To my dear mother on the day of her birthday

505

To my dear mother on the day of her birthday (1974) represents the encounter between Luciano Salce and Paolo Villaggio, but Eleonora Giorgi and Orchidea De Santis are also important to make a scathing satire of “momism” and the noble environments. Federico (Villaggio) is thirty years old, but his oppressive and caring mother (Kedrova) does not let him grow, makes him dress like a child, feeds him with cod liver oil and guides him giving blunt but resolute orders. Federico unleashed his repressed sexuality on inflatable dolls that he gets from Denmark, the erotic myth of a generation of teenagers who fantasized about the alleged sexual freedom of the Scandinavian countries.

His relationship with his mother is love and hate, a kind of unresolved Oedipus complex, leading Federico to make fierce jokes against the woman and aborted attempts to get rid of her domination. The atmosphere of the film is surreal and grotesque, sometimes imbued with morbid eroticism and irony that mitigate the darkest moments.

Luciano Salce also touches on the theme of homosexuality, quoting Freud and the fear for the female sex, but remains on the surface with the description of a stereotyped gay couple that hates women and is attempting to rape Federico. The boy’s life changes when the granddaughter of an old servant died in a domestic accident is hired. Angela’s beauty (Giorgi) wins Federico, even if the girl limps while walking, but not only him, because all the men of the house are trying to touch her. Some scenes are quotes and a tribute to the erotic movie Malice (1973) by Salvatore Samperi. Just think of Eleonora Giorgi climbing a ladder while his uncle (Faà Di Bruno) looks at and caresses her legs, or the sequence of the dressing in the bedroom with Federico peeking at and putting some coins over her body. Angela and Federico fall in love and he gives her his mother’s emerald engagement ring, but the hag takes it back by force. Finally, the sexual relationship between Federico and Angela is consumed at his mother’s bedroom foot who is seized with a sudden illness as soon as she catches them. Angela is thrown out of the house and the son returns to celebrate his mother’s birthday in the castle. Nevertheless, the girl has no intention to give up and tries to get her love back, while the mother prefers to kill his son rather than grant him to another woman.

The film is infused with erotic sequences, often morbid, violent, unhealthy, sometimes solar and liberating. We just mention the erotic advertising billboards, which immortalize the marriage of Orchidea De Santis while Villaggio is photographing women’s legs from a grate, a prostitute paid to excite the guy, the love poses with inflatable dolls, the sequences with Giorgi bathing nude while Villaggio is spying her through a door ajar. Those very sexy scenes with Eleonora Giorgi on the bed while she lets her buttocks be massaged, but also when she exposes herself naked on the kitchen table. The erotic – morbid atmosphere is often at its high levels, ranging from sequences of fetishism, voyeurism to brief moments of pure romance. The criticism to the nobility is ferocious in that this shows respectability and charity but basically despises the poor, as shown by the sequence of the rice balls made of stones and the painful hunt for the emerald.

Paolo Villaggio is very good in playing the role of a bumbling dominated son, which is not easy to make it believable, especially while showing weaknesses and morbid fantasies. Orchidea De Santis plays a small role, she also seduces Federico and shows a bare breast, but the director decides to make her ugly (not an easy challenge!) to emphasize the irony of her role. Eleonora Giorgi is beautiful and sexy, generous with her sculptural total nudes in the bathroom, in the bedroom, in front of the mirror, even on the kitchen table or at the foot of Federico’s mother bedroom. Antonino Faà Di Bruno is not a professional actor (a retired army sergeant), but he easily plays Federico’s uncle who’s suffering from Parkinson’s disease, nicknaming him as “Pipette” and reproaching him of being homosexual. Lila Kedrova is a perfect oppressive mother who doesn’t let her son even breathe and vents her perfidy on the servants.

The film is an erotic comedy with a psychological cut, barely Freudian but it was not a big success, perhaps because it comes out after Love for Ophelia movie by Flavio Mogherini, which deals with a similar theme that is played for the first time on the big screen and the top of the TV success by Renato Pozzetto. Paolo Villaggio and Luciano Salce will settle accounts with Fantozzi…

Directed by Luciano Salce. Subject: Luis Berlanga and Rafael Azcona (play: On my mother’s Saint’s day). Screenplay: Luciano Salce, Sergio Corbucci, Massimo Franciosa. Editing: Amedeo Salfa. Photography: Henry Menczer. Music: Franco Micalizzi. Actors: Paolo Villaggio, Eleonora Giorgi, Lila Kedrova, Antonino Faà Di Bruno, Orchidea De Santis and Jimmy Il Fenomeno (the Phenomenon).

Translation by Amneris Di Cesare (edited by Francesca Ceccarelli)

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Gordiano Lupi
Gordiano Lupi (Piombino, 1960). Editorial manager of Edizioni Il Foglio, he contributes to Turin’s newspaper La Stampa. He translated the novels of the Cuban author Torreguitart Ruiz and published a number of books on Cuba, cinema, and many other topics. See the full list at www.infol.it/lupi. He participated in some TV broadcasts such as Corrado Augias’s Cominciamo bene le storie, Luca Giurato’s Uno Mattina, Odeon TV series on the Italian serial killers, Rete Quattro La Commedia all’italiana, Monica Maggioni’s Speciale TG1 on Cuba and Yoani Sánchez, Dove TV series on Cuba. He guested on some Italian and Swiss radio broadcasts for his books and comments on the Cuban culture. In 2012 he published a long chapter in El otro paredon, an essay on the Cuban situation, written with four authors of the Cuban exile, and issued in the USA with English and Spanish versions. His books received a large number of reviews and mentions. See the full list at www.infol.it/lupi. E-mail address: lupi@infol.it.