This is easily one of the top 5 most beautiful films I’ve ever seen, right up there with Barry Lyndon, though they couldn’t be more different in most respects. The colors are gorgeous, with some scenes dappled in that special shade of red that Renoir so favored. Then another scene will be cold and gray, with fantastic lighting. Some scenes are blue, with red highlights, leaving me to wonder how the cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, managed to achieve that effect without washing out the details. Then another scene will be red. The sets were chosen with great care, many of them all out of proportion to anything like a reasonable scale, great fascist empty spaces designed to make humans feel like ants. And then there will be a scene with great warmth. It’s a real journey through an art museum.
I can’t say I enjoyed the movie, though. The story jumps around, and I didn’t quite get the point. I understood that this man was trying to be normal, and I understood the traumas of his childhood, but it didn’t seem to hang together, to me. The last scenes were pretty much incomprehensible.
One face kept nagging at me, that of Marcello’s nemesis, Manganiello, the man who kept trying to get him back on track to perform the assassination at the center of the plot. I was pretty sure he later played the old “Mustache Pete,” Don Fanucci, in The Godfather, Part II, the man Robert De Niro kills to start down the road to becoming the Godfather, in that wonderful scene where he goes over the rooftops to track the fat man in the white suit while an Italian festival is going on below. I was right. His name is Gastone Moschin.