Saturday, April 25, 2009

Big Deal on Madonna Street

"Big Deal on Madonna Street" aka "I Solti Ignotti" (Mario Monicelli, 1958) Italian caper film that's as much a spoof of caper films as it is the real deal. Neighborhood heisters team up to break in to a pawn-shop and the usual complications ensue between clashes of ego's, incompetence, prison stints by proxy, art-film reconnaissance of the target and the very real treasure of a virgin's love.

"Big Deal on Madonna Street" (the "big deal" is meant to be sarcastic, as in "Big Deal, you know how to operate a camera!") is filled with established and future stars of the Italian cinema (Totò, Marcello Mastroianni, Renato Salvatore, Vittorio Gassman, Claudia Cardinale, many of whom became stars because of this film) and is done in the neo-realist style of post-war Italian classics as "The Bicycle Thief" (a style that is spoofed in the course of the film, as well). Coming as it did, following the sensation that "Rififi" generated, resuscitating the career of Jules Dassin (Dassin made his own caper spoof "Topkapi" six years later). Like links in an elaborate knock-over plot, films influence films and keep the genre going to such contemporary examples as "Mission: Impossible," "Reservoir Dogs," and Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean" movies.

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