The Passionate Thief Screen 4 articles

The Passionate Thief


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  • Mr. Monicelli said his film characters always attempt a great enterprise and fail. “So in Italian comedy, there is almost always a sad ending,” he said, “or lack of a happy ending.” That’s not quite true of “The Passionate Thief,” which ends at the crossroads of defeat and struggle, the place that, for all the miles the characters rack up, is really where we’ve been all along. In other films, that might be a bad finish; here, it’s a blissful assertion of survival.

  • Slapstick, vaudevillian, totally screwball, featuring missed opportunities, mistaken identities, and ongoing running gags that get funnier with each repetition, The Passionate Thief was a BLAST, and awesome to watch after a week of super-serious end-of-year 2014 films. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen a lot of great stuff, but The Passionate Thief is devoted to pure silliness and farce in a way that was like a bubbly glass of champagne, light, airy, ridiculous.

  • Everything serious is acknowledged but deferred until the sun comes up; it's a joyous portrait of a culture balancing its time between the sweet life and the Pope.

  • If all of this sounds dispiriting on paper, it plays as something sublime--the title sequence involves a terrific montage that matches up-tempo jazz with images of bustling Italian streets during Christmastime. Ben Gazzara (in a dubbed role) and especially noted Italian comedian Tòto are enjoyable in their roles, but Magnani in a blonde wig is worth the price of admission.

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