Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Recommended for Your Viewing Pleasure: La Ragazza Con La Pistola (English title: The Girl with the Pistol) (1968)

Assunta Patane (Monica Vitti), who lives in a small village in Sicily, has been taught to obey a strict code of honor that requires a woman to preserve her chastity until marriage.  But Assunta is seduced by a handsome and charming womanizer, Vincenzo Maccaluso (Carlo Giuffre), in a torrid extramarital affair.  Vincenzo tells Assunta that he wants to marry her, but he comes to the conclusion as they make love that she kisses too well to be a virgin.  Rather than marry a woman he assumes to be a whore, he quietly packs his bags and flees to England.  According to the village code, the only way for Assunta to restore her honor is to find Vincenzo and kill him.

Assunta has a far way to go to adapt from the strict morality of her hometown village to the loose morality of Swinging Sixties London.  Early on, the film derives much of its humor from the innocent foreigner coping with various "fish out of water" situations.

Tracking down Vincenzo proves to be a challenge.  The man is an evasive prey, willing to change jobs and homes to avoid confronting his abandoned lover.  At one point, he goes as far as faking his own death.

In the meantime, Assunta makes friends and trains to be a nurse.  She goes through many twists and turns before she finally sheds her shame and heartbreak, finds independence as a high-paid model, and falls in love with a good-looking, kindhearted doctor.  This may sound like an all too perfect Cinderella ending, but the character has to surmount a number of obstacles and manages in the end to earn her success through her determination, her work ethic, and her good heart.  Also, it is not hard to believe that a woman with Vitti's looks and allure could do well as a model or attract the perfect man.

The film has a charm and cleverness that make it thoroughly entertaining.  Vitti is delightful as she races around England and Scotland in her desperate effort to murder her former lover.  No actor has ever been more sweet and adorable playing an unrelenting, steely-eyed assassin.

The film's director, Mario Monicelli, was responsible for many popular films, including Guardie e ladri (Cops and Robbers) (1951), I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street) (1958), La Grande Guerra (The Great War) (1959), I compagni (The Organizer) (1963),  L'armata Brancaleone (For Love and Gold) (1966), Amici miei (My Friends) (1975), Caro Michele (1976), and  Il Marchese del Grillo (The Marquis of Grillo) (1981). 

La Ragazza Con La Pistola was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.  It was outgunned by Sergei Bondarchuk's somber, sprawling epic War and Peace, which could have been titled Thousands of Men with The Musket.

In addition. . .

Here are scenes from other Monicelli films.

La Grande Guerra (1959)


Spoiler alert!

Il Marchese del Grillo (1981)

This is an early film appearance of Vitti in Le dritte (1958).

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