Dino Risi: Comedy with a Twist

During that incredible period of extraordinary vitality in Italian cinema, from Neorealism to the end of the 1960's, many great directors ran the risk of being put into the shade by such giants as Fellini, Rossellini, Visconti and De Sica. Critical opinion in their favor diminished even more when some of these filmmakers, not forming part of that Pantheon, dared to take the comedic path, and obtained – repugnant during those years of myopic ideology – huge popular success. This was the case of Pietro Germi, who for a long time was ignored and undervalued, as well as Mario Monicelli and Antonio Pietrangeli.
It was even worse for Dino Risi, who gave the Italian cinema at least one undeniable masterpiece which is “Il Sorpasso”, and a series of movies both flawless as well as full of vitality as are “Una Vita Difficile” and “Profumo di Donna”. Milanese by birth and Roman by adoption, Risi possessed, beneath his apparent cynical and even cruel gaze, true humanist traits. His work, looking at it in its entirety, is an impassioned human comedy from which emerges a profound yearning morality, and disenchantment is the result of the deep understanding of the souls of his characters. This is the motive why his films often produce bitter laughter, and the spectator often ends up loving even the most controversial and questionable protagonists. There is no character in which we do not end up by identifying with, and recognizing some flaw found innately in ourselves, or which doesn't risk becoming so.
It is a great pleasure to pay homage, in this great temple of modern art as is the MoMA, to this great director, who died only a year ago. On behalf of all those who have participated in this series, I would like to say: “Long life to Dino Risi and to comedic intelligence.”
(Antonio Monda, curator)

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