30 December 2004 | Arca1943
The best popular melodrama in movie history
In terms of status, Italian director Luigi Comencini reminds me of his American contemporary Sydney Lumet : as a director, he would embark in equal proportion into projects that were his very personal and others which were more like a studio contract thing. Yet (and that too is true of both directors), all along his fifty-year career, he has shown a remarkable ability to make personal, ambitious projects highly entertaining for millions of spectators, while on the other hand imprinting his unmistakable touch on projects that were meant by producers to be for the standard production. In other terms - and that again is true of both Lumet and Comencini - he's been, for more than fifty years, walking the tightrope between art and entertainment with outstanding virtuosity.
Incompreso, now... Well, Incompreso is not only an excellent movie. It is not only one of the many, many proofs that popular entertainment made in Cinecittà during the Golden Age (1950-1980) is exactly as outstanding, and perhaps even more, than all the "great-author" films that critics (including American critics, when it comes to Europe) automatically favor, while ignoring completely - back then, at least - the marvels of popular movie entertainment. Incompreso is not only one of the best movies ever made about childhood. It is not only one of Luigi Comencini's greatest achievements outside of "commedia all'italiana", the tragicomic new genre of which he was one of the three Grand Masters (the two others being Risi and Monicelli).
Incompreso is more than all this because all this - all that I have said so far - is about classification, status, polemics with those darned intellectuals, etc, the will to save a dream-come-true cinematography that was tragically underestimated not only abroad but in Italy as well - the country that for decades showed the greatest gap of all between the tastes of the critics and those of the public. All these are my personal axes to grind. But now, you must forget about this, and concentrate on watching Incompreso.
When you will watch Incompreso, and I know you will, something will happen to your heart : at some point, you will feel it cracking and you won't be able to help it. And then it will crack some more. Near the unforgettable conclusion, it will fall on the ground in thousands of little pieces. But unlike so many other melodramas, this one refrains from using one single cheap trick. I mean it. It never tricks the spectator into crying. The crying comes only too naturally, with no strings attached or pulled.
Luigi Comencini's Incompreso is the most intense, the most powerful, the most poignant melodrama ever put to screen. And ever means ever. Straight from the heart, straight to the heart, without one single cheap trick. Why use artificial tricks that treat spectators like puppets, while simple reality is enough to reach to their heart? Childhood is the best of times, childhood is the worse of times : both are equally true at the same time and there is nothing we can do to change this.
As a movie-goer, I feel deeply indebted to Mr. Comencini. But the children in me loves him even more. Thanks to the many french-speaking TV channels of my country (Canada), I grew up with the best movie ever made FOR kids, in six perfect episodes of 52 minutes each : Luigi Comencini's Le Avventure di Pinocchio, which made me laugh so much. Then I saw the best movie ever made ABOUT kids : Luigi Comencini's Incompreso - and I cried a river.
Luigi Comencini is 90 years old.