Il Magnifico Cornutoi is a beautiful Italian production detailing the intricacies of life among a meanwhile extinct set - that grande borghesia invidiously reviled by the народничество of all stripes and colors.
The smoothly operating Cristiana entraps the younger, fetching subaltern of her husband. She is a wonder to witness in action - invites her quarry to "help her break the ice" straight under the nose of the husband, much too preoccupied with an idle pursuit of a disinterested, young wife happily married (to the quarry!). She proceeds to break the ice alright - through displaying her soubrette, nude, sleeping. Such is the heart and soul of "cool" ; back before it was called "cool" because the accursed peasants hadn't yet gone nuts all over town ruining everything for everyone.
Cristina loves earnestly, and correctly. To accuse her is to declare oneself uncultured and uncouth, naught else. For eons beyond rememberance the only acceptable, the only smooth, pleasant, workable transfer of power worked on this mechanism, that the younger wife of the older capitalist took in the younger subaltern. From the bed of Eleanor he could then rule Aquitanie, and take a young woman, and age, and on it went. There's no functional replacement for this process ever devised in human society, nor is the continued search aught but folly by this point.
Cristina's lover's wife is however too young to have yet matured into this, and so she rebuffs the advances of the rather interested even-younger-man. Her husband is yet strong, and needs not replacement - not in any sense than the simple and direct "the money he holds, the capital he controls, the power he wields do not as of yet pine for younger hands". That's all. Between the two, we get to see both acceptal and refusal at work in the beautiful mechanism, and the display itself should be instructive and educative. It is, for this reason, a film that can scarcely be eschewed, much like Voltaire can scarcely be eschewed - only goats may live unaware of these things.
There's some ditzy Aesop stuck on side of rifle, for no purpose, it only gets heavy. You're invited to see right through what the body on display aims to present, straight into what it is in fact presenting. Cinema, in this respect, is very much like fuff : easier.———
- 1964, by Antonio Pietrangeli, with Ugo Tognazzi, Claudia Cardinale, Michele Girardon. [↩]