Mario Camerini
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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L'interprete piu` sensibile del mondo piccolo borghese degli anni trenta, Mario Camerini fu un abile commediante specializzato nelle sintesi di tre generi comico-sentimentali: il feuilleton rosa, la commedia crepuscolare, e la farsa surreale. La parte sana della cultura decadente italiana (De Amicis, Fogazzaro, Gozzano) e un gusto francese per l'evasione confluirono percio` copiosamente negli esili quadretti d'ambiente che a partire dal muto Rotaie (1929, storia kamm...eiana per fotografia e ambientazione di due amanti sull'orlo del suicidio che trovano un portafoglio e riacquistano il piacere di vivere) sondarono con malizia e malinconia il quotidiano del cittadino medio promuovendo uno stile intimista e sognante non alieno da influenze della commedia leggera americana e di quella sofisticata austro-ungherese (da Lubitsch): Sigaro e la sua gran giornata (1931, ironica rassegna di macchiette provinciali), Gli Uomini che Mascalzoni (1932), Il cappello a tre punte (1934, favola andalusa tradotta in farsa napoletana dai fratelli De Filippo), Daro` un Milione (1935), Come le foglie (1935, dramma di una famiglia ricca gettata improvvisamente sul lastrico, e abbandonata all'istante dagli amici), Ma non e` una cosa seria (1936), Il Signor Max (1937), Grandi Magazzini (1939).

I lavori piu` originali nascono all'insegna illustri collaborazioni: con sceneggiatori come Zavattini (Daro` un milione, non a caso il piu` anomalo delle serie) e Ercole Patti, e con l'attore galante per eccellenza, il giovane De Sica.

Nonostante la totale mancanza di respiro ideologico, questi film spensierati e leggeri, sorridenti ed evanescenti, contrastarono vivacemente con l'enfasi magniloquente del regime, finendo per rappresentare di fatto un'Italia alternativa, tutt'altro che eroica o protesa verso messianiche colonizzazioni. Dal punto di vista strettamente cinematografico, Camerini costitui` il trait d'union fra "telefoni bianchi" e neorealismo. In particolare cio` avviene con il populista Gli Uomini che Mascalzoni imbastito sul corteggiamento da parte di un autista rubacuori di una commessa figlia di un taxista, e con il grottesco-surreale zavattiniano Daro` un Milione, dove De Sica, giovane milionario annoiato, offre un milione come premio a chi compira` una buona azione e si traveste da barbone per assegnare il premio, portando cosi` lo scompiglio fra le fila tanto dei ricchi (che si contendono i poveri da beneficare come se si trattasse di lucrosi investimenti) quanto dei poveri (che approfittano della situazione favorevole per speculare sulle elemosine), e finendo con lo scoprire l'amore sincero di una umile fanciulla che lo ama credendolo veramente povero (l'invasione hollywoodiana dei ruoli ricco-povero come occasione comico-satirica, alla Capra/Sturges, la favola di Cenerentola, il mito del giudizio universale).

Il Signor Max (1937) propone il De Sica per eccellenza, giovane, bello e mistificatore, ma povero in canna che lascia il mestiere di giornalaio per infiltrarsi nell'alto mondo; ma il suo cuore popolano lo tradisce quando, durante la crociera, non puo` fare a meno di difendere la giovane governante dall'arroganza degli snob e dai capricci di un rampollo viziatissimo.

La commedia famigliare Molti Sogni per le Strade (1948), un meccanico ruba un'auto per portare in vacanza la famiglia), la biografia eroico-melodrammatica del Brigante Musolino cioe` Amedeo Nazzari (1950) e la patetica parabola di Suor Letizia (1956, cioe` Anna Magnani), sono le meno sbiadite deviazioni del dopo guerra. Crimen (1960) e` invece un sussulto di estro comico che inaugura un anomalo filone "giallo" della commedia all'italiana: sul treno per Montecarlo viaggiano Sordi, Gassman e Manfredi, ciascuno per un motivo diverso, e tutti coinvolti in due omicidi, uno all'andata e uno al ritorno.

Moglie per una Notte/ Wife for a Night (1952) is a charming comedy set in the 19th century that pokes fun at morality.

A famous count is in love with a mysterious woman. He stops her while she is riding her horse carriage. She distracts him with one of her shoes and then rides away. He chases her but his coach crashes. He is stranded in a small town, whose mayor is honored by his presence. The mayor has a nephew, Enrico, who is a composer and the mayor hopes that the count will listen to the whole opera that the young bright talent has composed. However, the count has a different goal: he wants to find the mysterious beauty. From the description the mayor understands that the woman is a courtesan, Geraldine, but tells the count that it's his nephew's wife, Ottavia. It's a trick to make sure that the count will accept the invitation to sleep at the couple's home and to listen to the opera. Enrico is disgusted at the idea of using his wife as bait for the count, but the mayor's idea is to swap Ottavia with Geraldine for just one night. Ottavia is willing to do anything for Enrico because she knows that Enrico loves music over anything else. Ottavia is aware that she is not pretty. Enrico, in fact, is mesmerized by Geraldine's beauty. When the count arrives, everything seems to go as planned, with the count begging Enrico's fake wife for love. But Enrico's pride prevails: he acts as if she were really his wife and expels the count from his home. The count swears that Enrico's opera will never be staged for as long as he, the count, lives.
In the meantime Ottavia is staying at Geraldine's place, and Geraldine's maid proves to her that she is beautiful: she just needed the right hair style and a little make-up. Now she's an attractive woman. The count's companions, having heard of the famous courtesan Geraldine, pay a visit and meet Ottavia. The prudish Ottavia is scared of being taken for a courtesan but cannot disclose her real identity. The two men play dice to decide who will make love to her. Just when the winner is preparing to begin, the count shows up, looking for Geraldine as a substitute for the wife he could not have. He is immediately seduced by her beauty. She outsmarts him: she keeps playing her husband's opera until he, desperate, accepts to stage the opera; then she faints. The count leaves at dawn without having had what she wanted from her, but she got what she wanted. Then the maid helps her change dress and hairstyle again, so that she will look again like the simple unattractive woman she's always been. She doesn't say anything to Enrico of what she did for him.
The count keeps his end of the bargain and Enrico begins rehearsals of the opera. But Ottavia does not keep her end of the bargain and eventually the count cancels the performance. Ottavia has no choice but play again the role of Geraldine and offer herself to the count. She is willing to sacrifice her purity to help her husband succeed, but is ready to commit suicide afterwards. Geraldine's maid sees a bottle of poison and understands her melodramatic intent. The real Geraldine, who has made fun of Ottavia's Catholic scruples, would be willing to help but the count expects Ottavia.
Ottavia arrives at the count's palace and undresses. Just then Geraldine shows up, pretending to be Enrico's wife who cannot resist the count anymore. The count opts for Geraldine (whom he believes to be Ottavia) and finds an excuse to send Ottavia (whom he believes to be Geraldine) away. Geraldine finds a way to whisper to Ottavia that she's taking her place and to advise her to never tell the truth.
In the meantime Enrico found out that his wife went to see the count and, jealous and furious, left the theater (where the opera is about to begin) and headed for the palace. He challenges the count to a duel because he refuses to open the door of the room where a woman is hiding. When Enrico leaves, Geraldine (who is playing the role of Enrico's wife) leaves too, accusing the count of plotting to turn her into a widow. The real Ottavia is already at the theater and Enrico's uncle too is begging that she never was in the count's palace. The opera can go ahead and it is a big success. Enrico is a new star. At the end the count finds out that he has been tricked when Enrico introduces his real wife to everybody.
At the exit the count approaches Geraldine and asks her why she helped Enrico and Ottavia. Geraldine confesses that she did it not for Enrico but for Ottavia: Ottavia is the woman that Geraldine dreamed of being.
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