27 April 2007 | Bunuel1976
GOOD NIGHT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN (Luigi Comencini, Nanni Loy, Luigi Magni, Mario Monicelli and Ettore Scola, 1976) **1/2
This was the second of three films I watched in tribute to Luigi Comencini's passing, which happened over the Easter period. It's one of a myriad of portmanteaus to emerge from Italy over the years: usually, these came in the form of a number of sketches on a particular subject; this one, emanating from the mid-70s - a time of political strife in the country where kidnappings and assassinations were commonplace - it couldn't help being a scathing satire on religion, politics, the legal system and TV. In fact, so single-minded was the concept that a group of top directors and writers received credit for all the various episodes as a sort of co-operative! For this purpose, some of Italy's finest actors were summoned - Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni, Nino Manfredi, Ugo Tognazzi and new comic star Paolo Villaggio.
However, as can be expected, the end result is variable - being generally heavy-handed but occasionally inspired. Mastroianni appears in the linking sequence as a flustered TV newscaster; Gassman's two episodes are rather weak; Tognazzi also appears in a couple of segments, but is at his best in the one with scatological overtones - where a military hero loses his dignity along with his decorations and most of his clothing prior to a parade and, unable to face up to this humiliation, opts to take his own life; the same applies for Villaggio's contribution: two episodes, but the one involving the "Disastrometer" quiz show - where the most wretched of three contestants will eventually emerge victorious - proves to be superior; Manfredi is featured in just one segment, but it's the longest and possibly best one overall - revolving around a battle for the Papacy which descends to base intrigues and, eventually, mass murder (also proving somewhat prophetic, given Pope John Paul I's mysterious death in 1978 after just 33 days in office!). Two other amusing episodes involve the chaos brought on by a presumed bomb (with its ironic denouement) and a critique on outdated court laws - in which an assembly of senile members deliver unintelligible speeches and engage in a dance to an operatic aria (the scene recalled a similar episode set in the House Of Lords in THE RULING CLASS ).
Among the supporting cast are the likes of Adolfo Celi, Senta Berger, and several regulars from Villaggio's popular and long-running "Fantozzi" series (then just at its beginning). Furthermore, two of Italy's major singer-songwriters, Lucio Dalla and Antonello Venditti, were responsible for the soundtrack of GOOD NIGHT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.