8 June 2020

Luigi Comencini – film director

Movies helped create an international audience for Italian cinema


Luigi Comencini directed some of the finest actors in the commedia all'italiana genre
Luigi Comencini directed some of the finest
actors in the commedia all'italiana genre
Award-winning director and screenwriter Luigi Comencini was born on this day in 1916 in Salò, a town on the banks of Lake Garda in Lombardy.

He is considered to have been one of the masters of the commedia all’italiana genre, a type of film produced between the 1950s and the 1970s that dealt with social issues such as divorce, contraception and the influence of the Catholic Church in a sardonically humorous way.

After Comencini studied architecture in Milan he went to work as a newspaper film critic. He began his career as a filmmaker in 1946 with a short documentary, Bambini in città, about the hard life of children in post-war Milan.

His first successful movie was L’imperatore di Capri in 1949, featuring the comedian Totò.

Comencini’s 1953 film, Pane, amore e fantasia, starring Vittorio De Sica and Gina Lollobrigida, is considered a prime example of neorealismo rosa -  pink neorealism. It was followed by Pane, amore e gelosia in 1954.

His masterpiece is considered to be Tutti a casa, starring Alberto Sordi, which was a bittersweet comedy-drama about Italy after the armistice of 1943, when Italy surrendered to the Allies.  The film won the Special Golden Prize at the 2nd Moscow International Film Festival.

Tutti a casa, starring Alberto Sordi, was considered Comencini's masterpiece
Tutti a casa, starring Alberto Sordi, was
considered Comencini's masterpiece
Comencini’s production of The Adventure of Pinocchio for television in 1972 was an outstanding success and during the same year he directed the film Lo scopone scientifico, a dark comedy with  Sordi and Silvana Mangano. In 1975 came his mystery film La donna della domenica with Marcello Mastroianni, Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Louis Trintignant, based on the novel of the same name by Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini.

Comencini directed Ugo Tognazzi in Il gatto in 1977, followed by a highly-praised television series, Cuore, in 1984.

Although critics have said that Comencini’s films, along with those of Dino Risi, approached Italy’s social problems with a smile but with no intention of changing the status quo, they are acknowledged as having been important in creating an international audience for Italian cinema.

Comencini died in Rome after a long illness in 2007. His daughters, Cristina and Francesca, are both film directors.

The waterfront at Salò, the town on Lake Garda where
Luigi Comencini was born
Travel tip:

Salò, the town on the banks of Lake Garda where Luigi Comencini was born, is known for having the longest promenade on the lake. It is also famous as the seat of government of the Italian Social Republic from 1943 to 1945. This was the Nazi-backed puppet state run by Benito Mussolini. The dictator lived in what is now the Grand Hotel Feltrinelli in Via Rimembranza in Gargnano, before trying to escape from Italy and being caught and executed.

Salò's Duomo di Santa Maria Annunziata, rebuilt in the 15th century, sits only a short distance from the lake shore
Salò's Duomo di Santa Maria Annunziata, rebuilt in the
15th century, sits only a short distance from the lake shore
Travel tip:

The main sights to see in Salò are the Duomo di Santa Maria Annunziata, which was rebuilt in late Gothic style in the 15th century and the Palazzo della Magnifica Patria, which houses an exhibition of important historical documents. There is also MuSa, il Museo di Salò, which opened in 2015 in la Chiesa di Santa Giustina in Via Brunati, which has exhibitions about the history of the town, including its brief period as a republic.

Also on this day:

1671: The birth of composer Tomaso Albinoni

1699: The birth of Baroque architect Benedetto Alfieri

1823: The birth of Giuseppe Fiorelli, the archaeologist who preserved the ruins of Pompeii

1852: The birth of physician Guido Banti, the first to define leukaemia 


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