20 November 2016 | lasttimeisaw
a review of MY FRIENDS and ALL MY FRIENDS PART 2
MY FRIENDS is originally a project for Italian writer/director Pietro Germi, whose untimely death in 1974 at the age of 60, leaves the film to be taken over by another maestro of the Commedia all'Italiana, Mario Monicelli. The film was a whopping box-office success, which subsequently would spawn two sequels, Monicelli would be back in the saddle with ALL MY FRIENDS PART 2 (1982) and ALL MY FRIENDS PART 3 (1985) would be outsourced to Nanni Loy.
A double-bill of these two Monicelli's vehicles, set in Florence, MY FRIENDS has a quartet core of middle-aged men: Count Lello Mascetti (Tognhzzi), a down-and-out ex-nobleman who has squandered all his fortunes, can only slum it in a tiny basement with his suicide-driven wife Alice (Vukotic) and their daughter, which doesn't dissuade him from being smitten with an underage student Titti (Dionisio), who has a predilection for girls over men; the second one is Giorgio Perozzi (Noiret), a journalist separated from his wife Laura (Goodwin) and is irreconcilably at adds with his prim adult son; then there is Rambaldo Melandri (Moschin), a bachelor architect, determined to find his perfect half and lastly is Guido Necchi (Del Prete), married with Carmen (Tamantini) and they own a bar which serves as their haunt.
Life is anything but optimistic, Pietro Germi and co.'s script conscientiously draws the milieu from reality, in both Mascetti and Perozzi's cases, one might easily finds company in distress and self- abandonment, but, not these four, feeding on their staunch friendship, the fold never relinquish their idiosyncratic practical jokes and escapades, mostly ingenious and borderline harmless, counting their classic passengers-slapping when a train departs and Mascetti's trademark "supercazzola" gibberish. And following Melandri's tireless pursuit of a married woman, Donatella (Karlatos), an embodiment of Madonna with psychological hiccups, a fifth member, Professor Sassaroli (Celi) is introduced, a renowned surgeon and the husband of Donatella, who is perversely liberal about the affair and is more than happy to not stand in their way if they are really made for each other, and of course, they are not, but Sassaroli is here to stay.
One of their most detailed skits involves a penny-pinching pensioner Righi (Blier), who is hustled into believing that the quartet belongs to a mafia mob, with Sassaroli as their boss, dangled by the profitable income, Righi buckles down to join in their "dangerous" line-of-work, and their adventure culminates in a self-organized gangster melee, which leaves Righi in chagrin, utterly side-splitting thanks to Blier's bang-up po-faced bearing. The coda of MY FRIENDS deflects to a more sombre streak - a heart attack does Peruzzi in, all happens in a sudden but no grim sorrow is allowed to percolate, his friends keep their comic esprit de corps alive, even death cannot take it away.
ALL MY FRIENDS PART 2 comes 7 years later, the story continues after Peruzzi's abrupt departure, the original cast returns (significantly older) except Del Prete, who is replaced by a more prosaic- looking Renzo Montagnani as Necchi, only the latter is not endowed with Del Prete's dashing and devil-may-care panache.
The part 2 doesn't structurally pigeonhole itself as a strict sequel, owing to the huge pull of Noiret's Perozzi, there are abundant flashbacks charting Perozzi and Mascetti's past stories, which take place earlier than those in the first one, while without ghettoizing Sassaroli out of the picture (the original four becomes a quintet), it conspicuously creates some anachronism for viewers with fresh memory of the first installment. Gallantly interpolating the flood of Arno in 1966, the story manages to expound on Perozzi's marriage disintegration and take a taunting spin on Melandri's another devoted courtship to a voluptuous but God-fearing young girl Noemi (Giordano).
Contriving an act of pulling Pisa tower back in perpendicular, gate-crushing a singing contest with a risqué song a cappella in the presence of cardinals, a chirpy caper involving a Spanish contortionist (Da Silva), their shticks never disappoint, meanwhile Mascetti has his own familial problem when his slow-witted daughter is impregnated by an unknown rapist and decides to become an unwed mother. Finally, a guest performance from Paolo Stoppa as Savino, a Shylock to whom Mascetti is indebted, he would fall prey into the quartet's pranks (includes a scatological one which sublimely tips the scale), and undergo several "invisible" operations to square off Mascetti's debts. Similarly, another heart attack befalls on one of the main characters near the finish, but this time, to a lesser extent, Tognazzi, Moschin, Noiret and Celi are all sterling comedians, but it is Tognazzi who stands out in his more sympathetic nobleman-in-distress mould.
Inscribing their marks as quintessential pieces of Commedia all'Italiana, both films are salacious, amoral and pathologically funny, although the second one only logically contends to take a leaf from its predecessor's book. But essentially they are not connived as far-fetched escapist fares with a shamelessly patronizing smugness, their gypsyish antics are genuinely devised to imbue a positive vibe out of their quotidian misfortunes, despite that they can never hit the right note of the gender politics, yet, what do you expect from a buddy movie?