a career path that seems to give her husband so much pleasure, an idea with glitzy allure that ultimately seems as cold, drab and heartless as her moneyed existence. The final shot is a knockout, even if in reality Daddy is only one call away with a cash bailout. Beautifully paced, with knife sharp tailoring and visuals, this is by far the most complex of the films.

boccaccio '70

By far the most enjoyable offering is Vittorio De Sica’s morally bankrupt comedy The Raffle, in which the so hot she stops bulls in their tracks Zoe (Sophia Loren) is raffled out to the yokels of a farming town as the sexual prize for the winning ticket. Zoe is more complex than the sultry slattern that the villagers think they are getting, as she is helping pay off debts accrued by the owners of the stall in which she works. Loren works wonders with the role. To say she was born for the camera is something of an understatement, but she has comedic chops and a steely resolve that never makes Zoe the victim she could so easily be.

De Sica is fully aware of the livestock market setting. For all her pulchritude, Zoe is just another piece of meat to be sold at auction to the highest bidder. The tone is light and frothy but a few serious points are scored. Like the final winner of the titular raffle, things do go a bit limp and floppy before the climax as the hitherto strong willed heroine falls for the charms of a broad-shouldered yokel who has attempted to kidnap her and slapped her about once he discovers what the winner of the raffle receives.

Monicelli’s Renzo and Luciania is stuck at the back on this presentation, and you can see why. Truth be told, this is a bit of a dud, with none of the brio of the proceeding tales. It all feels a bit ponderous and earnest as the titular couple hide their marriage and possible pregnancy from the draconian contract that their employee has drawn up, which forbids workers marrying and having kids.

boccaccio '70

Inevitably, a lecherous boss will have designs on Luchiana (Marisa Solinas) that will put a strain on her marriage to Renzo (Germano Gilioli) as she seeks ways of deterring his interest while assuaging any suspicion. Despite a few touches, such as a jukebox playing hymns and a father in law with an anachronistic approach to spousal abuse, there is little to excite. There is no real sense of jeopardy, just the wearying erasure of excitement that comes from trying to have sex in your in-laws' spare room and the routine of a working-class existence being the death of romance. Also, they would be the most annoying couple to sit in a cinema with, even before the invention of mobile phones.

Two great works more than make Boccaccio '70 worth the time investment, even if there is no real connective tissue to the four stories, which could be easily watched on successive nights. You get two directors working in their comfort zone and an energetic fun De Sica. Cult Films' blu-ray is restored and slightly rough around the edges with a choice of English language or subtitles. One for Italian aficionados only I suspect.
Extras:

As part of the Sophia Loren Collection this has only one extra, a 50-minute documentary on the actress. Enjoyable but lightweight, this is a bit hagiographic, or it may just be that she is as nice and fun as both her peers and the interview suggests. It's good on her relationship with De Sica and the bold choices that she has made in her career. Loren seems to have fallen off the radar somewhat but one look at the clips on show in this documentary should have you raiding her back catalogue.

Boccaccio '70 is on blu-ray now from Cult Films.

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