Avanti! (1972, Billy Wilder)

Not the last film by Billy Wilder, though it feels like someone’s last film – he later made two Lemmon/Matthau comedies and a William Holden drama.

Katy disagreed with the romantic comedy term, saying just because a few funny things happen doesn’t mean it’s a comedy, and suggests the term dramedy as a solution. Long, static master shots are probably praised to the heavens by the critics responsible for landing this on the TSP1000 list for being elegant, masterfully composed, or god forbid, “rigorous”. I found that it sucked energy away from a too-slow movie, which was already disappointing for not being a comedy as advertised. That’ll teach me to trust the IMDB genre listings.

One of multiple chances to see Jack Lemmon naked:
image

Okay, so it is a comedy, it’s just not very funny. Jack Lemmon travels to a vacation resort in Italy to pick up his father who died in a car crash and he meets Juliet Mills (mostly a TV actress, but she’d starred in a British comedy film a decade earlier) who is there to pick up her mother who died in the same crash. Jack is acting like a terrible, entitled jerk American but Juliet finally manages to corner him and tell him that their parents were having an annual affair at this hotel. It’s only a matter of time before she softens Jack and begins carrying on their parents’ affair with him – not that she does much besides smile and look like she’s having a great time. Oh, and there’s a half-hearted side plot when the Trotta family whose grapevines were destroyed by the car crash steal the bodies for ransom.

The Trotta family:
image

The hotel maid is your typical fiery, hot-tempered, lovestruck movie Italian woman – she kills her husband (boyfriend?) for plotting to leave her, so when a U.S. government man shows up to help Jack, acting like the asshole Jack had been seventy minutes prior, Jack gives the guy a coffin with the dead Italian in it, and he and Juliet bury their parents together in Italy. It’s actually kinda sweet. “Avanti!” we learn at the beginning means “come in!” for door-knocking servants and hotel personnel, and inevitably for our romantic couple.

A big deal is made of Juliet being overweight:
image

Carlucci, who runs the hotel and makes sure Lemmon has everything he needs, was played by Clive Revill, a New Zealander in a fake mustache who went on to voice the Emperor in Empire Strikes Back. Crude American diplomat Edward Andrews’ final role was in Gremlins. And at least one of the vineyard Trotta family was in a Fellini movie.

Carlucci with Jack:
image

Related posts