Mariangela Melato & co in “Attenti al Buffone” [1975 Italy]

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Writer and director Alberto Bevilacqua uses dark humour to highlight human frailties and the corrupting influence of power in the film, “Attenti al Buffone” [Eng. Title: Eye of the Cat]. The time around which this was made (1974-75), there was a lot of political upheaval in Italy and the world over, inevitably reflecting in its cinema. It may not have the mighty rage and despair of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Salo o le 120 giornate di Sodoma” which also came out the same year, but it raises similar questions, and the film’s chief villain Cesare would easily find himself in good company among the ‘Duke’ and ‘President’ from Salo.

Marcello, a musician returns home from a tour to find his wife Giulia and the kids have disappeared and the house a wreck. He will soon learn that Giulia had been ‘persuaded’ by Cesare, a powerful man who made his name during fascist rule, to have the marriage annulled, and marry him instead. Marcello, instead of rebelling against the outrage, goes with it – hoping that Giulia would of her own, change her mind. But it soon becomes clear Cesare has a personal score to settle with Marcello – and wants to truly defeat him. He humiliates Marcello repeatedly – on one occasion, bragging about having ‘bought’ his family, “I’ve taken possession of the only true harmony that you managed to compose – it was your masterpiece”. Marcello is also required to fake a reason to church for the annulment – and claim he is impotent. The conversation between him and the church clerk about the matter is one of the more interesting passages of play, full of satire and wit. Giulia on the other hand seems to have had an unpleasant past, possibly working the streets and often being molested before meeting Marcello, who decides to marry her. She loves Marcello, but wants him to let her go so she could live by her instincts. The film becomes an ethical battle between Marcello with his high morals, and the vile ‘Ras’ Cesare, one that Marcello ‘the jester’ wins.

The only other film I’ve seen of Bevilacqua to date is his earlier film, “La Califfa”. Among the two, “Attenti al Buffone” is the superior one, notwithstanding the classy presence of Romy Schneider in the latter. The direction, the screenplay (which also won a David), and the fabulous soundtrack of Ennio Morricone work very well this time. And besides, you have another classy actress appearing in this film as well – signora tutti italiani Mariangela Melato, who plays Giulia. My DVD is a fairly recent edition, digitally remastered from negative, and the colours and sound quality are pretty good. Recommended Viewing..!

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