Mario Monicelli, Italian cinema giant, free at last

One of the greatest artists of the last and current centuries, Italian film director Mario Monicelli, father of the commedia all’italiana, took his own life last night. He was 95 and terminally ill.

Please read this obituary in The New York Times, where Michael Roston quotes the director:

    “All Italian comedy is dramatic,” he said in a 2004 interview with Cineaste magazine “The situation is always dramatic, often tragic, but it’s treated in a humorous way. But people die in it, there’s no happy ending. That’s just what people like about it. The Italian comedy, the kind I make, always has this component.”

Please also see this obituary in the ANSA feed, where actor Stefania Sandrelli interprets his suicide.

I studied and loved his films in graduate school and have quoted them often here on the blog. The scene below (with Totò, Marcello Mastroianni, and Vittorio Gassman) is my favorite from I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street, 1958).

My favorite gag is when Mastroianni asks Totò if the famous safe-cracker Fu Cimin was Chinese. No, says, Totò, he was from Venice. “Cimin” was his last name. “Fu” means he died, he says.

I soliti ignoti and blogs I’ve been reading lately

My friend and co-editor of VinoWire, Franco Ziliani, has posted recently on the Wine Spectator‘s Top 100 List (my translation is posted at VinoWire) and James Suckling’s top Piedmont picks (in Italian). Franco points out rightly: it’s simply appalling that Giacomino (Lil’ James) Suckling and the Wine Spectator elide an entire swath of traditionalist wines and even include wines virtually unknown to Italians and their palates. After all, aren’t they the Italians’ wines first and foremost? If you want a list of Nebbiolo not to get me for Christmas, read Suckling’s article (to be published on December 15). His wines are the soliti ignoti, the usual suspects, that appear on his list every year and he arrogantly ignores the wines that have historically defined the region. (See IWG’s post.)

Over at Montalcino Report, winemaker Alessandro Bindocci has published some interesting posts about olive oil made from depitted drupes and “integrated farming.”

Ever the devoted fan, I always love to read Simona Carini’s excellent blog Briciole. And I owe Simona a thanks for the help she’s been giving me with the desserts in a translation I’m doing for Oronzo Editions.

Alice Feiring posted this conflicted take on the California Conundrum.

Tracie B just posted this irresistibly delicious piece on pasta e fagioli (but, then again, I might be a bit biased when it comes to her cooking).

And on a totally unrelated note, I’m in the Marines Too! reminds me that we are a country at war and that world conflicts affect the lives and hearts of the people who live in my hometown.

*****

Even if you don’t understand Italian, watch this clip from Monicelli’s 1958 classic, I soliti ignoti (literally, the usual unknowns or the usual suspects but released in English as Big Deal on Madonna Street). Totò’s performance is brilliant…