Film Review: L’AUTOMOBILE (1971) – directed by Alfredo Giannetti

Posted: November 5, 2012 in Film Reviews
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L’AUTOMOBILE is the third and final entry in a made-for-TV trilogy by Italian director Alfredo Giannetti. While the prospect of going into this film having never seen or even been aware that there were two previous entries in this series may seem daunting, fret not as the only thing linking these series of stories is legendary star Anna Magnani.

In this particular picture, Magnani stars as Anna, an ex-prostitute who’s entering a phase of her life where she longs for true freedom and has apparently defined this concept as owning her own car. While she’s saved more than enough money over the years to buy the vehicle, she’s never driven before in her life and as such she enlists the services of Giggetto (Vittorio Caprioli), an old friend of hers, to show her the ropes. Suffice it to say, hilarity ensues.

While Anna Magnani gives a very charming performance, there’s no getting around the fact that ultimately, L’AUTOMOBILE is a film that has no real conflict. Granted, we can debate that there’s a raging inner turmoil boiling within the psyche of Anna where she feels trapped by age, loneliness and a great feeling of helplessness that comes with both. But as far as story goes, there’s nothing much of interest here. Any semblance of conflict such as whether Anna will get her driver’s license is mere lip service and nothing that won’t obviously be resolved. Ironically enough, it’s only within the last 10 minutes of the film that we finally get to see Anna’s character in any real danger but by then we’ve grown so accustomed to seeing Anna come out on top that we don’t think for a moment that any harm will come to her. I was actually hoping that they were going for a NIGHTS OF CABIRIA type ending which might’ve ended the film on a real tragic note. But seeing as this is a comedy, they obviously tried to make light of her situation and have it end on a punch line.

On the subject of comedy, there is something to be said about how humor can be very local and not the easiest thing to translate into different languages. There’s a reason why we’ve never seen Dario Argento’s comedic Western. It’s a comedy very much rooted in Italian culture and unless you have a strong or native understanding of local politics and customs, a lot of this will just go over your head. In the case of L’AUTOMOBILE, I can’t help but feel my appreciation for the humor would have been enhanced even more if I understood Italian. As it stands, comedy can be difficult to appreciate if you’re reading subtitles.

While the film may be mediocre, the DVD is outstanding. RaroVideo is quickly becoming the Criterion Collection of rare and obscure European genre films. The treatment they’ve bestowed upon this film is both astounding and frustrating. Astounding in that the extras and quality of the video and audio are dazzling;  frustrating in the sense that I wish they picked a better film to release under their banner.

Thanks to Exploitation Retrospect.

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