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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Pietro Germi and Criterion Channel's Treasure Trove of Cinematic History

I just got around to subscribing to the Criterion Channel tonight and I saw the most fascinating documentary about actor/director Pietro Germi with a beautiful clip of actress Franca Bettoja talking about her husband Ugo Tognazzi. 

Bettoja is Maria Sole and Gian Marco Tognazzi’s mother. She described Ugo when he would work on a film that Pietro Germi was directing. “I saw Ugo for the first time in "L'immorale" (The Climax). He was always extremely disciplined and professional. Maybe he didn’t know everything but he had a good memory, so he never used to study the script at home. He’d read it and then go to it. I remember that when he had to be on Pietro’s set, he was like a schoolboy. Woe to any driver that would show up late! He was very careful. They both were. Ugo and Pietro respected each other but it was more than that.” 

Renée Longarini and Ugo Tognazzi in Pietro Germi’s "L'immorale" (The Climax)

The documentary is a treasure trove of old interviews… Claudia Cardinale, Mario Monicelli, Stefania Sandrelli, Carlo Verdone with young versions of Daniele Luchetti and Paolo Virzì. 

Claudia Cardinale speaks with nostalgic affection about Germi, who passed away in 1974 at the age 60, while Verdone gives special insight into Germi’s legacy on Italian cinema, saying that “(Germi) was the first true creator of the ensemble film.” He goes on to explain how Germi’s ensembles differ from the ensembles that Federico Fellini created in his early works. “In Fellini’s, the subtleties were hidden in throwaway lines and little gestures. I'm referring to the scene of the crew on the beach in the "Lo sceicco bianco" (The White Sheik) or to "I Vitelloni," a great ensemble film. But Germi created the ensemble comedy.”

The documentary is called “Pietro Germi: The Man with the Cigar in His Mouth” and is available online at

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