5 August 2010 | GrandeMarguerite
Leo (Vittorio de Sica) and Oreste (Paolo Stoppa), two small crooks eking a living out of small scams, have only a couple of hours to pay a debt to one of their (many) creditors. When passing by the premises of the Tuns company, a large business company, Leo and Oreste have the idea of mingling with the employees (in order to find a way to make money or to be hired), until Leo is mistaken for the owner of the company, Mr Tuns himself (after all, no one has ever met this Mr Tuns, but for a couple of people). The role suits him like a glove, especially when he is asked to attend a concert -- as our two crooks see it as an opportunity to trick more people out of their money. But Leo is supposed to escort a sweet young woman, Matilde Moscapelli, aka "Titi" (Maria Mercader), the daughter of an accountant who works for the Tuns company. Mr Moscapelli has indeed high expectations for his daughter who is herself hoping for a better life. Leo soon finds himself caught between his desperate need for money and his new power as wealthy and mighty Mr Tuns can make dreams come true... Has he any right to disappoint Titi?
Italian filmmaker Vittorio Cottafavi is best known for his pepla and was regarded as a competent director by most critics, although none of his works really stands out. But don't expect wild wigs, heavy make up, exotic folk dances and men in leather miniskirts here as Cottafavi's directorial debut owes much more to Vittorio de Sica than to the Roman Empire. After a couple of years spent studying at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome (regarded as one of the best art schools of the time), Cottafavi graduated in the late 1930s and began working as a screenwriter. He then became an assistant director to Alessandro Blasetti and Vittorio de Sica. Hence his first film, "I Nostri Sogni" ("Our Dreams") released in 1943, featured De Sica as the leading star and was based on a theater play written by Ugo Betti, one of the greatest Italian playwrights of that time. In other words, "I Nostri Sogni" was meant to be a popular success which goal was to distract Italians from their current problems and the harsh realities of WWII. Cottafavi's first work was born under the sign of the De Sica-Zavattini partnership, here actor and adapter – one of the most fruitful partnerships in the history of Italian cinema. Zavatini's ironical touch can be felt here and then, and De Sica, well into middle age, was at his best playing light roles like Leo. I was a little afraid of what to expect, given Cottafavi's latter specialization in sword-and-sandal epics (I admit that pepla are generally not my cup of tea), but there is a care for atmosphere and a good cast, including Maria Mercader as the blonde leading lady, with whom De Sica formed a romantic team both on screen and in real life (by that time, De Sica was still married to his first wife and there was no divorce possible in Catholic Italy). The film isn't flawless though: it is mostly uneven, still far from the style which, apart from the genre and production budget, distinguishes the mature cinema of Cottafavi. Since the film was produced in the last months of the Mussolinian regime, it sets out a defence of the working class, morally clean, the soul of fascism, counterpointing the snobbism of the fashionable rich and the extravagance of the main protagonist. However, "I Nostri Sogni" is nothing more than an enjoyable little comedy, very far from the neorealist masterpieces which would soon vault Italian cinema into the world spotlight, but also rather far from the fluff you usually have in the "white telephone films" ("telefono bianco" pictures – see for instance Mario Camerini's films).