Film

'Il Sorpasso' Makes for a Luxurious Summer Treat

Dino Risi is able to turn this odd couple’s story into a film that’s socially and emotionally intelligent -- and entertaining.


Il Sorpasso

Director: Dino Risi
Cast: Vittorio Gassman, Jean-Louis Trintignant
Distributor: Criterion
Rated: NR
Release date: 2014-04-29

During the '60s Italy seemed to have finally come out of the brutal destruction and demoralization left behind by WWII and Il Duce’s reign of terror. Perhaps a little too overconfident about the future, some Italian filmmakers set out to portray their country as a carefree paradise in which life was only threatened by self imposed lack of enjoyment.

Thus, commedia all'italiana (literally,”comedy Italian style”) was born. One of the masters of this genre was Dino Risi, who in a filmography mostly consisting of stories about beautiful people with golden bodies and impossibly beautiful smiles found themselves trapped in misadventure after misadventure, all of this set of course to bubbly Italian popular songs.

While Risi became one of the world’s funniest filmmakers, his works haven’t received the restorations and praise they deserve, which makes it about time, The Criterion Collection got ahold of what might be Risi’s best film: Il Sorpasso. Unlike some of his other films, like Normal Young Man starring a stunningly beautiful Lino Cappolichio, Il Sorpasso tends to be slightly more realistic, to the point where it sometimes feel like a condemnation of the dolce far niente lifestyle.

The plot is quite simple: young, but extremely responsible student Roberto Mariani (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is looking out his window one day when a stranger drives by and stops to ask him for a favor: to place a call for him. The trustful man invites Bruno (Vittorio Gassman) to come inside and make the call himself.

After failing to get in touch with his friends Bruno suggests that Roberto stop his studies and come have a drink with him -- a token to show his gratitude. The young man hesitates but perhaps seduced by Bruno’s Lancia Aurelia convertible or his suave demeanor accepts to go on a drive with him.

The harmless ride along the Via Aurelia, turns into a two-day-long journey across the Italian country in which the characters realize that nothing is exactly what it seemed. Roberto goes from deeply admiring and envying Bruno’s carefree lifestyle, to practically feeling sorry for him after he realizes how lonely he is. He learns that Bruno has an ex-wife and a teenage daughter with whom he practically has no relation. He wonders if his uptight, rigorous upbringing weren’t so bad after all, while Bruno goes from being condescendingly charming to the young man, to actually realizing that he’s valuable despite his more conventional lifestyle choices.

Risi shoots Tuscany and its surroundings with a combination of tenderness and primal sensuality, the camera sometimes gliding through the locations as if it was caressing them before an aggressive seduction. Risi, who isn’t trying to show social realism in any way, at least not obviously, captures the economic boom exploding in the country with the eye of someone who wishes he could act like Bruno, but prefers to exert Roberto’s cautionary measures; all of which makes us wonder if in fact Risi’s films were more personal than we give them credit for.

He extracts touching performances out of his leading men, giving Gassman the opportunity to shine in a dramatic part in which he gets to look like a movie star, but also remind us why he was one of Europe’s most underrated actors. As the plot leads on to devastating tragedy, we see Gassman age in front of our eyes, his carefreeness transformed into regret and desperation. Trintignant on the other side -- who was half a decade away from starring in A Man and a Woman -- brings a sense of extreme loyalty to Roberto, who in the hands of a lesser actor would have been turned into a goody two shoes without an inkling of a personality.

That Risi is able to turn this odd couple’s story into a film that’s socially and emotionally intelligent, while also being endlessly entertaining is a reminder that his work needs to be more sought out by younger generations, not to mention yet another stellar addition to the Criterion library. The Blu-ray edition includes a pristine 2k transfer that sometimes gives the film the look of a documentary, making for a richer viewing experience. This edition also includes an introduction by filmmaker Alexander Payne, whose own Sideways seems to be quite influenced by the pace and style of Il Sorpasso.

The amount of bonus features is staggering and includes interviews with Dino Risi (conducted by Rémi Fournier Lanzoni) as well as with Trintignant and screenwriter Ettore Scola. A 2006 documentary about Risi, features interviews with his friends and closest collaborators, while a documentary from 2012 shows us what became of the locations used in the film. Most fascinating of all is a documentary titled Speaking with Gassman in which the actor’s son talks about his father’s relationship with Risi. In all, Il Sorpasso makes for quite the luxurious summer treat.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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