10 October 2011 | lor_
Amusing but forgotten
CAMPING is director Franco Zeffirelli's feature film debut, a delightful vehicle for bosomy starlet Marisa Allasio and fledgling comic (soon to be superstar) Nino Manfredi.
I once had the pleasure of interviewing Manfredi (on the occasion of the U.S. release of a film he directed) and the interpreter showed up late. Manfredi acted out the answers to my questions, the only time this occurred for me other than the highly-physical Malcolm McDowell also getting up and acting out during an interview, even though we both were speaking English. In CAMPING Manfredi's pantomime skills and assured comic techniques are beautifully displayed, especially since he has to communicate with many non-Italian-speaking characters.
As the title (which did not have an Italian counterpart displayed, just CAMPING in English) suggests, Manfredi is on a vacation camping out in a tent with his sister (beautiful and vivacious Allasio) and his buddy/her fiancé Paolo Ferrari. Ferrari looks a bit like Gian Maria Volonte (who would be way-too-heavy for this comedy/romantic role) and like Nino he contributed to the film's screenplay.
The trio's misadventures, often involving slapstick are vividly portrayed by Zeffirelli: getting involved in a bike race; falling in with posh types who threaten to drive the friends and siblings apart; love interest with a beautiful Japanese/American girl Mitsuoko (Kaida Horiuchi); and crazy hi-jinks in a large camp. Had this been a nudist camp, I think the film's comedy would have really triumphed, but Franco settles for simple, earthy humor, about on the level of the Brits' CARRY ON CAMPING.
Allasio, who very closely resembles my favorite Italian starlet of this era Scilla Gabel, is physically impressive throughout, and I'm surprised she did not fashion a successful career. (I'm going to be watching her starring for Dino Risi the same year in BELLE MA POVERE, and am betting she'll be a sight in that one, too.) Manfredi and Ferrari make a good team, though Ferrari never got U.S. exposure as his local films didn't get exported.
The interesting black & white 'Scope (2.35 to 1) visuals are terrific throughout. Zeffirelli didn't direct another film for a decade, his career centering around opera and theatre, but he's still an all-time master of the cinematic medium, and this fledgling effort deserves to be seen.