movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.

This week focuses on three Italian films I’d never seen before.



Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

It’s not often that I watch a film I’d call a “masterpiece”, a movie I’d change nothing about. The other night I did for the first time this year. I’ve heard about IL SORPASSO for years, mostly from my friend Gus. While working in Italy, several mentions of the title and sightings of the poster convinced me to finally screen the film. And good god, it feels like the world is a better place now that I’ve seen it.

IL SORPASSO is one of those movies that creates a world I just want to inhabit. I desired to hang out with the characters as long as I could and never wanted the credits to roll. Every one of the humans on screen feels so vital, from the principals to the extras who director Dino Risi does a fantastic job of showcasing in subtle ways that add to the narrative. Speaking of, the structure of this film is one I will have to study over and over again. It unfolds in the most casual way but cleverly comes together as profound work of cinema, all leading to a finale that you should let know no one tell you about if you haven’t seen it (I recommend not even reading a synopsis).

Perhaps the best compliment of all is to say that Risi’s film captures the truth of life. I can think of very few movies that really do.

Watched on Criterion Channel.


IL BIDONE (1955)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

IL BIDONE is the uncharacteristic Fellini film. Beyond the Nino Rota score and slight touches of the filmmaker’s style, I cannot thing of another film in his body of work that is more unlike the others. However, this con-man/road movie is a memorable standalone piece.

The highlight is the central performance by American actor Broderick Crawford, who may be the Hollywood actor with the most natural fit for Italian cinema. He fits right in alongside fellow traveler Richard Basehart but it’s Crawford with that big unforgettable who steals the show. From the grifter scenes to the poignant moments with his daughter, Crawford delivers a performance to rival his best work in films like PRIVATE FILES OF J. EDGAR HOOVER.

Much of IL BIDONE bumps along in an episodic and sometimes dull way. Not all of it works but the combination of Crawford and a surprisingly dark finale make this a must see from that era, not to mention a curiosity for Fellini completists.

Watched on Criterion Channel



Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Pasolini’s film, just one part of the RO.GO.PA.G omnibus film but presented by Criterion Collection on its own, is a deceptive satire that begins with broad comedy and works its way into gut-punching symbolism.

My only complaint about this fantastic piece is the casting of Orson Welles without using his own voice. He’s the perfect actor to play a filmmaker, bored and frustration with his adaptation of the Christ story, but dubbing him is both distracting and a missed opportunity to include one of the most iconic voices in cinema history.

Otherwise, the film is a delightful, biting work of satire with an unforgettable ending.

Watched on Criterion Channel.