Thursday, 30 May 2019

CINEMA REBORN - The Presentations (7) - Jason Di Rosso introduces LUCKY TO BE A WOMAN (Alessandro Blasetti, Italy, 1956)

Jason Di Ro
Lucky to be a Woman/ La Fortuna di Essere Donna is one of the earliest films to feature the iconic always electric pairing of Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren. It is directed by Alessandro Blasetti, who had in fact first put the two together in his film Too Bad She's Bad/Peccato che sia una canaglia), which came out two years earlier in 1954, and also saw Loren playing a quick witted schemer.

This is a film from a very versatile director who skipped across genres, and in fact was already a veteran in the 1950s, having established himself during the fascist ventennio, or two-decade long dictatorship.

It's depiction of the cynical world of tabloid journalism is strikingly ambivalent. And this ambivalence is demonstrated through Loren's very modern character, who, as a poor but ambitious and beautiful young woman in a country still struggling, given that it was barely 10 years since the end of a devastating war, is both the subject of exploitation but also quite capable of taking advantage of those who seek to exploit her.

By the mid 1950s neo-realism was morphing into more populist films like this one, a trend or genre dubbed “pink neo- realism or neo-realismo rosa”, a precursor to the commedia all'italiana

The critic Andrea Bini in his book, Male Anxiety and Psychopathology in Film: Comedy Italian Style, points out the difference between pink neorealism and the commedia all'italianausing this film as an example, saying that as a pink neorealism it tends towards a redemptive arc, a celebration and re-assertion of domesticity, humble values, while the com media all'italiana would reflect a more jaded vision, with characters whose desires know no limitations.

That said, this film is of course an interesting precursor to Fellini's La Dolce Vita, given Mastroianni plays a paparazzo in this film who hangs around the Roman social set and peddles scandal, gossip and soft porn.

The screenplay is written by a woman and two men, giants of Italian screenwriting, Suso Cecchi d’Amico, along with Sandro Continenza and Ennio Flaiano ( who co-wrote La Dolce Vita)...

And a final connection with Fellini’s film Lucky to be a Woman was shot by La Dolce Vita's cinematographer Otello Martelli...

Lucky to be a Woman is not a film of grand or showy cinematic gestures, it's underpinned by a solid level of craft across the board - from the grips operating the dollies to the screenwriters - this is a very good example of what the Cinecitta hit machine could produce in the post war years. Films like this are the lifeblood of a national cinema at its most populist and engaging. An effervescent, bold and socially critical comedy, with breathtaking on screen chemistry between two leads who would go on to be major international stars.

Friday 3 May 2019
Jason Di Rosso is ABC Radio National’s film and TV critic and reviewer across a range of RN shows. He was previously the host of the weekly film show The Final Cut. Before becoming RN’s chief film specialist, Jason spent six years as associate producer and reviewer on RN’s Movietime.
His background in film goes back to the 90s, when he completed a degree in communications at Perth’s Curtin University. He tried his hand as a production runner but then began to slowly drift from film to radio, and started making features for RN. Since returning to film, by way of radio, he has interviewed some of cinema’s most important talents, from Isabelle Huppert to Mike Leigh.
Outside the ABC, his writing on film and popular culture has appeared in GQ magazine and The Australian. He has participated in public discussions and delivered presentations in a wide variety of forums, including films festivals and universities across Australia. He is currently a doctoral candidate in film at the University of Technology Sydney.
Alongside presenting ABC RN’s The Screen Hub since 2018 he has hosted Screen Sounds on ABC Classic FM.

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