Una Giornata Particolare (1977)

“Una Giornata Particolare” (1977)


contention and swinging cinema

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

This is remarkably well done, a lesson in many aspects of film staging and economy of resources. Scola is someone i always come to face as a dear friend, for the great moments he gave me as i discover every time the world he creates with his films. Here is one of his most genuine compositions, quite complex in the way the things are placed to strike us as the simple thing in fact it is.

The basic idea is contention. Few characters, one single scenario (a courtyard housing building, probably built by fascists, or at least it has that monumental look). The first sequence is essential: we get lots of real footage and narrations of an historical day, when Hitler visited Mussolini in Rome. We see military parades, ceremonies, the whole description, this must last 5 or 6 minutes, fully with documentary material. So we get a background, useful on the social side (more than the politic) for what follows.

Than we get our two characters, alone and ready to meet. They are, for sure, typical characters, the housewife, brainwashed by fascism in its male chauvinistic thinking, even though she suffers daily with that. Mastroianni is the free thinker, homosexual and politically against fascism. The drama works out perfectly, everything is really intense, there are lots of things being told (and specially being felt) by us as we move along to the ending, which has to be one of the saddest in film history, not only for the inevitable conclusion that after the dreamy day, all rests the same, but for the way that is shown visually. So i tried to check the mechanisms:

. we always get the radio on the background. It is the voice of the authority, the voice of the regime (notice that Mastroianni’s character is a radio voice who gets silenced for his sexual and political commitments). This always shows as a shadow to remind us of the initial footage, the dark world there was than;

. we have the caretaker, the crystallized result of ignorance associated to a manipulating regime (well, as in fact every regime is, totalitarian or “democratic”). She is always reminding our couple where they live in, the “truth” of the world, she’s the voice of manipulated ignorance; these two points build and represent the oppression and cruel/inhuman world/context.

Than we have our heroes, and the interaction between them. This is not explainable through words: one has to check it. But the magic here (yes, there was true cinema magic here) probably had to do with two things:

. the performances, by Loren and Mastroianni, which were, to my view, ideal in what concerns cinema acting: they were as intense as i have seen only a few times, and they were contained. Very few times i’ve watched something like this. We get faces slightly changing, shy movements; the choreography inside the apartments as they interact is really perfect.

. the camera: from this film i understood Ettore Scola is one of the best (and dearest to my taste) heirs of that sweet swinging camera that Hitchcock (may have) invented and that Godard, Polanski, dePalma and yes, Scola, came to caress. Check every movement. Check how the courtyard is explored, how the voyeur look into each characters apartment is made and above all, check how the camera moves inside the apartments. The movements have to do with the breathing and feelings of the characters, in a way close maybe to what Lumet did in 12 angry men (but this is even more meaningful, to my view). This approach lives on bringing the acting to the camera. There is no separated mechanics. What the actor does, and what the camera does are linked in such a way that one cannot tell who is more actor: the actors or the camera. Godard tried something like this in the apartment scene of Le Mépris, but here it is so much emotional and effective…

. also worth mentioning the structural basis. Someone commenting on IMDb referred the relation with Greek tragedies (having the radio play the chorus part). I enjoyed that observation. I agree with it but to that contention that Greek tragedies have, i believe there is something more visceral and clearly Italian that shows here, which is the operatic influence, in the way the story unfolds, with everything happening quickly, concentrating actions that in fact take longer in a very short time measure. Italians know somethings about making emotions surface. Isn’t this a much better homage to the best Italy has to offer than the crystallized vision of roman resurrection Mussolini invented and tried to spread? you make your choice, mine is made.

My evaluation: 5/5 if you want to experience everything cinema was able to offer so far, you’ll have to check this.

This comment on IMDb


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