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So Mambo

Continuing a season in which national television recruits are bringing new blood to Italian screen comedies, "So Mambo" represents the latest successful crossover, this time for writer-director Luca Pellegrini, co-scripter Fabio Bonifacci and a bright team of actors, most of whom hail from popular alternative comedy show "Ciro." Coupling the verve and bite of classic '60s comedies with a colorful, contemporary veneer, this spirited tale of the chaos that ensues when a suddenly wealthy family man attempts to sustain a double life boasts an unflagging script that keeps the jokes coming. Local auds should respond with gusto, while some offshore sales also appear likely.

With:
Stefano ..... Luca Bizzarri Mauro ..... Paolo Kessisoglu Lisa ..... Luciana Littizzetto Antonia ..... Maddalena Maggi

Continuing a season in which national television recruits are bringing new blood to Italian screen comedies, “So Mambo” represents the latest successful crossover, this time for writer-director Luca Pellegrini, co-scripter Fabio Bonifacci and a bright team of actors, most of whom hail from popular alternative comedy show “Ciro.” Coupling the verve and bite of classic ’60s comedies with a colorful, contemporary veneer, this spirited tale of the chaos that ensues when a suddenly wealthy family man attempts to sustain a double life boasts an unflagging script that keeps the jokes coming. Local auds should respond with gusto, while some offshore sales also appear likely.

“So Mambo” is one of several comedies from Medusa Film this year to mine talent from hit shows on sister company Mediaset’s networks. Despite having no previous filmmaking experience, the writer-director duo demonstrate confidence and ease working in a more full-blown narrative mold that bears no trace of the sketch-based structure of their television work. Technically, too, the film is a polished vehicle, thanks to Paolo Marzoni’s zippy editing and accomplished lenser Fabio Cianchetti’s crisp visuals.

At the center of the yarn is frustrated 30-year-old businessman Stefano (Luca Bizzarri). When a bank error steers a 6 billion lire windfall his way, he decides to change his life, being sure to avoid repeating the mistakes he made first time around. Using his newfound riches to keep his material-girl wife, Lisa (Luciana Littizzetto), occupied, Stefano feigns business dealings that summon him to Bologna each day, where he sets about reliving his carefree youth. Before long, he sparks up a romance with free-spirited Antonia (Maddalena Maggi).

As the result of a contorted series of complications and cover-up measures, Stefano fabricates a past as an Albanian refugee, even procuring a fake passport to allay Antonia’s suspicions regarding his hazy background. But the deceit spirals out of control, and he soon finds himself cornered into marriage and fatherhood for the second time. For a while, he maintains the dual existence despite the complaints of both spouses about his long absences. But when his distraction leads to a meeting between Lisa and Antonia, the situation begins to unravel. Through the surprising response of the two women to their discovery, the final act maneuvers toward a refreshing solution.

Bonifacci and Pellegrini’s smart script employs enough logic to keep its increasingly absurd events on track, and is considerably less predictable than most mainstream Italian comedies of this kind.

In their first film roles, “Ciro” alumni Bizzarri and Paolo Kessisoglu display plenty of energy and roguish charm, the latter as Stefano’s confidant, accomplice and mediator, whose passion for the mambo gives rise to the bouncy soundtrack of Latino dance rhythms. Maggi makes an attractive foil to the male characters, while delightfully hard-edged comic Littizzetto belongs to a breed of spiky character actors all too rare in contemporary Italian comedy. A regular not only on “Ciro” but also on “Never Say Goal” — another fertile training ground for tube-to-film graduates — Littizzetto currently has her own script and starring vehicle in development at Medusa.

So Mambo

(COMEDY -- ITALIAN)

Production: A Medusa release of a Medusa Film production in association with Telepiu. (International sales: Adriana Chiesa Enterprises, Rome.) Executive producer, Beppe Caschetto. Directed byLuca Pellegrini. Screenplay, Fabio Bonifacci, Pellegrini.

Crew: Camera (color), Fabio Cianchetti; editor, Paolo Marzoni; music, Luca Testoni, Piero Guerrera; art directors, Leonardo Scarpa, Giampiero Huber, Paola Zamagni; costume designer, Eva Coen; sound (Dolby), Walter Pirani. Reviewed at Fiamma Cinema, Rome, Aug. 27, 1999. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: Stefano ..... Luca Bizzarri Mauro ..... Paolo Kessisoglu Lisa ..... Luciana Littizzetto Antonia ..... Maddalena MaggiWith: Enrico Bertolino, Gigio Alberti, Cosima Coccheri, Gianni Fantoni.

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