Posted on Monday, October 29, 2012, under

My flight from Rome to Osaka back in March was not all dozing, chomping away reheated meals and teetering inside a minuscule toilet, because I also managed to watch a couple of really interesting flicks. The first one was ‘Il Mundial Dimenticato a.k.a. The Lost World Cup’, a documentary on that overlooked, delightfully melodramatic football tournament that took place in Patagonia in 1942 and has subsequently been forgotten by everyone. More on that some other time.

Today I want to tell you about the impossibly titled Riusciranno i nostri eroi a ritrovare l'amico misteriosamente scomparso in Africa?, a.k.a. ‘Will Our Heroes Succeed in Finding Their Friend Who Has Mysteriously Disappeared in Africa?’ (Ettore Scola, 1968). How this little gem of a movie ended up on the airbus movie list is beyond me, and boy am I glad that it did. Because it really is a gem of a commedia all’italiana sort: not only did it ironically ‘inaugurate in Italy a brief vogue of kilometric titles’ but the film is a rare winner with its imaginative editing, vibrant script, and as a worthy dip into the philosophical waters concerning various aspects of the modern human condition. Plus it is beguilingly funny. Plus its decidedly Conrad-esque closing scene has to be one of the most poignant in European movie history.

On the side of mediocre civility stands Fausto (Alberto Sordi), a successful and bored magazine editor who embarks on a voyage to Africa in order to seek out his mysteriously long-lost brother-in-law, a Kurz-like character Titino (Nino Manfredi). Titino is everything Fausto is not, or possibly yearns to be: courageous, cunning, rebellious, charismatic, enigmatic, and therefore free. But something more organic, more fundamental is at stake here. Fausto for his part, is not without qualities, and yet he is so conditioned by his predicament in this increasingly complex modernity that in the end he can only sigh and helplessly exclaim: I don’t know. I’m not thinking clearly. Rarely has the familiar statement carried such weight as at the end of this movie. Have a look at the ultimate scene in which our heroes are about to catch a boat that would take them back to civilization. But all is not as it seems. Note the smart intercutting between the aborigines and the urban chant: the identical arm movements, albeit one exuding vigour the other vacuity. 

                          I don’t know. I’m not thinking clearly.

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