Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Marcello Mastroianni: I Remember... Yes, I Remember

By Russell Smith

OCTOBER 18, 1999: 

D: Anna Maria Tato. (Not Rated, 198 min.)

Surprisingly, the sheer length and creative fecundity of Mastroianni's career seems to have little to do with this unconventional 1997 biography's three-hours-plus running time. Director Tato, the Italian film icon's inseparable companion toward the end of his life, makes little or no effort to exhaustively "cover" a career that sprawled over four decades and 170 movies. Instead, as the title implies, this is a pure release into the tender chaos of memory, in which the only overt structure is supplied by the mercurial shifts and turns of the subject's storytelling flow. Filmed during the two years before Mastroianni's death in 1996, I Remember consists mostly of interviews (monologues, really) shot in cars, seaside cafes in his beloved Naples, and the garden of his country home. Movie-scholar types may find themselves frustrated by the idiosyncratic format. Chronological order, historical context, and commentary from Mastroianni's peers seem to have been non-considerations. But from the fan's perspective this is sheer bliss, the next best thing to pouring a couple of glasses of grappa and sitting down with a bona fide film immortal (and world-class raconteur) for a long, intimate conversation. Just about everything you'd hope to learn about Mastroianni's career is here: What it was like to work with such directors as Manuel DeOliveira, Federico Fellini, Pietro Germi, and Vittorio DeSica; how he felt about the reductive "Latin Lover" sobriquet he picked up after La Dolce Vita (a mixture of bemusement and loathing); and how he developed his suave, effortlessly sexy persona (by imitating such screen idols as Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, and Tyrone Power). A bounty of film clips is gracefully spun into the narrative, including not only familiar scenes from classics like La Dolce Vita, Marriage Italian Style, 81Ž2, and Ginger and Fred, but also a later Fellini film that was never released. Just as delightful are the long stretches in which the unpretentiously polymathic actor holds forth on everything from the cretinizing influence of TV to architecture, Proust, modern action cinema, Method acting, and his most vivid memory (a passionate kiss with a total stranger on a train during WWII). The lack of imposed structure actually works against fatigue, as Mastroianni's electric mind, clear until the end, delivers repeated jolts of humor and insight. It's cafeteria-style biography, with the viewer given carte blanche to take away whatever he chooses. Most likely to stick in my mind: A passage in which Mastroianni defines old age as the point when one is only able to imagine paradise as an idealized place or time in the past rather than the future. As this lovely, engrossing tribute makes clear, Marcello Mastroianni never reached that point in his lifetime.

5 Stars


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