For Reel

The Passionate Thief (1960)
September 18, 2015, 7:45 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mario Monicelli
4 Stars
The Passionate ThiefJoyful Laughter is the literal translation of this 1960 comedy, but director Mario Monicelli is far more interested in comedic registers that don’t necessarily have anything to do with merriment. As is typical of the commedia all’italiana style, The Passionate Thief is both cynical and shrewd, a film that reveals itself to be very much about desperation. Who better to play a woman that laughs off her sorrow than Anna Magnani, a Cinecittà extra who remains blissfully unaware that she has been cast aside as an undesirable on New Year’s Eve? The incongruity of her demeanor and her situation is echoed by Monicelli’s dynamic presentation of Rome, which includes both bustling nightclubs and the lonesome streets where a drunk American (Fred Clark) will attempt his best imitation of the Trevi Fountain scene from La Dolce Vita. If all of this sounds dispiriting on paper, it plays as something sublime–the title sequence involves a terrific montage that matches up-tempo jazz with images of bustling Italian streets during Christmastime. Ben Gazzara (in a dubbed role) and especially noted Italian comedian Tòto are enjoyable in their roles, but Magnani in a blonde wig is worth the price of admission.

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