Among the films of Germi’s comedy of manners trilogy, Signore & signori is undoubtedly the most undervalued. Rereading the criticism of the period today, it is frankly surprising to observe the film’s substantially unanimous negative reception, which seems not even to have legitimised the aggressively satirical bite which had previously been conceded to both Divorzio all’italiana and Sedotta e abbandonata. If the critics, the most conservative ones, reacted thus, you can imagine how the community of Treviso behaved after seeing itself mirrored in the film. […]
It is a film conceived and delivered by a screenwriter. Just as Il ferroviere was a film by Alfredo Giannetti, Signore & signori is a film by Luciano Vincenzoni. They both became films by Germi, but starting from material that had already assumed a mature and accomplished form thanks to the strength of their narratives and characterisation. The episodes described in the film were inspired by real events (several of which involved Vincenzoni himself), which the screenwriter knew about because he was born and grew up in Treviso. […] But equally decisive for the shape that the film assumed was the contribution of Flaiano who, while not directly participating in the screenplay, collaborated at an early stage by suggesting the idea of a structure that has certain characters remaining part of the backdrop at one moment and then becoming protagonists the next. On the one hand this solution gives the brief sketches a dramatic and narrative structure that, through the innovative use of links and cross references, transcends the anecdotal nature of the episodic film, which was enjoying considerable success at the time. On the other, it gives Germi’s gaze the kind of satirical range that can encompass the whole of a society, the entire territory of a city with its different classes, institutions and human types, which, as Sedotta e abbandonata had also demonstrated, had by now become the natural consequence of Germi’s method and approach to humour.
From this point-of-view, it is as if Germi’s comedy had altered its subject, beginning with Divorzio all’italiana and passing via Sedotta e abbandonata to Signore & signori, transforming the individual protagonist into a collective. […] Signore & signori is one of the director’s most political films, in the sense that the authorities and the powers-that-be formed a coherent, dominant and unassailable block which defended the social equilibrium through a mass mobilisation whose dynamics the filmmaker describes with almost ideological meticulousness. That which in the archaic Southern society constituted a nucleus of values and beliefs that functioned above all within a culture and the conscience of individuals, in the civilised and opulent North became identified with a restricted circle of powerful people capable of manoeuvring any institution or power in the interest of resolving or repressing any ‘inappropriate’ events.
Mario Sesti, Tutto il cinema di Pietro Germi, Baldini & Castoldi, Milan 1997
Cast and Credits
Sog.: Pietro Germi, Luciano Vincenzoni. Scen.: Age e Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni, Pietro Germi. F.: Aiace Parolin. M.: Sergio Montanari. Scgf.: Carlo Egidi. Mus.: Carlo Rustichelli. Int.: Virna Lisi (Milena), Gastone Moschin (Osvaldo Bisigato), Nora Ricci (Gilda, sua moglie), Alberto Lionello (Toni Gasparini), Olga Villi (Ippolita Gasparini), Gigi Ballista (Giacinto Castellan), Beba Loncar (Noemi, sua moglie), Franco Fabrizi (Lino Benedetti), Moira Orfei (Giorgia Casellato), Patrizia Valturri (Alda Cristofoletto). Prod.: Robert Haggiag, Pietro Germi per Dear Film Produzione (Roma), R.P.A. Cinematografica (Roma), Les Films du Siècle (Parigi). DCP. D.: 119’. Bn.
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