Marcello Mastroianni: The suspended step of memory

by Ninni Radicini
December 16, 2006

Marcello Mastroianni in the movie The Beekeeper For the tenth anniversary of the death of Marcello Mastroianni is superfluous adjectives scan grandiloquent on its many interpretations. The rhetoric is not the best way to highlight the qualities of the man who is still the most famous Italian actor in the world. In addition to performances in the comedies of the '50s and '60s, directed by Vittorio De Sica and Federico Fellini, Mastroianni has been able to build a prototype in the course of his career in a surprising way, and perhaps unique, covering more genres, moving from Comedy to Noir, from Drama to Surreal, without the need to change the characteristic traits. Unlike other actors, in the last years of his career he has collected a series of superlative performances.

As in The Suspended Step of the Stork (original title: To meteoro vima tou pelargou, 1991), a film by the rhythm rarefied directed by Theo Angelopoulos. The chronicler of a Greek television, engaged in a journalistic investigation on immigrants, one day believes he has seen a politician who mysteriously disappeared and which are untraceable. In a twilight atmosphere, Mastroianni is able to represent this dark character, not able to withstand the changes of history. It's the continuation towards the dissolution of the protagonist defined by 8 1/2 (1963, directed by Federico Fellini), which for the fear of premature old age and the impossibility of knowing what will happen after him, decides to surround himself - to protect - with the memories, dreams, his loved ones have disappeared but with whom he has relationships.

In the second half of the '80s, with The Beekeeper (o.t.: O'Melissokomos, 1986, directed by Theo Angelopoulos), Ginger and Fred (1986, directed by Federico Fellini), and Oci ciornie (1987, directed by Nikita Mikhalkov), portray characters at the crossroads of their lives. In the first movie is Spiros, a school teacher who decides to leave everything and become a beekeeper, as had been his father and grandfather: metaphor of those who would find their origins in the strength to break free from the ordinariness and conformity, which are considered one-way street that leads only to the end of existence. Spiros traveling within Greece, crossing from the region of Epirus to that of the Peloponnese (cultural-historical fortresses), but not be able to get back to basics.

In his attempt will be diverted from curiosity to a world of which he knows nothing, and in which he can have no place (the girl he meets on the journey) and drama to look through his friends now aged. Instead, perfect awareness of time passing the protagonist of Ginger and Fred, a tribute to Fellini's popular theater and the actors who knew about those stages combine simplicity and professionalism. To rejoin the artistic couple (Mastroianni and Giulietta Masina), who at the time dell'avanspettacolo imitated the most famous overseas colleagues, is television, which is given a grotesque image.

The evaluation of the personal past can not be postponed indefinitely. In Oci Ciornie, whose plot is taken from the stories of Anton Cechov, the conversation between Romano (Mastroianni) and Pavel on a cruise ship, at the beginning of the twentieth century, is the first catharsis: the confession, who knows how long desired, of a life full of mistakes and naivety, marked by marriage with the wrong woman (played by Silvana Mangano) and by the loss, because of him, for the right one, from which he never came back. At the conclusion of his friend (love never ends and it is always not give it up because it is the greatest joy), Romano can only mourn the life he has lost. He could have been happy. The fate, benevolent perhaps more than he deserved, had granted him even more than one occasion. He has wasted, always repeating the same mistakes.

Marcello Mastroianni from The Beekeeper directed by Theo Angelopoulos In the 60s Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren become the couple symbol of Italian cinema, able to achieve international fame. If the scenes of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (o.t.: Ieri, oggi e domani, 1963) and Marriage Italian Style (o.t.: Matrimonio all'italiana 1964), works created by the collaboration of two great masters of Italian cinema - Vittorio De Sica (director) and Eduardo De Filippo (screenplay) - are the most recurring on television, their interpretation is more intense in the movie Sunflower (o.t.: I girasoli, 1970), directed by De Sica, from a story by Cesare Zavattini, the most prolific author of the twentieth century Italian.

The story begins in the days of the Second World War. Antonio, with the help of the woman he loves, does everything possible to avoid being called up to the African front, but it is, however, discovered and sent to Russia. At the end of the conflict is declared "missing in action", like thousands of other countrymen. His wife, however, did not give up. She travels to Russia and then in Ukraine, where discovers that, after having had an amnesia, he married a local girl: the one who had saved him from freezing. Back in Italy, she remarries. Spent time, Antonio will be back to Italy to find her. Although they are still in love, life has now separated them and they accept this reality.

Twenty years earlier, Mastroianni had already played the character of a veteran of the Russia in the movie The Accusation (o.t.: Atto d'accusa, directed by Giacomo Gentilomo. It was a melodrama, the most popular genre of the period, which had its greatest interpreter in Amedeo Nazzari. The early years of the career of Marcello Mastroianni were also marked by minor roles in appearance. As in House of Ricordi (o.t.: Casa Ricordi, 1954) and Three Girls from Rome (o.t.: Le ragazze di piazza di Spagna, 1952), where he is a taxi driver falls in love with one of the three girls protagonists. Thanks also to directed by Luciano Emmer, he perfected a style, on the border between humor and drama.

Emmer is one of the leading directors of the phase transition from Neorealism - affirmed in the second half of the '40s - the Italian comedy, which fits about ten years later and it will be brought to international fame by directors such as, to mention only a few, Dino Risi and Mario Monicelli and actors like Vittorio Gassman, Alberto Sordi, Nino Manfredi. Of this intermediate phase is part Sunday in August (o.t.: Domenica d'agosto, 1950), also directed by Emmer, where Mastroianni (curiously dubbed by Sordi) is the protagonist of one of the parallel events that make up the plot. The film tells the story of a series of characters who left behind the tragedies of war, look to the future beginning to see the first signs of the economic development that would change the face of Italy in the late '50s and early 60s.

The versatility of Mastroianni is a further confirmation in The Assassin (o.t.: L'assassino, 1961), the first directed by Elio Petri, in the role of a character with a Kafkaesque character, used to living in a senseless and ritrovatosi having to revise its past in search of a possible guilt. The addiction to the slow fall into the abyss will be reached in The Skin (o.t.: La pelle, 1981), directed by Liliana Cavani. In 1997, after his death, hits screens Marcello Mastroianni: I Remember, Yes I Remember (o.t.: Mi ricordo, sě, io mi ricordo), an autobiography, recalling his history, personal and artistic, during breaks in the movie Journey to the Beginning of the World (o.t.: Viagem ao Princípio do Mundo), by Manuel de Oliveira.

Retraces his youth, his passion for the cinema, the relationship with parents, the beginning of his career, his friendship with Federico Fellini. Tell us what was Italy out of the war and what it has become over the years. Do not miss the irony, as when he speaks of his being labeled Latin lover. He was considered perhaps the best "Mister Max" as possible: the ambitious young and shy starring Vittorio De Sica in 1937, that, as a provincial Italian of all time, would like to get to the upper floors of the company, but then you realize that there will ever find those treasures which aims: sincerity and love. With this movie Mastroianni leaves us his story, that of an Italian who has done in the best way and with great seriousness the job of an actor, without giving up the right moments to self-irony. In the tradition of the greatest Italian of the twentieth century.

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