Friday, December 2, 2011
Love in Italy
A recent discovery, I enjoyed Billy Wilder's 1972 film, Avanti!, a lot. It combines the look and feel of a lush romantic drama of the 50's and 60's with modern, less judgemental sensibilities about sex and relationships. It's also pretty frank in its depiction of adult behavior and the male and female form, but- again- it's all done with the kind of sweetness and kindness prevalent in earlier films covering similar romantic subject matter. Not that there isn't some biting wit throughout.
Avanti! is really quite unique in that regard: You get an old-style lush Technicolor romance laced with gorgeous Italian scenery and light comedy, but without the silly production code elements that prevented the depiction of true romantic heat and adult affection; or, looked at another way, you get a frank 70's romantic drama, which matter of factly depicts nudity, sex, and other adult behavior in a non-judgemental manner (trusting audience members to make their own judgements if they care to), but one that refuses to wallow in the cynicism, coldness, and generally dismissive attitude toward traditional romance that many 70's movies embraced.
Put more concisely, you get an old-movie flavor with newer-movie sensibilities, with the negative baggage of each left behind. And it's all done in the service of two great comedic performances by Jack Lemmon and Juliet Mills; a number of cute and funny subplots set in the Italian hotel where the two leads are staying (involving several entertaining supporting characters, especially the "man to see about anything" hotel manager played by Clive Revill); and even a good dose of romantic suspense (we genuinely care how things will turn out for the two lovers).
If, like me, you enjoy discovering terrific movies that had somehow gotten by you over the years, you're in for a treat if Avanti! crosses your path.
Avanti! is available on DVD and various streaming services.