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.

Recipe for Picchiapò (we all loved each other so much)

My depressing post yesterday made think of the Roman dish Picchiapò and the great scene from the 74 Scola film C’eravamo tanto amati (We All Loved Each Other So Much) when the three main characters (an intellectual bourgeois, a rich bourgeois, and a proletarian) realize that they have lost touch with the ideals they fought for together as partisans during the Second World War. Italian leading man Vittorio Gassman fantasizes his own death and utters the famous line, our generation really stinks!

The clip is in Italian but you don’t need to understand Italian to watch it. Picchiapò plays an important role: it’s one of the great Roman “recycled” dishes, a dish born from necessity but a delicacy because of its very nature.

I should leave the recipe writing to Simona and her excellent blog Briciole but feeling inspired this morning after Tracie B’s brioche French toast, I went online and found and translated this recipe.

Picchiapò

Ingredients

l lb. leftover boiled veal or beef, cut into small pieces
2-3 onions
2 cups tomato purée
rosemary (basil is sometimes used and cinnamon can be used as well)
salt and pepper
2 cups white or red wine
extra-virgin olive oil, as needed

Slice the onions into rounds and then wilt with a drizzle of the olive oil in a pan. When they have lightly browned, deglaze with the wine.

Add the tomato purée and spices and simmer until the sauce thickens.

Add the meet and let it absorb the flavor of the sauce.

Serve hot with potato purée or boiled potatoes or seasonal vegetables.

The Scola classic film is a commedia all’italiana but it is also a stinging social commentary and a moving film about love and country. It is also a meta-film — a film about film — and includes a cameo by Marcello Mastroianni and Fellini and a number of timeless Italian film clips. I highly recommend it.