Labeled as the first Italian road trip movie and hallmark of the Italian comedy (Commedia all’italiana) genre, director Dino Risi provides an alarming prophecy for the future of Italy during the prosperous early 60’s of what is typically referred to as the Italian Economic Miracle (Boom Economico). This is Italy after WWII that experienced a rush of economic growth that is characterized by increased consumerism and self-indulgence – a far cry from the agricultural society from which it sprung.
Risi uses short fast scenes to tell the road trip story of two opposites: Bruno (Vittorio Gassman), cunning, ball of energy drifter; and Roberto (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a timid law student. Bruno represents the new modern Italy that seeks risky shortcuts to success whereas Roberto offers Italy’s past view of hard-working path towards achieving a prescribed middle class lifestyle, such as the portrayal of Roberto’s boring attorney uncle.
[youtube width=”615″ height=”461″]http://youtu.be/yafIvKriSgo[/youtube]
In this context, the B24 1958’s Lancia Aurelia, a tiny convertible sports car Bruno is driving is inline with his speedy personality, his fast-talking style and the endless use of the horn every time he prepares to overtake another car or when he arrives at a new destination. This element is extenuated further in the race scene between the Lancia Aurelia and a Fiat 500: new vs. past; fast luxury vs. functional transport.
The story takes place during Ferragosto (traditional Italian holiday celebrated on August 15), where Rome is vacated from its residents (see similar contemporary film during this time of year: Mid-August Lunch – Pranzo di ferragosto by Gianni Di Gregorio – 2008). The pair is driving on Via Aurelia, an ancient road that like the scenic U.S. Route 101 in California – represents a sort of escapism from urban Rome.
As you watch this film through today’s lenses think about what was the outcome of Risi’s prophecy for Italy? Was he right? And also, what other modern phenomenon it may sound the alarm for?