Sunday, 1 April 2012

Agostina Belli & co in "Profumo di Donna" [1974 Italy]

Any record of Italian cinema is incomplete without the inclusion of one director named Dino Risi. He was one of the most important and prolific contributors to Italian mainstream cinema, and more specifically to that uniquely Italian genre called Commedia All'italiana.

While I can't claim to have gone through his entire filmography, I think I've seen enough Risi's works to make some observations. His early style of film making was reminiscent of Antonioni, particularly in terms of composition and lighting. His actors are often top-draw artistes of the day, and one of the reasons for his commercial success. Many times his films have brilliant starts, but occasionally they get unnecessarily convoluted and finish in a hurry. I've heard a celebrated director once say that the ending is the most creatively challenging part of making any film, and that's what separates a great director from the rest. But what I would be grateful to Risi for is the moments of sheer magic that appear in some of his scenes - they're so perfect that I doubt they could be shot in a better way, and whether or not we remember the film's storyline, that single magical scene will be etched in your memory for ever, even if they may have little to the main plot. Like the beautiful romantic scene in the moonlit cobbled streets of Rome in "Un amore a Roma". Or like in his 1974 masterpiece "Profumo di Donna" [Eng. Title: Scent of a Woman], later to be remade in Hollywood with an Oscar-winning performance from Al Pacino.

I'm not getting carried away when I say Risi's original is far superior in every way to the US remake. The original has a lot of depth, excellent screenplay and characterisation, subtle humour, equal or perhaps even a better performance from the lead actor Vittorio Gassman (he won at Cannes and also got a David for this film), and a scintillating soundtrack. On the whole, it is a marvellous example of Italian cinema at its best. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link
English Subtitles

Fausto, a retired army officer, blinded in an accident, is travelling from Turin to Naples, and as part of his perks is assigned young cadet Giovanni aka Ciccio as his escort for the journey. They will pass through Genoa and Rome to allow Fausto perform some errands along the way. He is after all making his final visit before planning to kill himself - he and another blind colleague have made a secret pact - to end their existence of misery and others' pity. During those five days, Ciccio will learn a lot about Fausto, having been initially put-off by his outwardly brash and exuberant behaviour. Ciccio will also have matured beyond his age by then, as he begins to understand the value of dignity and self respect through his middle aged travelling companion. Even more so after meeting the beautiful Sara, who is deeply in love with Fausto, her deceased father's former colleague. But Fausto persistently discourages her intentions, not even letting her have a private moment with him. He doesn't want to be loved for the sake of pity. But Sara is determined to win his love...

Dino Risi's magic:
I last watched this film many years ago, but the scene that stood in my mind every time the film's name is mentioned, is not even a pivotal scene. Upon reflection, I think it is the timing of its insertion and the graceful way it has been filmed that shows what Risi is capable of producing - a memorable moment of magic. They're in Genoa, and while Fausto uses the services of a prostitute, Ciccio hangs out in the terrace where the prostitute's daughter is playing, shielded from her mother's chosen profession. Later in the scene, after a generous tip from a satisfied Fausto, the prostitute offers Ciccio some of her time for free, which he politely refuses. On a different note, this will unfortunately also be the actor playing Ciccio, Alessandro Mommo's last work, loosing his life in a motor accident shortly after completing this film.

Agostina Belli, Marisa Volonnino, Elena Veronese, and Stefania Spugnini
There is only brief nudity in the film, but they're a joy to watch, not least for the drop-dead gorgeous Agostina Belli in the prime of her youth. And considering one could count on top of the head at least a dozen such outstanding beauties working in Italian cinema simultaneously, men of that era must have had a 'nightmare' even constructing their little fantasies..! :D

Agostina Belli and others in Profumo di donna

Scene Guide:
  • Fausto and Ciccio at a nightclub in Rome catered by topless waitresses. Don't you just love the seventies..!
  • No nudity - this is more of an excuse to see the stunning Agostina Belli in daylight as her character Sara tries to catch Fausto alone, but after noticing her presence he immediately summons Ciccio to come and sit with them.
  • The girls - Ines, Michelina, and Candida are changing into their bikini to go swimming when Fausto barges in taking advantage of his condition and liberally gropes them, who are a flirty bunch of tease in any case. Bespectacled Candida is Sara's younger sister while the others are her friends. Ines, Michelina and Candida are played by Marisa Volonnino, Elena Veronese, and Stefania Spugnini respectively.
  • Sara, who'd been hiding all the while is 'spotted' by Fausto who could 'sense' the scent of a woman (hence the title). But once he realises who it is, Fausto shows his mean streak by asking Ciccio to come in and see. A furious Sara leaves in a hurry.
  • No nudity but further groping by Fausto at a dinner where he 'spots' the girls by feeling their buttocks..! :)

No comments:

Post a Comment