13 February 2010 | lazarillo
Another internationally neglected Salvatore Samperi film
Savatore Samperi is considered one of Italy's best directors in the comedy-drama genre, but international recognition has largely eluded him, perhaps because international releases of his films have been horribly, horribly dubbed into English (like his most seminal film "Malizia") or given wildly appropriate English-language titles (like the exploitative UK title of this one).
This movie is set in the late 1940's, a few years after the trauma of WWII and during 1948 Italian elections when the Italian Communist Party was surprising defeated at the polls (an election many now believe was stolen by the American CIA). The political events are mostly kept in the background, however, as this story is told from the perspective of a precocious nine-year-old boy, "Ju". His parents are both emotionally damaged from the deprivations of war--there's an uncomfortable scene where he watches his mother (Paola Senatore) sexually service his father (Ugo Tognazzi), marks on her backside evident from the switch his abusive father likes to use on his family members (especially the female ones). The boy's larger awakening into adulthood, however, comes courtesy of his orphaned older cousin "Nene" (Leanora Fani), who comes to stay with his family. The teenage girl lets him sleep in her bed and confides him about her burgeoning sexuality and the illicit affair she is having with a local mulatto hood.
Obviously, this movie broaches some subjects Anglo-Americans especially are rather paranoid about these days, but I don't think it really deserves comparison to the notorious "Maladolescenza". This is a serious art film, not exploitation. Perhaps some of the confusion is in the casting. Leanora Fani, who was actually quite a bit older than she looks here, was generally in much sleazier movies (i.e. in "Beastialita" she played a girl romantically in love with a dog). And Paola Senatore later became a bonafide hardcore porn star (although only briefly and as the result of serious drug addiction). Both actresses, however, were beautiful and talented and very unlike the stereotype of porn stars today. And while their respective roles here have a certain sexual frankness, they're still a long way from porn or other lurid exploitation. Ugo Tognazzi was more respected actor perhaps, but even he did later direct some Edwige Fenech sex comedies and he was in Marco Ferreti's outrageous art-house hit "Le Gran Bouffe". What it really comes down to is that the Italians in the 70's simply didn't "ghetto-ize" and compartmentalize sexually-themed films and the actors that appeared in them the way Anglo-Americans do, especially today. But I'm not so sure this is such a bad thing.
Along with "Malizia" and "Scandalo", this is a Samperi film that desperately needs to be released with some decent Englsh subtitles (the version I saw looked good, but only had Italian subtitles). It would do much to rehabilitate the reputation of one of Italy's most talented 70's era directors.