An all-star cast and jazzy score highlight this charming comedy, a deft satire of classic caper films like Rififi. Big Deal on Madonna Street hilariously details the plight of a sad-sack group of bumbling thieves and their desperate attempts to pull off the perfect heist.
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The film’s climax is as meticulously staged and almost as long as the legendary half-hour heist sequence in Rififi, but replaces the Frenchmen’s laconic professionalism with the Italians’ noisy ineptitude. The use of arch, silent movie-style intertitles to further the narrative adds to the apparent air of mockery.
The premise couldn’t be simpler (a group of low-class thieves does everything wrong), but the film turns it into a very rich series of observations. The nature of Monicelli’s comedy is to present the seemingly nonsensical yet instantly recognizable relationships between people, each other, and the society they call home.
The plentiful lessons and solutions exhibited by the film would of course take closer study than this admittedly vague and general epistle, but what is clear on a revelatory re-viewing… was an uncompromising creativity that clearly didn’t seek solutions to the problems of story or of filmmaking but rather took up with its hero and subject and went with it, using its allegiance as a fund for inspiration and energy. The filmmaking doesn’t follow the subject: it is one with the subject.
If you are looking for a Postwar Italian film that isn't some depressing tragedy with families hocking their bedsheets and starving fishermen or starving women forced into prostitution, this lightweight and silly comedy is just the ticket! I prefer the tragedies but this is great, too. (There actually is a joke about hocking the bedsheets in this film :-)
"A group of thieves do everything wrong" sounds like a one-joke premise, but Monicelli's way of viewing people and their society is not just hilarious, but rich—jokes come fast with scarcely a dud among them. He also knows the secret of the "screwball crime" subgenre: that we care more about people than we do about property. And he knows that, however silly it gets, that's essentially a political statement.
A real host of stars: Mastroianni, Salvatori, Cardinale, Gassmann and Toto. A couple of really hilarious scenes and one dramatic moment squeezed in a movie which will make you smile during 100 minutes. Some scenes uncannily made me think of the Woody Allen of SMALL TIME CROOKS for instance. Laughter doesn't seem to know any frontier. highly recommended.
Entertaining comic caper from director Mario Monicelli. Sharply-written with a great cast of colorful characters, superb black and white cinematography, and authentic gritty locations - but it's light on real laughs and occasionally gets bogged down in its subplots. Ultimately, only a minor classic.
Crazy caper by a gang of stumblebum nincompoops at least one of which can't even tie his shoes. Fine ensemble acting. It's a tribute to the human spirit that comedy can be mined even amid the crumbling, bombed-out ruins of Italy.
Wow. What a cast and what a film! Had me in stitches. Can't believe it took me 30 years on this Earth to view. Easily one of the best films I saw this year. Criterion should re-release this on blu ray. 5 easy stars. Must see Italian cinema.
Une comédie légère et bien enlevée, non dénuée de judicieuses et judiciaires observations sur le "petit" milieu, qui garde une fraîcheur de ton indéniable. Il convient de noter en particulier la finesse de jeu des acteurs et le constant humour teinte de tristesse et de gravité. Un solide classique de la comédie italienne de la fin des années 1950 qui a pourtant pris quelques indéniables rides. www.cinefiches.com