Profumo di donna
- Dino Risi, 1974.
Directors have certain actors they like to work with, or even don't like to work with (think of Klaus Kinski!) and Vittorio Gassman is Risi's actor. Here he is again perfection, like he was in Risi's Il Sorpasso further up in this thread. In several ways the two films have much in common: a vague journey across Italy, a boisterous man with a more timid companion - who like Trintignant's character in Il Sorpasso engages in brief soliloquy to 'air his thoughts'.
The writing in this film is excellent, both the screen story and the dialogue, by Risi and Ruggero Maccari for which they were both nominated for Academy awards. Gassman won the golden palm at Cannes.
There's a slow descent from uproarious comedy to tense drama. Gassman portrays a blinded ex-army captain with a brash attitude which borders on the insulting at times, yet you can't help but like him, even if you want to strangle him. A young army recruit is sent on leave to accompany him on a trip he is making to Naples via Genoa and Rome. When they step out of the train he immediately takes them both to an outfitters and gets himself a natty cream three-piece and a fine fitting grey number for his companion. In Genoa he gets the young fellow to procure him a specific putain, right down to what her hair colour should be, he says he can smell a woman's scent around him. He causes chaos in a train and a café; gets his young aide, who he renames 'Ceccio' to telephone and invite his girlfriend to a café and then after kissing her in a less-than fatherly fashion, he tells the boy that she's obviously a pute and wasn't just picked up in a car by her 'uncle', which seems to be true. What he's really doing is 'saving' Ceccio from naivety and educating him. In Rome he tricks a young nun at the Catholic hotel to hold his pecker because he claims he can't find Ceccio to 'help him' in the bathroom.
When they eventually reach Naples the tone changes, gets a little darker as we learn about him before the accident which blinded him, from one of the odd bevy of young women - who were once just girls, but are now grown up - at the house of the equally blinded comrade he has come to visit.
The title may seem familiar and indeed it was remade in the 1990s with Al Pacino in Gassman's role. No offence to Al, but he didn't quite match Gassman here. Sadly the young fellow playing Ceccio was killed in a motorcycle crash just before he turned 18 and a month before the release of the film, and therefore didn't get to see its great success.