Scen.: Dino Risi, Ettore Scola, Ruggero Maccari. F.: Alfio Contini. M.: Maurizio Lucidi. Scgf.: Ugo Pericoli. Mus.: Riz Ortolani. Int.: Vittorio Gassman (Bruno Cortona), Jean-Louis Trintignant (Roberto Mariani), Catherine Spaak (Lilli), Luciana Angiolillo (moglie di Bruno), Claudio Gora (Bibì), Luigi Zerbinati (commendatore), Linda Sini (zia Lidia), Corrado Olmi (Alfredo, cugino di Roberto), Nando Angelini (Amedeo), Franca Polesello. Prod.: Mario Cecchi Gori per Fair, Incei, Sancro. DCP. D.: 108’. Bn.
Anything and everything have been said about Il Sorpasso, and there is almost nothing that isn’t known about it. But before or after Homeric questions (who invented what and when?), I would like to add a thing or two about the least considered aspect of Risi’s film: the Aurelia GT 24s. I use the plural because there were two of them. A turquoise one, dented (and repaired as best as they could) by Gassman the weekend before filming began, and a pinkish one with a totally different dashboard and a small compartment for a car radio. If you watch the movie carefully, the differences are striking and confirm that the vehicle was ‘already’ almost obsolete.
It was a 1956 model and cost 1.8 million lire at the time. A bunch of money, you could have bought four televisions. At the time of the film this spider was not a car for a Richie Rich VIP Lancia lover but an idler swindler braggart, a poser, an ‘I want but I can’t’. A full on fanfaronade, as alluded to by the movie’s French title: even the car’s horn was dubbed and added in post-production.
At the Automobile Museum in Turin they explained to me that this five-speed Aurelia symbolizes failure to make it in the United States: 150 Aurelias are lying at the bottom of the ocean in the gut of the SS Andrea Doria. Risi and Scola’s film, instead, was the prototype of a different kind of road movie, à la Easy Rider.
Whoever knew Rodolfo Sonego wouldn’t have a doubt about where the idea came from, rejected by Sordi who at that time always had first pick and was contrary to the idea of killing someone in a scene, even with a car. True to his penniless past, Sonego (like Zavattini) was viscerally attached to his ideas, whether mega or micro. He never threw away anything. A few months ago in a secret archive of his I found the very first version of a film about deceptive personal ads between emigrants and prostitutes: Bello, onesto, emigrato Australia… The movie is from ’71, the treatment from ’55, the year of the Aurelia in Il sorpasso. Which is not to take anything away from the film. On the contrary. Pininfarina’s spider had a breakwater windshield wiper modeled after a Riva speedboat, très chic. Bruno Cortona could have made it by sea to Viareggio, Portofino and all the way to Saint-Tropez. But it would be Peppino Di Capri with his twist who made it there instead.
In posters of the time, the Aurelia is hard to see between a wrong way sign and Catherine Spaak. Rumor had it if you bought a car you went to the movies less.