Romanzo popolarei is very much a didactic piece in the vein of "socialist realist" & revolutionary aesops of the time : here's how to be "civilised" such as the concept may be reduced to fit the needs and perspectives of the hruscheba dwellerii. It does a decent job of it, in any case much better a job than either Mosfilm or Hollywood ever managed. Italians, heh.
Romanzo popolare is also a filigreed surrealist gem, perhaps the most splendid of its kind. The core of the story is that tired old trope of Lolita, the child-woman, but done well by competent artists with their soul and their mind in their regular places, as opposed to the deeply insane shambling horrors inhabiting the frozen North.
Vincenzina recounts, with the innocent worldshattering of innocent worldshattering, her own experience of her own sexuality, as both a subjected animal and an aspiring spark. A very Platonic story altogether, and in the end the older man fails to keep up, but not for being old. They all fail to keep up, the accountant with pills and his love of self, the banker with his great teachings and great violence... no one quite manages to turn Vincenzina, no one quite fits the strange cut on her screw. But that's ok. She gets a job, and she gets a political position. Such as they are, such as they could be. She gets to know things about men, things wivesiii never get to know. Many things.
What can you do ? Cehehehertainly you can't go back to being almost 18 and hoping that who knows, maybe in spite of itself this world hides somewhere a man worth the name. Time only flows one way, and the seventies, that paragon of modernity from half a century ago is barely a byword for prehistory by now. The child-woman isn't running into any men today either, and all signs point to her also running out of patience. But what can you do ?
Romanzo popolare also establishes the duo as exceptional actors. It's not a matter of "best in their generation" or any similar competitive ersatzes. It's a matter of, "without Tognazzi, without Muti, the generation'd have been much less". He manages to be the definitive voice of the affable, somewhat nostalgic, optimistic in strange, incomprehensible, inexpressible extensions civilised man of the lower class, which is to say of the multitude. He pulls, immensely, he speaks, countlessly for and to countless nameless hordes.
I can let him speak for me. He's not as able, no, he can't see as sharply nor as far, no. But within that place, within that narrow domain of the banal, for that vanishingly inexistent in my daily life interval where there's no fundamental misunderstandings he can speak for me. I suppose it doesn't sound like much spelled out like that. It's something. An incredible achievement this, actually, to be an unirritating voice, however narrowly permitted to speak.
Ornella Muti, with her splendide tette gonfie, her waist da fare impazzire and so on and so forth, all the heavy, earthy attributes of womanly perfection that so readily provoke envy and the hatred of the inferior nevertheless emerges as an excellent actress. She's good, not just because you'd fuck her, but also, and especially, because you'd fuck her, very very much so.
Romanzo popolare is one of the extremely few films I wouldn't reshoot. This is not merely an exquisite accomplishment for all they involved, but a true service to humanity. Here is one thing done before our time that won't have to be redone by our own hands. What more can you ask of anyone ?———
- 1974, by Mario Monicelli, with Ugo Tognazzi, Ornella Muti [↩]
- Not the one captive there, the circumstantial, accidental denizen ; but the one whose "upwards social mobility" takes him there in preference of his old dungbrick and mudfloor previous cocioba. In preference of his mulacheba, if you prefer. From mula, just as hruscheba is named for Hruschev. [↩]
- "As a proper wife should be", says the aspiring youth that betrays her plainly, incomprehendingly, within the hour. [↩]