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Days of Glory: Revisiting Italian Neorealism

Saturday, November 6, 2010
8:30 p.m. The Overcoat
Alberto Lattuada (Italy, 1952)

(Il Cappotto). A petty clerk dreams of a fancy new overcoat in Lattuada’s brisk adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s famed short story, reset in the suitably corrupt and hopeless hallways of Italian government bureaucracies. Run down and put upon, Carmine de Carmine (Renato Rascel, one of postwar Italy’s top comics) is still the only person in his office who’s actually working, with even his bosses more attuned to receiving kickbacks or chasing women than serving the people. A chance at a dapper new overcoat gives Carmine hopes of respect and adoration, but such dreams may soon be dashed against the realities of life (and death) at the wrong end of the postwar world order. Weaving a manic comic patter and some pointed digs at Italian corruption into the sardonic grain of Gogol’s original tale (as well as some noirish, fog-bound photography courtesy of Mario Montuori), Lattuada and scriptwriter Cesare Zavattini tailor a scathing, well-suited satire on the inhuman incivility of civil politics.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Lattuada, Cesare Zavattini, adapted from the story by Nikolai Gogol. Photographed by Mario Montuori. With Renato Rascel, Yvonne Sanson, Giulio Stival, Ettore Mattia. (99 mins, In Italian with electronic English titles, B&W, 35mm, From Cineteca Nazionale, permission Minerva Pictures)