Cinema Italia: Comrade Don Camillo (Luigi Comencini, 1965)

Sunday 2nd april 2023, Il compagno Don Camillo (1965), Comrade Don Camillo * Directed by Luigi Comencini * 109 min * In Italian with English subtitles * doors open at 20:00, film starts at 20:30. After the film, please engage and share comments, ideas, and inspiration with the host(s) of the evening!

Also known in English as ‘Don Camillo in Moscow’, this feature film was originally released in Italian, French and Russian. Based on the novels of Giovannino Guareschi, the priest Don Camillo iconically represents the point of view of the popular classes supporting the Democrazia Cristiana party in the aftermath of WW2, while his opponent, Peppone, the mayor of a small town in the Northern part of the country, is the champion of the Partito Comunista Italiano. If Pier Paolo Pasolini incarnates the tragic, Dionysian approach to Catholicism in Italy, Guareschi represents its comic, lightweight approach. The archival documentary film La Rabbia (The Anger, 1963) directed in the first half by Pasolini and in the second half by Guareschi, immortalizes this reading, and the respect that the one tributes to the other.

There are five feature films, released between 1952 and 1965 as French-Italian co-productions, inspired by the novels and drawings by Guareschi. The two actors, Fernandel (Don Camillo) and Gino Cervi (Peppone) resemble the drawings in an astonishing way. This feature film is the last of the series, and it’s directed — unlike the previous ones — by Luigi Comencini, one of the most relevant director of Italian neorealism: in particular, he directed Vittorio De Sica and Gina Lollobrigida (Pane, amore e fantasia, 1953), Alberto Sordi (Tutti a casa, 1960), and in the almost forgotten jewel Italian Secret Service (original title in English, 1968), starring Nino Manfredi and Françoise Prévost.

Comrade Don Camillo brings the stereotypical division of post-WW2 Italy into a surrealistic perception. The film goes even beyond that, as it narrates a story of hetero cis male friendship, nonetheless not without ambiguities, and the complex relation of the Italian communists with Russia, after the death of his most important leader, Palmiro Togliatti who passed away in Yalta, the 21st of August 1964.

Film night at Joe’s Garage, cozy cinema! Free entrance. You want to screen a movie, let us know: joe [at] lists [dot] squat [dot] net