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Second Time Around 

Wednesday, Dec 3 1997
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An Average Little Man
Like film noir, neo-realism continued to thrive long after its "golden age," as Mario Monicelli's blistering 1977 drama shows. The great Alberto Sordi is Giovanni Vivaldi, a good government clerk whose desire to place his son in a ministry job, by legal or other means, forces him into endless degradations. He toadies to his dandruff-drenched boss and, against the wishes of his traditional Catholic wife (played by a restrained Shelley Winters), joins the Freemasons, only -- in typical neo-realist style -- to see his son accidentally murdered by bank robbers and his wife paralyzed by a stroke. What begins as a witty satire of upward mobility and self-delusion suddenly becomes a brutal social critique, as Vivaldi degenerates from blustery bureaucrat to murderous vigilante. A brilliantly unsettling scene that typifies this film's ruthless worldview occurs in a warehouse for stacked-up coffins awaiting burial. Due to "a buildup of gases," coffins randomly explode, sending the already unhinged relatives of the dead screaming through the aisles. You may do the same by film's end.

-- Gary Morris

An Average Little Man screens Thursday, Dec. 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Castro, 429 Castro (at Market). Tickets are $6.50; call 931-3456. Alberto Sordi in person. A series on Sordi begins Friday at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley; see Reps Etc. for more.

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Gary Morris

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