Stefania Sandrelli and Vittorio Gassman dumping poor ol' Nino Manfredi. Don't worry, Nino, the PPCC will protect and love you.
We at the PPCC, for however much we like Italian films, are really philistines regarding them: we have little sense of history or significance, and only nominally recognize things like neorealismo. We just haven't watched enough Italian cinema critically to make the broad generalizations we're so comfortable making in our Hindi film reviews. But after a film like this one and the recently PPCCed La meglio gioventù, we can only say, Mamma mia, ancora! That's-a one-a SPICY MOVIE! We need-a some-a MORE, please! We want to learn more!
C'eravamo tanto amati - from our uneducated, dominantly Hollywood/Bollywood perspective - was fabulously bizarre. Breaks in the fourth wall, characters addressing the camera and communicating via "internal" spoken monologues, repeated scenes, and an irreverent sense of humor that doesn't even let the attempted suicide of one of the characters make things too grim. That's not to say this film doesn't have heart - it has a sweet, earnest vibe that forgives humans, warts and all, and highlights the ridiculous surreality of our self-made dramas.
"Should I take off my braces?" she asks. His reply: "Uhm... no."
Antonio (Nino Manfredi), Gianni (Vittorio Gassman), and Nicola (Stefano Satta Flores) are old war buddies, former partigiani - AKA guerrilla fighters in the anti-Nazi resistance in Italy during World War II. After the war, during the notoriously hard times of the 1950s, they each struggle to get by. Antonio, an easygoing working class Roman, is a male nurse. One day, he meets and falls in love with the gorgeous, northern Luciana (Stefania Sandrelli). But as soon as he introduces Luciana to his debonair friend, Gianni, he loses her to him. Then she loses Gianni when the latter meanders away, inadvertently becoming trapped by a family of rich, former Fascist "padroni" (owners) and their well-meaning, ignorant daughter Elide (Giovanna Ralli). Once this happens, Luciana quickly moves onto the intellectual, self-aggrandizing Nicola. And so on.
For a film about heartbreak, economic strife and war, it's awfully upbeat. Antonio especially has a particularly self-deprecating wit, often summarizing difficult and complex tragedies with a single, dry Romanism. "Boh," he says at the film's conclusion.
"What does that mean?!" the over-articulate Nicola demands, fuming.
It just means - boh. Whatever. In the face of the ridiculousness of life, Antonio's response - a resigned shrug - seems to be the most sensible.
And the film itself is like one big Antonio too - teasing itself and the fashionable Italian cinema which preceded it. This film - which, according to a "citation needed" Wikipedia entry, is the most influential of the commedia all'italiana films - is indeed much more like the later, bizarre tragicomedies of Lina Wertmuller and Giancarlo Giannini. It feels like a conscious break from the dreary gloom of Italian movies from the 1950s and 1960s. There's a running joke throughout the film that only the self-important Nicola fully appreciates Ladri di biciclette (The Bicycle Thieves), a film now renowned as being the Italian neorealist film (after La dolce vita, maybe). Speaking of La dolce vita, there's also a wonderfully bizarre and self-referential sequence when Antonio and Luciana stumble upon the filming of the famous Trevi Fountain scene (complete with great cameos by Federico Fellini and Marcello Mastroianni). It's a film making fun of other films!
OMG, that looks familiar!
Federico Fellini and Marcello Mastroianni playing themselves.
Apart from the fun, lively narrative, we also fell in love with the four principal characters - who were uniformly bumbling and ridiculous. Nino Manfredi was especially lovable as the kindhearted Antonio. There's a very sweet scene when Antonio bumps into Luciana many years after their initial break-up. He notices a little boy hovering around her and, becoming increasingly distracted by the boy and Luciana's hands twirling the boy's hat, he eventually stammers, "Wait, excuse me, is he... is he...?" She nods with a smile. Antonio extends his hand to the boy, "My name is Antonio. What's your name?"
"Luigi," the boy replies.
Antonio turns back to Luciana, voice wavering and eyes tearful, "You named him after my mother's uncle!"
Antonio and Luciana, the early days.
Oh yeah! Mike Bongiorno also makes a cameo, huzzah! We want to be the next Mike Bongiorno.
We can't really find any criticism for this film. We enjoyed every minute of it. This was right up our alley, and we were delighted and captivated. If you too like mildly weird and silly humanistic tragicomedies, this one's a real treat.