Il soliti ignoti

(Big deal on Madonna street) Film. Directed by Mario Monicelli from a screenplay written by Age e Scarpelli and Suso Cecchi D'Amico, I soliti ignoti (literally "The Usual Unkowns") is widely acknowledged as the film that initiated the prolific genre of the commedia all'italiana. A sort of comic version of Jules Dassin's Rififi (1955) and an implicit parody of the American crime film, it recounts the story of a bungled attempt by a motley group of Roman petty thieves to break into a pawnbroker's shop in Via delle madonne (Madonna Street) to steal the valuables from its safe. The plan calls for the gang first to make their way at night into an empty apartment adjacent to the shop and then to break through its (supposedly) paper-thin wall to reach the room with the safe. Although nothing goes quite according to plan from the very beginning and complications result all along the way, the gang does manage finally to enter the apartment and, after a great deal of comic business, succeeds in breaking through the wall. They discover, however, to their jaw-dropping surprise, that they have chosen the wrong wall; instead of breaking into the pawnshop next door, they have only managed to break through to the apartment's own kitchen. Resigning themselves to the fact that the plan has misfired, they do the only thing they can do in the situation, which is to settle down at the table and finish off a pot of pasta and chickpeas that the owners have left behind on the stove. The newspaper headlines the next day will read: "The usual unknowns—thieves knock down a wall to steal a plate of pasta and chickpeas."
   With stunning black-and-white photography by master cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo, and a boisterous jazz score from Piero Umiliani, the film has become legendary in the annals of Italian cinema, not least for being a revelation of Vittorio Gassman's previously unsuspected talent for comedy as well as being the film in which Claudia Cardinale made her screen debut. The film's comedy is multifaceted and draws on slapstick and farce for its verbal and visual gags and on situation comedy for its characterizations. A strikingly effective use is also made of the silent-film technique of inter-titles. The greater part of the humor, however, derives from the characters themselves and the way in which they are incisively portrayed: Peppe (Gassman), a failed boxer with a stutter who has self-delusions about being "scientific" in his approach; Tiberio (Marcello Mastroianni), an unemployed photographer eternally playing mother to his infant child while his wife is in prison for selling contraband cigarettes; Mario (Renato Salvatori), the young thief always concerned about his mother; Ferribotte (Tiberio Murgia), the swarthy Sicilian who keeps his sister under lock and key in order to safeguard her virtue; and, perhaps the funniest and most unlikely of them all, Capanelle (Carlo Pisacane), a toothless old codger with a squeaky voice always ready to pounce on any food in the vicinity. The inclusion of Toto as Dante Cruciani, the retired master safecracker who lectures the boys on the finer points of the art, is an inspired touch, playing a crucial role in the film itself but also paying homage to the comedian's brilliant performance as a poor thief in Monicelli's own earlier Guardie e ladri (Cops and Robbers, 1951).
   The film's extraordinary box office success prompted two sequels and a number of imitations. In Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti (Fiasco in Milan, 1959), directed a year later by Nanni Loy, the same gang of incompetents (minus Mastronianni's Tiberio but with the addition of Nino Manfredi) is drawn into a plan to rob the proceedings of a soccer match at the Milan stadium. Against all odds and in spite of all sorts of complications, they finally succeed in getting their hands on the money but are forced in the end to abandon it all in a public park. I soliti ignoti vent'anni dopo (Big Deal after 20 Years, 1985), directed by Amanzio Todini, brings back Mastroianni's Tiberio (but with only Ferribotte and Peppe from the old gang) in a plan that appears to involve smuggling currency across the Italian border for a syndicate of Yugoslav gangsters. In the end, Tiberio and his gang discover that they have been used as drug couriers. While Loy's more immediate sequel was judged almost as good as the original, Todini's film was generally dismissed as a much paler imitation.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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  • Il soliti ignoti — (1958) (Big deal on Madonna street) Film. Directed by Mario Monicelli from a screenplay written by Age e Scarpelli and Suso Cecchi D Amico, I soliti ignoti (literally The Usual Unkowns ) is widely acknowledged as the film that initiated the… …   Historical dictionary of Italian cinema

  • I soliti ignoti —    Voir Le Pigeon …   Dictionnaire mondial des Films

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  • Vittorio Gassman — Infobox Actor name = Vittorio Gassman imagesize = 200px birthdate = birth date|1922|9|1 birthplace = Genoa, Liguria, Italy deathdate = death date and age|2000|6|29|1922|9|1 deathplace = Rome, Italy othernames = Il Mattatore Laurence Olivier of… …   Wikipedia

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  • Carlo Pisacane (acteur) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Carlo Pisacane. Carlo Pisacane (Naples 1891 Rome 1974) est un acteur italien qui a joué, entre les années 1930 et les années 1970, dans plus de 70 films. Sommaire 1 Biographie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Comedie a l'italienne — Comédie à l italienne La comédie à l italienne (italien : commedia all italiana), est un courant cinématographique né en Italie dans les années 1950 et 1960. S il est un genre cinématographique qui a rendu compte, de manière crédible, des… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Comédie à l'italienne — Un des symboles de la commedia all italiana. La comédie à l italienne (italien : commedia all italiana), est un courant cinématographique né en Italie dans les années 1950 et 1960. S il est un genre cinématographique qui a …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Le Pigeon (film) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Le Pigeon. Le Pigeon Données clés Titre original I Soliti ignoti Réalisation Mario Monicelli Scénario …   Wikipédia en Français

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