Ettore Scola, RIP

Ettore Scola, the brilliant Italian film director, has died. He was 84.

Scola is probably best known for “A Special Day” starring Marcelo Mastroianni and Sophia Loren. Mastroianni plays a gay man about to be deported by Mussolini’s government. Loren is the repressed wife of a Mussolini supporter. The movie is about their brief, random encounter.

My favorite Scola film, though, is “We All Loved Each Other So Much.” This is about three World War II partisans and what becomes of them in the following decades, as Italy undergoes a massive and disruptive transformation.

The film is a tribute to the great Vittorio De Sica, under whom Scola studied. De Sica’s “Bicycle Thief” figures twice in the plot, including in a climatic scene in which one of the protagonists — the leftist intellectual — blows his chance to win a fortune on a quiz show when, in response to a basic question about the plot, he provides an answer based on the movie’s back story. Brilliant.

Despite its strong leftist bent, “We All Loved Each Other So Much” is almost certainly one of the best 15 or so foreign films I’ve ever seen. It won a César Award for Best Foreign Film in 1977 and (not surprisingly, I’m afraid) the Golden Prize at the 9th Moscow International Film Festival in 1975.

Sophia Loren remembered Scola this way:

Ettore Scola had a refined intelligence, a beautiful type of irony about him, and he was a real gentleman.

Martin Scorsese issued this statement:

Ettore Scola was, for me, a standard bearer for the greatest period of Italian cinema, a true golden age that began after WWII and lasted into the early 90s. From the 50s on, he was one of the creative dynamos of Italian filmmaking, as a writer (he co-wrote Dino Risi’s great Il Sorpasso, one of the best films of its era) and then, in the late 60s, as the director of films like Jealousy Italian Style (known over here as The Pizza Triangle when it was released), We All Loved Each Other So Much, A Special Day and Passion d’Amore.

Scola was a very special artist, truly one of a kind.

Indeed.

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