Il Boom

Il Boom

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica

Original release: August 30th, 1963
Running time: 97 minutes

Country of origin: Italy
Original language: Italian with English subtitles

Director: Vittorio De Sica
Writer: Cesare Zavattini

Cast: Alberto Sordi, Giana Maria Canale, Ettore Geri, Elena Nicolai

It’s an age old question and one that’s been used to kick-start the plot in countless movies; what would you be willing to do for money? It’s also the central question in this 1960’s comedy by Italian neo-realist director Vittorio De Sica.

After the World War II, Italy went through an economic boom from the late 1950s to early 1970s and Il Boom sees businessman, Giovanni Alberti, (Alberto Sordi) in a bit of financial bother.

As the film opens, he is struggling financially and has a large outstanding debt which the bank wants repaid otherwise he will be placed on the Register of Debtors. Unbeknownst to his wife, Silvia (Giana Maria Canale), and her family, Giovanni tries his hardest pursuing all available opportunities to get some money in his pockets to pay off his loans.

Il Boom

The most prevalent plan is to buy land that currently has no sell-on value and give some of it away to have a local monastery built. Once the monastery is built and the local government pay for water and electricity to be provided to the area, the property would be sold at a much higher price.

He pitches this idea to the one-eyed construction magnate Mr. Bausetti (Ettore Geri) only for it to be turned down. Mrs. Bausetti (Elena Nicolai) however, seems to have plans for Giovanni and giving him a wink tells him to come to her house that afternoon and they can “work something out”.

Unsurprisingly, our hero thinks he is going to have to prostitute himself for money – which he is willing to do despite some initial reluctance. Instead though, what Mrs. Bausetti wants is for Giovanni to sell her husband one of his eyes. So, what are you willing to do for money Giovanni?

Il Boom is something of a tragi-comedy. The fun and charm of Giovanni and his well-to-do group of friends is juxtaposed with the very serious nature of his financial situation and the threat to the happiness of his marriage that any financial upheaval may cause.

Very early on we come to see the Alberti marriage is built firmly upon one thing; money. Silvia has become rather accustomed to the lifestyle she currently has and Giovanni despairs that she lives like his boss’ wife despite their salaries being entirely unequal.

Il Boom

When Giovanni suggests moving south, away from Rome, and living a quieter and simpler life she assumes he’s joking and laughs at him. When he floats the idea of selling his car she finds this abhorrent and he lies to her that this would clear space for a newer, faster car.

Despite how his wife sees their marriage, it is not the same case in the other direction and Giovanni is willing to do anything for Silvia. Thus, when Mrs. Bausetti proposes the eye sale, he hesitates before turning her down. However, when he arrives home after their meeting, Silvia and her father have found out about the financial problems, and she leaves him. Giovanni has no other choice than to reconsider the offer.

Alberto Sordi is very watchable as Giovanni, both with the comedy and in the more serious moments. He perfectly balances the easy charm and desperation of the character. Although not laugh-out-loud funny, Il Boom does have some priceless moments, not least when Giovanni learns of Mrs. Bausetti’s true intentions in inviting him over. It’s then throughout the third act that it’s at it’s funniest.

It’s is certainly worth a watch. Il Boom suggests comedy with easy charm and interesting questions posed with a kind of comedy that feels like that of the silent era when the likes of Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin would do anything to keep their girls happy.

About Ben Nicholson

Ben Nicholson

Ben has had a keen love of moving images since his childhood but after leaving school he fell truly in love with films. His passion manifests itself in his consumption of movies (watching films from all around the globe and from any period of the medium’s history with equal gusto), the enjoyment he derives from reading, talking and writing about cinema and being behind the camera himself having completed his first co-directed short film in mid-2011.

His favourite films include things as diverse as The Third Man, In The Mood For Love, Badlands, 3 Iron, Casablanca, Ran and Grizzly Man to name but a few.

Ben has his own film site, ACHILLES AND THE TORTOISE, and you can follow him on Twitter @BRNicholson.