Sunday 10 December 2023

On SBS and streaming on SBS On Demand - Barrie Pattison welcomes BLESSED MADNESS (Carlo Verdone, Italy, 2016) and asks for more Verdone please.

Carlo Verdone, Blessed Madness

Carlo Verdone is one of those Italian star comics who occupy a large slice of that nation's cinema without us getting to them because of the subtitle barrier. Like many of his peers and, despite enormous popularity on his home turf, he is kind of peripheral to our experience of the movies. Now seventy, his whole life has been involved with film, growing up in the family of of a pioneer Cinema Academic and graduating from the Centro Sperimentale. He has a bit part in La Luna but we’ll forgive him for that. 

I’ve been on Verdone’s case for forty years now, taking every opportunity to watch him and I have a small pile of his DVDs on my Italian shelf but I still don’t have a clear knowledge of his career or his development. He’s less well defined than Adriano Celantano or his mentor Alberto Sordi.

SBS played a nice ‘scope copy of Verdone’s 2018 Benedetta follia /Blessed Madness, which he directed, in their current cycle of Italian movies. It's now on SBS on demand where it will be for the next couple of months. It is a welcome up-date on his activities, a handsomely filmed Verdone vehicle, where our senior citizen lead suddenly finds himself adrift when wife of decades Lucrezia Lante della Rovere (Quantum of Silence) leaves him for the woman shop assistant from his Catholic Regalia store – jokes about fitting the Cardinal who has put on too much weight for his scarlet robe. We’ve been here before with Pupi Avati’s so nice 2003 Il cuore altrove.

Ilenia Pastorelli, Carlo Verdone, Blessed Madness

Carlo’s filled the store vacancy with a trainee nun but she can’t start for a month. At this point skimpily dressed twenty something Ilenia Pastorelli shows up desperate for work and, when Carlo has to leave the shop for a moment, she impresses him by managing to sell the life size Mother Teresa he’s been trying to shift for years. Ilenia gets to fill the temporary vacancy. 

The formula comic situation asserts with her doing the free spirit thing, embarrassing him with his severe customers and making him question the habits of a lifetime, her connecting him to dating Apps that introduce him to a succession of dingbat prospects that end up with him at the hospital. That’s where he encounters winning nurse Maria Pia Calzone, with whom his efforts to partner are subverted by farcical complications – an auto correcting cell ‘phone that sends a licentious message, gross complications from an  app dinner gone wrong and the calamitous reappearance of the wife. 

" Mother Theresa..."

It also turns out that Ilenia’s chaotic life is contagious. The biker punk club associates, pursuing her for debts run up by an old flame, intrude into the store where top dollar ecclesiastic paraphernalia is in the showcases. She faces a future of pole dancing, Vergogna again. (we get to see her show stopper performance). When Carlo is wiped out, Ilenia’s party girl friends slip him a smiley face yellow ecstasy pill, triggering a psychedelic Luca Tommassini choreographed dream fantasy, with our hero limbo surrounded by digital dancers. We find that, despite his ultra respectable life style, he still treasures the classic motorbike from his youth and he is reproached about his misery by his de-aged biker self in the mirror. 

Blessed Madness turns out to be an agreeable, original Verdone vehicle. It coasts on the skills of the cast, great production and, believe it or not, charm which is surprising when one of the highlights offers one of our hero's dinner dates getting a vibrating cell ‘phone stuck in her vagina. The surgeon hands it back advising Carlo he has three missed calls. 

A situation where SBS set about filling in the gaps in our knowledge of Carlo Verdone would be welcome. A Cinémathèque where he figured regularly would be even better but let’s not ask for the moon.

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