Unfair Competition

on December 05, 2001 by Susan Green
   Ettore Scola is one of the surviving master filmmakers from an era when people still expected artistry in their entertainment. In 2002 AT (After Tarantino), his name is less familiar, but his work--"We All Loved Each Other So Much" in 1974, for example--dwells among the classics. Scola's relative obscurity would surely change if enough people on this weary planet have a chance to see "Unfair Competition," his brilliant period piece about tolerance and friendship. Set in 1938 on a quaint Roman street where two rival tailors live and work, this tragicomedy illuminates the moral depravity of fascism with far more depth than Roberto Benigni's "Life is Beautiful."

   Umberto Melchiorri (Diego Abatantuono) owns a spiffy menswear shop right next door to the more modest-looking haberdashery of Leone Simeoni (Sergio Castellitto). The businessmen are constantly at each other's throats, yet their families remain entwined in meaningful ways. Umberto's young son Pietruccio (Walter Dragonetti)--who narrates--is best pals with Leone's boy Lele (Simone Ascani). Paolo Melchiorri (Elio Germano) and Susanna Simeoni (Gioia Spaziani) are teenagers in love. Then, political tensions that begin to pit neighbor against neighbor actually create peace between the two entrepreneurs. The zeitgeist also sharpens Pietruccio's perceptions about a pro-Mussolini maternal uncle (Augusto Fornari) and a paternal uncle (the lip-synching Gerard Depardieu) who is horrified when Italy enacts racial laws to persecute its Jewish citizens. In that the Simeonis are of that persuasion, their country becomes increasingly hazardous for them.

   Lovingly photographed by Franco di Giacomo, the movie mixes humor with pathos in a refreshing child's-eye-view of a dark time in history.    Starring Diego Abatanuono, Sergio Castellitto, Gerard Depardieu, Walter Dragonetti, Simone Ascani, Augusto Fornari, Jean-Claude Brialy and Anita Zagaria. Directed by Ettore Scola. Written by Silvia Scola, Giacomo Scarpelli and Furio Scarpelli. Produced by Franco Committeri. No distributor set. Historical drama. Italian-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 110 min.

Tags: Diego Abatanuono, Sergio Castellitto, Gerard Depardieu, Walter Dragonetti, Simone Ascani, Augusto Fornari, Jean-Claude Brialy, Anita Zagaria, Ettore Scola, Silvia Scola, Giacomo Scarpelli, Furio Scarpelli, historical drama, italian, peace, families, teenages, love, hazardous, historical, foreign, Italian

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