Thursday, February 22, 2024

Italy’s raucous holiday classic isn’t your standard signature movie

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On a recent evening inside Hotel de la Poste, an alpine hotel in Italy’s most ski-visited winter destination, Cortina d’Ampezzo, a lively party was held to celebrate the birth of the era of cinema.

Forty years ago, the comedy “Christmas Holiday,” set in this lodge, was released. The film, about a nominally somber but extramarital piano bar singer and the rich Milanese, salt-of-the-earth Romans, and tuxedo-wearing beauties who surround him, is the latest in decades of hilarity. It foreshadowed a vulgar, pretentious and formulaic Christmas comedy that became known as “Cinema Panettone” after the cake Italians eat at this time of year.

To celebrate the anniversary, the film’s producers, writers and cast members carved a giant panettone the size of a fire hydrant and participated in a weekend-long cinepanettone-themed festival.

Dressed in fur, sequins and ski sweaters that read “Cortina” and “Mountains and Champagne,” the participants sang 80s songs like “Dance All Night” and “Maracaibo” from the film’s soundtrack. We danced to famous Italian songs. They sang along with the main characters of the film in noisy dinner cabaret performances. They went up the hill, raced down the slalom, and tried to finish their panettone before reaching the finish line.

“He’s still biting,” exclaimed weekend host Chiara Cariceti. “He really ate the panettone!”

Boring Christmas movies set in European cities may be all the rage this year, but in Italy they’re no match for the cultural juggernaut that was Panettone.

For three decades, movies were a mainstay of the Christmas season, until stars faded, streaming platforms took over, and tastes and industry economics changed. These were never considered suitable for overseas consumption, but were intended for fans who cherished a piece of hedonistic, carefree, turn-of-the-century Italian culture. But to critics, they were a reflection of Silvio Berlusconi’s consumerism and showgirl sexism, something to be kept hidden within the family like a shameful secret.

Now, more than a dozen years after the film took off, producers and fans are capitalizing on nostalgia and portraying Italy’s love of cuckold hijinks, toilet humor, and the folkloric epithets Italians receive from Italians. They are trying to revive it as a cult classic that has elevated it to the level of art. Different classes and regions clash.

“Intellectuals keep saying they’re low. They’re low, but they don’t understand. They’re low on purpose,” said an Italian who hosts a hotel dance party. Music producer Claudio Cecchetto (71) said. “These are extremely intelligent people who decided to fall into a despicable position. People just want to have fun. I mean, what’s the point?”

The “Christmas Holiday”, which many middle-aged Italians can quote from memory, was followed by the “Christmas Holidays” of 1990, 1991, 1995 and 2000. The films were often set in Cortina, with guests coming from different means and regions of Italy. Taunting and courting each other at ski lodges.

The 2000s featured moves to exotic locations such as Rio, India, South Africa, and Christmas in New York, and was full of physical gags, sophomore parodies, bare breasts, and racial stereotypes . “Christmas on the Nile,” released in 2002, is considered by aficionados to be the height, or depth, of the genre. It featured a gag that depicted a mummy as toilet paper. In 2009, the screens reserved for “Christmas in Beverly Hills” were forced to close. Avatar’s release in Italian theaters has been postponed.

“These are designed for communal viewing,” said Alan O’Leary, a film studies professor and author of “The Phenomenology of Cinema Panettone,” to attract and break generations of Italian families. He said it was intentionally made to be wide-ranging. After Christmas, we went to the movies together.

He said that the exaggeration of regional archetypes in a relatively new and fragmented country continues to “tell Italians that they are Italian” and that, above all, the Italian Christmas “indulging in things… “It reflects a carnival-like period,” he said.

No matter how far away Panettone’s films may be, Cortina d’Ampezzo, with its icy streets lined with an entire luxury mall’s worth of brands (Rolex, Moncler, Fendi, Fendi Kids), has always been considered its ancestral home. Ta. The town, which will host part of the 2026 Olympics, became Italy’s trash Olympic venue for many over a weekend in December.

In a quiet corner of the hotel bar, waiters in white jackets were attending a lecture by Aurelio De Laurentiis, the powerhouse producer of “The Christmas Holiday” and more than 30 subsequent panettone films. His assistants and everyone else called him “Il Presidente” because he was the president and owner of the Napoli football club. After eating pasta, I crossed the room to shoot some promotional spots for the movie’s one-day re-release in theaters on Saturday, but the camera lights kept flickering and I had to start over again and again.

Returning to his corner table, he said “historical” films captured Italy during Mr. Berlusconi’s conquest. De Laurentiis said these films were successful because they were essentially “instant” movies that rolled off the movie conveyor belt, and they stopped after 30 years because exotic locations ran out. He said it was because he was distracted by the soccer team. Contrary to those who say sexist frolics can’t be made now, he thought they were exactly what we needed in the joyless post-#MeToo era.

He said he would love to make such a movie and suggested a vulgar and vulgar name for a #MeToo movie for the holiday season.

“This could be a perfect title for a movie,” he said, explaining that it would be “based on honesty.”

A satisfied Mr. De Laurentiis asked his assistant what he thought of the proposed title.

“Bellissimo,” said the assistant.

Jerry Cara, who played a randy piano bar player in the 1983 film, also lamented, “This politically correct moment is destroying comedy.” He said young people are rediscovering panettone movies precisely because they’re hungry for bad crime.

However, the original film’s screenwriter, Enrico Vanzina, refused to label his 1980s Christmas film as a “movie panettone,” stating that the film had gone through a period of surrealism and had become more realistic and flamboyant. He said it is based on Italian life.

Mr. Vanjina comes from a family of filmmakers. His late brother directed the original “Christmas Holiday,” and his father, known as Steno, directed La His Commedia All His Italiana, one of the most beloved films of the golden age of mid-century Italian cinema. I directed some of the comedies.

During a panel discussion in the shadow of a giant panettone, Vangina was outraged when right-wing culture undersecretary Lucia Borgonzoni appeared on the video feed to pay homage to “the famous Panettone movie that I grew up watching.” .

Vanzina, who has long gray hair, said in a later written statement that she was “offended” by officials who cut out all references to panettone in the film.

Occupying a small table reserved for bottle service, Vanzina, like many Italians, insisted that these are the movies that Italians actually love. He points out that these works were created by Vittorio De Sica, the father of Christian De Sica, a great Italian director who also created masterpieces of neorealism, also set in Cortina. He said it grew out of the great tradition of Italian comedy, including the 1959 film “Holiday Vacation,” which featured “Holiday Vacation.” Panettone movie, the king of movies.

“This is not ‘La Commedia All Italiana’. It is a degeneration of it,” said Teresa Marchesi, a film critic for the leftist Domani newspaper. At a time when movie ticket prices have soared and large numbers of audiences no longer go to theaters on a regular basis, films apply the lowest common denominator of vulgarity, slapstick and skinship to appeal to the lucrative market of poor families who can splurge at Christmas. she said she did.

She blamed the film on Mr. Berlusconi and his TV channel for eroding Italian values ​​and offering a new “political and cultural model” of success measured in the glamor of extravagant wealth and plump arms. He said that panettone has become a boom. “This is in no way a reflection of Italianness. It’s a projection,” she says. “This is his cinematic version of Bunga Bunga.”

The festive spirit permeated the Hotel de la Poste, where fans paid hundreds of euros a plate for dinner and Mr. Kara’s concert.

“‘Maracaibo’!” the audience shouted, begging for their favorite free-spirited party song.

“‘Maracaibo’ is the last one,” Mr. Kara said, his guitar slung over his shoulder. “Don’t break my balls, okay?”

Kara, who suffered a heart attack earlier this year, transcended the macabre norms of Italian singalong hits by patting her bald head with a blue handkerchief and making vulgar jokes about short skirts. Behind him, the film’s original poster was displayed on a digital screen, showing a ski bunny rolling around in a snowman. The video then suddenly cut to footage of F. Murray Abraham winning an environmental award.

Mr. Kara persevered, and when he finally played “Maracaibo” (“Rum and Cocaine, Zaza”), the room exploded. He closed the film’s limited re-release and walked off the stage looking stunned and marching through the raucous crowd.

As he tapped his chest, calling to friends and family in the next room, waiters arrived with heaping plates of panettone. Mauro Happy, a 60-year-old publicist at the next table, was also happy to participate. “I’m in love with movie panettone,” he said in a muffled voice.

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