ADUA AND COMPANY (Antonio Pietrangeli, 1960)

I have a list of the fifty best film actors of all time. This eclectic list includes the likes of Baranovskya, Chaplin, Per Oscarsson, Vanessa Redgrave and Keanu Reeves. For me, the initial attraction of Adua e le compagne is that this obscure Italian tragicomedy stars three actors who are on my list: Simone Signoret, Marcello Mastroianni and Emmanuelle Riva. Signoret, dubbed into Italian, has the principal role of Adua Giovannetti, who leads three younger colleagues in an effort to start up a country trattoria once their former workplace, a Roman bordello, has been shut down. A girl, you know, has to make a living.
     The zany atmosphere, coupled with the large cast of characters, reminded me of the heist comedy The Usual Unidentified Thieves (The Big Deal on Madonna Street, 1958), but with the emphasis shifted from men to women, and without Mario Monicelli’s lightness of touch. (Mastroianni more memorably appears in Monicelli’s film.) Writer-director Antonio Pietrangeli’s film is coarse, strident, selfconscious, unpleasant; its atmosphere combines naturalism and theatricality. Melodrama reigns. Contributing to the story and screenplay are Ettore Scola, Fellini cohort Tullio Pinelli, and Ruggero Maccari. The result won the prize at Venice for best Italian film.
     Pietrangeli had contributed to scripts directed by Luchino Visconti and Roberto Rossellini, and perhaps it’s on this basis that Adua has been ridiculously mistaken for a work of neorealismo. It is not in any way a part of that movement—or any movement. It’s a commercial piece of crap with a sufficient patina of seriousness to draw in the gullible and deluded.
     It is supposed to have a poignant, powerful finish. I haven’t made my way to it yet. (And may never.) In the meantime, let me note that Signoret, at least, is very good.

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