Boys and girls in Mussolini's Italy

March 27, 1991

I>The Story of Boys and Girls

Directed by Pupi Avati

Produced by Antonio Avati

Academy Twin Cinema, Paddington (Sydney)

Reviewed by Sally Low

Remember some seemingly endless all afternoon extended family lunch? Women folk, with some help from the men, slave for a week preparing too much food. The big day arrives along with all the guests. Too much, with equal proportions of the old man's best booze, is consumed by all. Everyone tries to ignore, and not be blown apart by, the mundane tragedies — the undercurrents of human relationships — that inevitably surface.

Set in 1936 Italy, this film tells one of those stories — a celebration of the engagement between Angelo from the big town of Bologna and Silvia from the country around Poretta Terme. His middle class family arrive with trepidation to meet her uncouth gang plus local priest. All up, 30 sit down for the dinner of 20 courses.

In preceding days the scene has been set: Silvia's father's infidelity, his mistresses' infidelity and the travelling spectacles salesman who arrives to spend the weekend with his young French mistress.

The pain and humour of it all are universal, but A story of Boys and Girls is specific. Mussolini's Italy, the prejudices and mores of the 1930's are there in a realistic, understated way. That it is filmed in black and white seems to add to its authenticity.

Pupi Avati writes that he has taken a small event "of no apparent account" and tried "to make it pulse, live and breathe with its own strength, respecting the metronome of all the great story around it.

"In respecting this commitment ... I have neglected perhaps more than usual every rule of the trade, every trick, every premeditation. In this film of mine, for the first time in so evident a way, there is nothing predisposed, set up to make something happen. There are no traps concealed along the way."

He succeeded. A story of Boys and Girls is a refreshing change from big budget, high-tech, high drama cinema.

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