screened November 8 2008 on Columbia VHS in New York, NY
The premise plays like a joke: a Marxist, a capitalist and a common worker stumble through four decades of post-World War II Italy, each pursuing their ideal of what modern society largely at the expense of the others. The joke is on all of them, as Ettore Scola and fellow writers Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli plot a bittersweet march from the exuberant hope following the end of Fascism to a 1970s dystopia of class stratification and red tape, where middle class families huddle overnight just to enroll their kids in schools while the rich idle away in comfortable seclusion. Scola and company trade in rough caricatures, betraying mild contempt for both the ineffectual intellectual (Stefana Satta Flores) who leaves his wife and child to puruse a pipe dream of socialism through cinema education, and the selfish industrialist (Vittorio Gassman) who spends a lifetime accumulating wealth and privilege while turning his back on those who love him. Their fellow war buddy, a hapless hospital orderly (Nino Manfredi) who remains steadfast to his principles as well as to their common love interest (Stefania Sandrelli), is left as the de facto hero of the middlebrow.
There’s about as much – or rather, little – insight into the historical period covered here as there is in Robert Zimeckis’ Forrest Gump (TSPDT rank #577) – both films share the trait of interpreting historical developments in terms of moral shortcomings among individuals caused by their selfishness and ignorance. Fortunately Scola and company infuse their simplistic overview with enough witty, knowing dialogue to keep the proceedings engaging. Perhaps most interesting is the linking of the failure of post-war Italian society to that of neo-realist cinema. The fierce concern for the plight of all humanity of such films as Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (TSPDT #15) gives way to the industrial boom and pursuit of individual wealth of the 50s and 60s. In Scola’s sardonic view, the legacy of neo-realism amounts to little more than the million dollar answer of a television game show, which the contestant, a passionate cinephile, isn’t even able to answer correctly.
Wanna go deeper?
“We All Loved Each Other So Much” is the forgettably awkward title of Ettore Scola’s wise, reflective Italian comedy that examines 30 years of recent Italian social history in terms of the friendship of three men and the one woman each man has loved at one time or another. It’s the sort of thing for which European film makers, especially Italian, have a special feeling, while Americans have none whatsoever, if only because American producers are made uneasy by movies that are about friendship and that attempt to cover so much time.
“We All Loved Each Other So Much,” which opened yesterday at the Beekman, is full of fondness, rue, outrage and high spirits. It is also—surprising for an Italian film—packed with the kind of movie references that French filmmakers like, and it is dedicated to the late Vittorio DeSica, whose “Bicycle Thief” plays a prominent part in the picture.
Mr. Scola, who has been represented here both as a writer (“Il Sorpasso”) and director (“Made in Italy,” “The Pizza Triangle,” among others), employs a comic style that is effective for being loose, allowing him to introduce real people as themselves, to parody “Strange Interlude’s” spoken interior thoughts, to go from slapstick to satire and then to drama of genuine feelings.
At its best, the film combines a number of different emotions at once, as when the film-obsessed Nico attempts to teach Luciana the fundamentals of Sergei Eisenstein’s theory of montage on Rome’s Spanish Steps, all the while seducing her.
Though the film is very funny at moments, the dominant mood is a sense of loss, but even here the film makes its point in a backhanded way. “We wanted to change the world, but the world changed us,” says Antonio, the aging hospital orderly. Yet Mr. Scola recognizes this as the windy cliché of someone given to self-dramatization. After 30 years the three friends are more worn, more tired, more experienced than they were as young men, but neither the world nor time has changed them in any essential ways. That’s the bitter truth.
- Vincent Canby, The New York Times, May 24, 1977
Neorealism… can be considered the father of Italian comedy, even if the latter was born precisely as a reaction against neorealism. Neorealism trieed to restore the dramatic and authentic face of the Italiy of those years, while the Italian comedy, with opposing, solely evasive intentions, tried to fabricate a concilatory, rural, Don Camillesque Italian picture of “bread” and of “love.” The Italian comedy began thus, in a rather false way. Little by little, however, it grew, it took to following ever more closely and critically the progress of society. It registered its changes, illusions, realities, from the “boom” to the “crack,” it continued to corroding some of the taboos of which Catholic Italiy is the victim, taboos of family, sex, institutions…
Anxiety about irresponsible uses of the medium and the failure of the masses to apprehend cinematic teachings – these are the filmmaker’s preoccupations in We All Loved Each Other So Much. If the film should really be entitled C’eravamo tanto delusi (We Were All So Disappointed) as Scola once noted, then the cinematic disappointments would constitute one of the three themes on which Scola’s film so bitterly reflects. Failed expectations in love and politics are the other two concerns which join to form Scola’s commentary on Italian culture frm the liberation to the mid-1970s… The disparity between teh film’s ideological openness and its conclusive love story thus suggests the dual generic provenance of We All Loved Each Other So Much, which owes its plot structure to the commedia all’italiana and its social responsibility to neorealism.
- Millicent Joy Marcus, Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism, published by Princeton University Press, 1986 pages 393, 420
References to cinema abound in the film. Film buff Nicola playfully recreates Eisenstein’s Odessa Steps sequence on the Spanish Steps at the Piazza di Spagna, and in the scenes of the 1950s, Scola shows us the characters in the squares and streets of Rome in a manner reminiscent of early Fellini films. With the 1960s, we switch to color, the prosperity of the Italian “economic miracle,” and the atmosphere of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita: Scola re-creates the shooting of the famous Trevi Fountain sequence from that film with the assistance of Fderico Fellini, who plays himself and is mistaken for Rossellini by one of the crowd. Then Scola moves to paraphrase the mature style of Antonioni’s Eclipse, employing it to dramatize the failure of communication between Gianni and his wife. Perhaps the most complex linkage between cinema and society, fiction and fact, in We All Loved Each Other So Much involves the figure of De Sica. In the 1960s, Nicola had appeared on Mike Bongiorno’s quiz show Lascia o radoppia (literally “quit or go for double,” a program patterned on “The Sixty-Four Thousand Dollar Question” in America). The jackpot question involved an explanation of why the boy cries in The Bicycle Thief at the end of the film. Nicola explained that he cries because De Sica put cigarette butts in the boy’s pocket and then accused of stealing them, mistaking the “factual” answer for the “fictional” one.
- Peter E. Bondanella, Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present, Published by Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001, p. 371
About Ettore Scola
Following law studies at the University of Rome, he began his working career as a writer for humour magazines. Entering the film industry as a screenwriter in 1953, he contributed bright material to films of Dino Risi and other directors, often in collaboration with Ruggero Maccari. As a director from 1964, he started with traditional Italian-style comedies but increasingly his films took on a serious edge, revealing a maturing social concern and a growing search for a meaningful dramatic context. His We All Loved Each Other So Much (1974), dedicated to Vittorio De Sica, wistfully captured the essence of 30 years of postwar Italian cinema through the three friends, veterans of the Resistance. Scola won the best direction prize at Cannes for Brutti, sporchi e Cattivi / Down and Dirty (1976), a vivid portrait of misery. His A Special Day (1977) – a politically based allegorical depiction of a brief liaison between a jaded housewife (Sophia Loren) and a homosexual radio journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) under the gathering clouds of WWII – was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film. Perhaps his most ambitious film was La Nuit de Varennes (1982), a masterful, fanciful, visually striking, idea-rich costume epic of the French Revolution. History, politics, and people, and the effect they have on one another, continue to be a core theme in the films of Scola, one of the most highly regarded figures in European cinema today.
— Ephraim Katz, The Film Encylopedia
Revered more in the international film community than in American cineaste circles, chameleon director Ettore Scola’s name is inexcusably absent from several English-language reference works. With Scola, one has to dig deep for the auteurist consistencies that make less elusive artists easier to pigeonhole. While Scola’s fascination with political attitude and social change dictated by purely personal psychology never varies, he skips the light fantastic through such specialties as historical epic (La Nuit de Varennes), the musical (Le Bal), screwball comedy (A Drama of Jealousy), domestic drama (The Family), and grand romance (Passione d’Amore). In each case, the director gives established genres a uniquely invigorating spin. Critic Stephen Harvey compares Scola to Joseph Mankiewicz, and that pithy summation of Scola as a Mankiewicz seasoned with oregano sheds light on how Scola’s comic screenwriting background (over fifty screenplays) informs his later career as a filmic maestro.
In all Scola’s films, the choreography of history steps in partnership with his simpatico actors, gliding camerawork, and updated neorealistic melancholy. Even taking his overcooked Hollywood debut,Macaroni, into consideration, and the failure of his last films to secure American releases, Scola’s place in humanist film history is unassailable. Unlike many screenwriters who turn director to ensure an unedited venue for their glorious dialogue, when Scola has something to say he lets his mise-en-scene do the talking.
—Lillian Schiff, updated by Robert J. Pardi, Film Reference.com