At the age of 78, Alberto Sordi, an actor beloved by many Italians, has come up with this delightfully old-fashioned throwback to the kind of comedy that used to be a staple of Italian cinema 30 or 40 years ago. Younger audiences may not appreciate the jokes about old age and sexual yearnings, and “Forbidden Encounters” probably won’t travel, but this beautifully timed and sustained comedy deserves to click in Italy. It played in Venice as a deserved tribute to Sordi.
Sordi, who has aged extremely well, plays Armando Andreoli, an elegant, experienced engineering expert, first seen traveling by train from Rome to Bologna to attend a conference. His private compartment is invaded by an unwelcome visitor: Federica (Valeria Marini), a gorgeous, statuesque blonde in her late 20s. She seems bright and friendly, but Armando’s suspicious; perhaps she’s a thief, or a prostitute. His suspicions increase when she follows him to the conference (which ends in chaos), but when he’s unable to find a hotel room for the night, she offers to share her bed in a pensione.
The night passes without incident, but when Federica’s fiance bursts into the room the next morning, he fails to understand the platonic nature of the arrangement and breaks off the engagement.
Back in Rome, Federica, a nurse who is devoted to caring for elderly patients , contacts Armando, and before long they’re seeing a lot of each other, despite the fact that he’s married and there’s a 50-year age difference. Still, things remain innocent — until they dance the tango together, whereupon Armando takes a whole new lease of life.
Though some will react against the May-December romance that is the basis of the film, Sordi handles it with delicacy and humor that’s saucy but tasteful. The film is briskly paced, expertly handled in most departments, and elegantly acted by the two leads. There’s a neatly ironic conclusion.
The one drawback to this generally delightful entertainment is the glutinous music score, which unnecessarily swamps several sequences. It’s a throwback to a different era of filmmaking, but in this case not a welcome one.