By Ali Moosavi.
A story with global appeal but one that will especially resonate with those who have reached the pensioner age.”
Italy has a rich tradition in producing comedies which have had global appeal, made by some of the best comedy directors that cinema has known. Examples include Mario Monicelli’s Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), Dino Risi’s Love and Larceny (1960), Pietro Germi’s Divorce Italian Style (1961), Vittorio De Sica’s Marriage Italian Style (1964) and, more recently, Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful (1997). Most classic Italian comedies deal with everyday life and issues that most people can connect to.
Gianni Di Gregorio’s Citizens of the World, now available on DVD, continues this great tradition. It has a story which has global appeal but will especially resonate with those who have reached the pensioner age. Three Italian men entering their seventh decade have started to get worried about their future and whether they can afford to keep living in their homeland. The Professor (Gianni Di Gregorio, who also wrote and directed the film) is a retired Latin teacher who still dreams of finding a soul mate, Giorgetto (Giorgio Colangeli) is another pensioner who apart from complaining all the time, doesn’t do much. Attilio (Ennio Fantastichini) doesn’t have a pension and makes handicraft to get by. These three start to think that perhaps by going to another country, where their pension and savings is worth more, they can have a better lifestyle. They consult another “professor” for advice who explains for them all the factors that they need to consider, such as taxation, exchange rate, legal issues, medical facilities, language, etc.
We follow a few days in the lives of these guys as they gradually find that there are other factors beyond taxes that keep you in your homeland. The fact that beer is a lot cheaper somewhere else will not necessarily make you a happier person. Though initially they get very excited and find the idea of moving to greener pastures alluring, once they examine the things that they have to give up once they leave, doubts begin to settle in. Attilio is attached to his daughter and as the three get more serious about departing he feels even closer to her. Giorgetto has a brother whom he rarely sees but again develops a closer relationship once he is thinking of leaving. The Professor finds that maybe even at his age, he can find women who are attracted to him and develops a new confidence in himself in amorous matters.
Though the film is mostly a series of conversations, every dialogue, every sentence is full of wry observations about life, filled with humour. The choices these three face, and the thoughts that go through their minds, will resonate with many people from every nationality in their age bracket. There is not a false note in any of the observations and conversations. The script (by Gianni Di Gregorio and Marco Pettenello) is so well written that not a minute of screen time is wasted and every bit of dialogue rings true. We get sucked into the lives of these people and their predicaments and have complete empathy for them. We long to sit with them at their regular table in their regular café and have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee with them. You begin to miss their company the minute the film ends.
Gianni Di Gregorio has done amazingly well in his triple duties as writer, director, and actor. This is the type of script that one would normally associates with the likes of Woody Allen and Albert Brooks, so it is surprising to see that he was one of the scriptwriters on Matteo Garrone’s tough Mafia movie Gomorrah (2008). All the actors, whether in the main featured roles or bits, are excellent. Di Gregorio has also made excellent use of locations, both the tourist sites in Rome and the picturesque places in the rural areas around Rome. He has also managed to very delicately touch on the topical issue of illegal immigrants in Italy. Ennio Fantastichini who plays Attilio, was the youngest of main cast and sadly died shortly after completing this film. He has departed on a very high note. Citizens of the World is a touching, funny, life affirming film, which will bring smiles to the faces of many film lovers at these tough times.
Ali Moosavi has worked in documentary television and has written for Film Magazine (Iran), Cine-Eye (London), and Film International (Sweden). He contributed to the second volume of The Directory of World Cinema: Iran (Intellect, 2015).