I soliti ignotii tells the usual Italian story of "the lower classes". As is the case with say La Terra Trema, or Ladri de biciclette, or generally speaking any work dedicating itself to that squarely forgettable, entirely unworthy subject, the only thing that transpires is just how idiotic those "poveracci" actually are. Bumbling, ineffectual, pretending at the wrong times to a honorability they lack and minding expediency above else exactly when they shouldn't, constantly bestowing upon each other a recognition that's so scandalously inappropriate it actually works as a toxin... the universal intention of the works is something or the other "about the human condition" but their only possible effect is exactly contrary to that intention -- All one can think watching the poor and therefore stupid at work is "who the hell let the monkeys in".
Yes, I get it, Mastroianni's mug makes you think of a nostalgic monkey, and "who knows, maybe they're also people, also human beings ... ???". They aren't. For one thing, he's paid for exactly this effect ; real items in the vein he depicts will differ from the depiction in specific ways you may train yourself to ignore at your peril (which peril specifically is poor Elvira Almiraghi's fate). For the other thing : the poor aren't human beings, what the fuck is so hard about this concept ? Sure, you think they maybe "aspire to humanity", in the manner a certain nude damsel thought bugs are animals. Good for them, let them aspire ; bother me when they're done "aspiring". (Bother yourself when they're done aspiring also, lest you end up falling into the cisterna stercum as the necessary mechanical result of trying to pull out the unripe fruits of Goddess
Il vedovoii is a very strange story indeed, made all the more eerie by how actually natural and true to life it is!
Il vedovo is the story of a man who has an intelligent and wealthy wife, that is well connected with the exact sort of people he worships. He could use help in all these categories, as he's not that smartiii, nor rich, nor well connected -- and yet, he manages to derive no benefit from his close connection to this woman.
Il vedovo is also the story of a man who has a loyal, enthusiastic young mistress, one who towers a good head and shoulders above his wife and is an absolute, surefire attractor for the exact sort of men he wants to meet. Yet he derives no benefit from his close connection to this girl, on the contrary, it ends up harming himiv.
Have you ever heard of someone with a rich wife and a loyal mistress ? But wait, there's more! Il vedovo is also the story of a man whose wife and mistress actually like each other. I'm not making this shit up, they meet on their own power (at the wife's funeral) and become very close friends -- so says the girl, not the woman! There's no artifice here, they're not selling anyone anything, they just clicked, what! And yet... the by now familiar refrain, yes ? It's true -- the idiot derives no benefit from this happenstance either.
The fellow, affectionatelly dubbed Cretinetti by his wife, has a major fucking problem. He is derealized, you see, deeply, utterly divorced from reality, entirely captive in a world of words. Does it sound familiar ? Because it should sound familiar. Cretinetti, the redditard-before-Reddit, finds himself captive in a world devoid of any real anchoring, a world composed entirely of words. He says things ; others say other things ; he says more things. This is his whole world. He is not merely unconcerned with the closeness of those words to the realities they describe ; he is plainly unaware there is even such a thing, a reality behind the words, a substance behind all things capable of validating or invalidating speech.
This purely literary character is caught, unfairly, inequitably and no doubt regrettably, in the actual world, wherein it is not enough to say in order to be. He muchly reminds me of my blessfully far-removed idiotic cousin, one Radu Mulberry, a physicist-poet-airplanepilot-actor-consort"royal" who can't quite grasp why nobody buys any of the words. He did say the words! He said "he has full confidence in X", why does X fail to materialize ? He has said the words! What more could be needed ?! Someone said he's intelligent, what do you mean by asking "who" ? Aren't they all the same ? Words ? Someone told him so and so is a good deal, when he asked whether it's a good deal they told him it's a good deal, why is his wife pissy at his wasting thirty million "lui, quello che le metteno davanti, firma" ? Maybe she doesn't love him ?
As you perhaps expect, Cretinetti's problem is that whenever reality contradicts his verbiage he withdraws from contact. He isn't begging his wife to train him into sanity because he doesn't understand there's more to existence than verbiage ; but even without that he fails to enjoy a devoted marriage because his wife is very anchored and this makes her unpalatable. Insufferable, to be truthful.
His mistress is loyal, yes, but he lacks any manner of enjoying this loyalty. He's stuck exchanging word for word with her while shying away from her mother, who isn't nearly as young, and consequently isn't nearly as sciocchina as her young daughter (the wife doesn't make her a fault of it -- after all she fell herself for the same thing).
And their friendship, instead of a boon, is positively frightening, as much a threat as salt to snails. Behind it, he suspects a manifestation of evil. Of pure, unmitigated pandemonium -- the only category into which his feeble intellect is capable of translating for his far-reaching needs the subiacent bedrock of reality. They conspire against him, you see, it's not that they both encountered on the same rock the same outlines and in that shared, common recognition of reality they found friendship. No, it can't be about the rock, reality can't enter into it because it doesn't exist, you see. It's about him, it has to be, they are conspiring against him.
Cretinetti suffers from exactly the same mental issues of the poor. He's readily a socialist, because just like poor people everywhere he's poor himself. Should a man lose the whole world, what possible benefit could the empire of words be to him ?
Yes, poverty and dementia are practically the same thing, and yes by any practical definition of clinical insanity the soliti Cretinetti would be committed. It is severe derealization getting in the way of the patient's daily life after all! The only problem is that there being so very many of these, the older definition of disease (based on averages and divergences) tends to get in the way. Maybe, says Cretinetti, maybe it's him that's sane and everyone else not-entirely-derealized-yet is insane ?
It's a theory ; and while the free food lasts, also somewhat of a practice. Now do me a favour, do poor, nearly killed Elvira a favour, and don't marry any cretinetti. Thank you.———
- 1958, by Mario Monicelli, with a young Marcello Mastroianni (34), an even younger Claudia Cardinale (20), a credible Rossana Rory, Toto (Antonio de Curtis Gagliardi Griffo Focas Comneno [de Bizancio]) and a bunch of nobodies. [↩]
- 1959, by Dino Risi, with Alberto Sordi, Franca Valeri and a perfectly edible Leonora Ruffo [↩]
- The man is, technically speaking, intelligent. He is not as intelligent as he likes to think, of course, but as far as the measures of the human herd are concerned he certainly comes above average in that department. [↩]
- She slaps whatever big deal industrialist, whatever. [↩]