It looks like the classic film kick isn’t ending anytime soon. Which I find perfectly fine since this journal takes on an entirely new shape and form. Ish.
Anyway. The Secret of Santa Vittoria is a film created in 1969 based off of a massively award winning book realized in 1966 with the same name, written by Robert Crichton. So for all you people condemning the process, studios have adapted books into films for years. It’s just that some really shitty books are popular right now.
What the fuck is Divergent anyway?
Moving on! The film is something I was introduced to in the last few years and it’s largely one of the major factors that got me into watching classic films. In many ways it can be contrasted against Seven Samurai with the plot. But when I say that I certainly do not compare the two because the overall theme, structure, and methodology of resolving conflict are entirely different between the two films. I’d dare say the Guns of Navarone is closer, thematically, to Seven Samurai. I’d dare but I haven’t seen the former yet so I can only make limited speculation on that.
On to The Secret of Santa Vittoria.
It starts off in a small Italian village (the titular Santa Vittoria) set during World War 2. At the start of the film the village has just received the news of the death of Mussolini.
I’m going to have to explain the fallout of Fascism, aren’t I?
I am so under qualified for that.
Okay, in the context of this film you have to understand that Fascism in Italy was something like a great dream that just turned so sour. When Mussolini died it was a sign signifying how far everything had fallen despite his promise to move Italy forward into the 21st century.
There is so much more to this but I encourage you to research it at your own leisure. Anyway, in Santa Vittoria the people begin ousting the Fascists from power (once suitably roused from their daze) and during that time one man named Italo Bombolini (played by Anthony Quinn) gets drunk and climbs a water tower. In the ensuing attempt to get him back down the crowd ends up cheering him and the Fascists get the idea in their heads to surrender to him and make him mayor.
Which he accepts.
Yes, it’s just like the old Mad TV sketch.
Of course Bombolini comes out of his drunken stupor and is forced to become mayor, which by some miracle he makes work. The problem is that this is still World War 2 and the Germans are leaving Italy. Before they go, however they are trying to recoup their losses. As a result they are going from town to town and taking whatever they can.
Santa Vittoria, conversely, has one chief export: wine. They are so good at it that they have over a million bottles just sitting around fermenting. As it’s the town’s major export and a source of most of their money they can’t afford to lose it. They have no means of repelling the Germans and without the wine they’ll be finished.
So what follows is one of the greatest cons in the history of cinema with an entire town behind it and Bombolini as the face of the entire operation. And yet, somehow, the greatest clown in Santa Vittoria is the perfect man for the job. His over the top natural spectacle is so grand and real that it’s impossible, in the eyes of the Germans, that he’s even capable of conning them.
The deception with the wine and just the sheer lengths the characters go through to make it work are as humorous as they are dramatic. The entire CITY gives the illusion that they’ve completely submitted to the Germans. Except for Bombolini’s wife of course, who is dubbed by the city to be the “Greatest bitch in all of Italy.”
It’s that kind of film.
This entire situation reaches such a boiling point by the film’s end that you are honestly left wondering who will break first, the Germans or the people of the city. I’d be remiss without noting that the Germans in the film, rather than being clichéd villains are depicted as men with flaws and limits like any other. Considering their dominion over the city it would be easy to make them constantly oppressing the people. But they don’t and it’s a nice bit of restraint to see.
The interesting thing, for me, is just the contrast this film serves to others of its kind when you have a small people being oppressed by a larger force. There’s no great battle, no heroic stand, it is just a group of ordinary people using their own meekness as strength, giving the illusion that they aren’t even capable of creating a ruse like this. I so rarely see a film like this where such a plan is concocted. I can’t even recall one though I’m sure such must exist.
Conversely I can point to hundreds of films that take the Seven Samurai approach. Countless. The Secret of Santa Vittoria executes its own solution with such comedic and dramatic perfection and I encourage you to watch it.
So too does this work exist.