Saturday, January 15, 2011

Il Sorpasso (1962)

Dino Risi's 1962 film "Il Sorpasso" was one of the biggest-grossing and most criticially acclaimed Italian films of its time, enjoying a subsequent international success the following year. Today in Italy, it's still widely considered a great film by the young and old, even playing on Italian television a few times a year. But its never had a home video release of any kind in America, and there isn't an official English-friendly version out there that I know of. Spaak was a very popular singer with a few successful records and many hit singles on the radio when she was cast in "Il Sorpasso," and received top billing even though she's in the film for little more than thirty minutes. But what a thirty minutes!

In this great tragicomedy, Vittorio Gassman plays a delightful alpha extravert obsessed with his car. When he walks around with this superficial supreme confidence and rhythm, he casts shades of Dean Martin. Jean-Louis Trintignant plays a pensive, reserved, introverted, intellectual law student who doesn’t know how to talk to women and knows even less about having fun. The two men meet for the first time in the beginning – Trintignant is smoking with his window open and Gassman asks him while passing by on the street to please make a phone call for him, but Trintignant just invites him up to do it himself, and the adventure begins. With their polar dichotomies, the protagonists eventually meet in the middle and develop this neat friendship. Catherine Spaak plays Gassman’s daughter, who has an important role in both men’s plights.

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