Alexander Mackendrick
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

, /10
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Sceneggiatore dei primi film di Dearden, documentarista per l'esercito sul fronte italiano, Alexander Mackendrick esordì nel 1949 con Whisky Galore, satira irriverente del moralismo e del militarismo, affettuoso affresco di vita scozzese e commedia grottesca, imperniata sulla penuria di whisky che affligge un'isola e in particolare il suo distaccamento militare, e si impose nel 1951 con The Man In White Suit (1951), apologo paradossale sulla società capitalista e sui conflitti di classe. E` una satira della "planned obsolescence" che e` alla base del capitalismo. Capitalisti e sindacati si trovano uniti nel combattere un'invenzione che metterebbe fine sia al lavoro sia al business.

In an industrial region specializing in textiles a tycoon, accompanied by his daughter Daphne, inspects the research lab of his factory and notices a bizarre apparatus. They cannot find out who is in charge of this experiment. Eventually they find out that it's a humble assistant, Sidney (Alec Guinness), who has swindled money in order to run his own project. He is fired, and it turns out this is the seventh job he loses. He has to take a job as a humble porter. When he delivers an instrument to his old lab, he is taken to be a scientist and involuntarily given access at the same lab again. In the meantime the tycoon has fired the manager of the lab, who happened to be Daphne's fiance, but clearly only interested in her money. Daphne finds out that Sidney (who is not even employee anymore) is back at his experiment and would like to alert her father, but she falls in love with Sidney's naive enthusiams. Sidney's experiment succeeds (or, at least, so he thinks) but nobody believes him and the scientists call a nurse to restrain him. His magic potion is thrown down the sink. Sidney rushes to see the tycoon but the tycoon refuses to listen to him. Daphne convinces her father to give him a chance. After a few failed experiments (that result in explosions), Sidney succeeds. The tycoon is now the owner of a new fiber that does not break and does not get dirty. Sidney is the first one to order a custom-made suit in the new material, a suit that requires a welder instead of scissors and that is luminescent white because it cannot be dyed.
It sounds like a great invention but soon the capitalists realize that it means the end to their business (nobody will buy clothes again after buying the first one) and soon the workers realize that it means the end to their work (they will all lose their jobs after once the people of the world bought their first clothes). Both capitalists and workers depend on the fact that clothes deteriorate and consumers need to buy new ones. The capitalists submit a new contract to Sidney but he understands that they only want control of his discovery to suppres it. He tries to run away but eventually is captured. A sinister caravan of limousines excorts him to a de-facto jail until he accepts to sign the contract. Stock markets are collapsing because the news of the indestructible material has leaked around the world, and the workers are going on strike to protest against the new material. The capitalists decide to engage Daphne to convince Sidney to sign. Daphne instead helps him escape (using a thread of his material as a rope). Sidney is now rushing to get the news of his discovery to the press. Sidney is sighted by the workers and understands that they too want his invention suppressed. Sidney has to run away from both capitalists and workers who chase him through the dark streets. He is easily spotted because of the bright white suit. He looks for help but an old woman refuses to help him: she washes clothes for a living, and will be left without a living because of his invention. He is petrified and let the posse catch him. Just then his suit begins to break apart: after all, his invention does not work. Everybody starts laughing, happy that the nightmare is over. He stands humiliated among them wearing only his underwear.
La satira è molteplice: l'ardua lotta del giovane contro lo scetticismo e l'ottusità degli industriali, il cinismo di un vecchio Sir che cerca di corrompere prima lui, e poi la sua ragazza, l'imbarazzante alleanza fra classe padronale e classe lavoratrice uniti nella lotta contro il progresso per salvaguardare il regime vigente, la goffa incapacità dello scienziato che provoca numerose esplosioni in un laboratorio trasformato in bunker per sintetizzare una fibra che alla fine si dimostrerà fragilissima. Per un decennio fu il maestro indiscusso della commedia satirica inglese che, attraverso la sentimentale Mandy (1952) e la pungente The Maggie (1954), gara d'astuzia fra un capitano scozzese e un industriale americano che gli ha affidato un carico prezioso vinta ampiamente dal primo, portò allo black humour di The Lady Killers (1955). A charming and talkative old lady who lives alone in a house full of parrots has two rooms for rent. A shady character applies for one of them. He seems mostly attracted by the fact that she lives alone and that the railway runs nearby. He introduces himself as Professor Marcus (Alec Guinness), a musician and the member of a string quintet. The quintet is actually a quintet of gangsters who are planning a major heist. They play records of Boccherini's quintet to pretend that they are rehearsing when in fact that are discussing the plan. The best part of the plan is the landlady herself is part of it, unbeknownst to her. The old lady offers them tea all the time, and asks her occasionally for help with her birds (they almost kill themselves to rescue one that has flown out of the window). They ambush a bullet-proof truck of the bank, steal the money, and put it in a trunk at the railway station. Then they send the old lady to retrieve the trunk. The police are looking for the thieves, not for an old lady, and therefore let her pass undisturbed. The gangsters watch anxious and almost have a heart attack when first she drives back to the station to pick up the umbrella she forgot and then gets involved into a brawl with a fruit seller that ends up at the police. When she finally gets home with the trunk, the gangsters divide it in five parts and each hides in his musical instrument. They bid the landlady goodbye and prepare to take off, but one instrument opens by accident, and the lady sees banknotes fly out of it. She is puzzled but still clueless. They realize that they cannot leave her behind. They return and try to find explanations for the money. Just then four of her old lady friends show up, and one of them is reading in the newspaper about the robbery at the train station. This time the landlady understands. She shows her friends to the living room and then addresses the "professor" and his "musicians", although still using the formal tone of a business transaction. She has finally understood what is going on and, first of all, demands that they behave like gentlemen to her friends. And so the musicians have to play and sing popular songs with them. When the friends leave, the old lady has no doubt what to do: return the money. The gangsters first try to convince her that the bank doesn't want the money back, then try to justify their act because of poverty and finally try to scare her that the police will arrest her as the boss of the gang, since it was her who retrieved the money from the station. When a cop knocks at the door, she follows their instructions and sends him away (raising his suspicion because of her gangster-y tone) but then she returns to her belief that they should turn themselves in. The gangsters have no choice but to kill her. Easier said than done: none of them has to guts to do it. They pick one by drawing matches, but he would rather try and escape with the money, telling the landlady that he's going to the police. The others find him in time and, after a chase on the roofs, kill him. The old landlady is still convinced that the cops will come any time and is determined to guard the loot. The gangsters do another lottery to decide who has to kill the lady, and the loser again steals the loot and tries to escape but, again, is caught and killed. Now there are only three. The lady has got control of the loot again. The three don't trust each other at all now. One gets killed by a train while he is trying to kill the other two. Then the "professor" gets rid of the last accomplice who plunges into the railways from a bridge. And the professor himself is killed by the silliest of mechanical accidents. In the morning the landlady walks to the police officer to turn herself in and tries to explain that the gangsters disappeared overnight. The cops do not believe her and send her back home. She asks what she should do with the money, and the cops tell her to just keep it... The comedy also contrasts an industrial landscape (factories and trains) with the village-like atmosphere that exudes from the gentle landlady and spreads by association to the whole neighborhood. The landlady represents the rapidly fading influence of the Victorian morals. The gangsters, alas, represent the new practical and technological world.

Trasferitosi in America, diresse Sweet Smell of Success (1957), scripted by Clifford Odets adapting Ernest Lehman's novella "Sweet Smell of Success", a realist drama set in both the world of journalism and the world of entertainment, shot in moody and atmospheric black and white cinematography (James Wong Howe).

Sidney (Tony Curtis) is a press agent who lives and works in a small office, helped out by one destituted albeit loyal secretary Sally. Like everybody in town Sidney needs powerful gossip columnist Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster), who can make or destroy careers on the fly. Sidney is interested in the love story of H's sister Susan. At the club where young jazz guitarist Steve performs, he learns that Susan is truly in love. In the same club Sidney meets former naive lover Rita, who sells cigarettes in a mini-skirt at the club and needs help because she is about to get fired. Sidney takes her home and then rushes to see her brother H. On the way, he meets his angry customer Jimmy, who is still waiting to get his name in H's column as Sidney promised him. Sindey joins H who is dining with a senator and a congressman. The congressman, Howdy, is an old friend of H, and H rudely advises him to avoid a scandal. Hunsecker openly insults Sidney. When they are alone, Sidney begs H to put his customer's name in his column. This has been the pattern in the past, and that's how Sidney has made his living (collecting fees from customers to have their name show up in Hunsecker's column), but now H refuses to help Sidney until Sidney delivers on a favor. Sidney is desperate: he needs H's help to make a living with his customers. Steve has proposed to Susan. H is determined to stop the wedding, but cannot personally destroy Steve's career, so he's asking Sidney to find a way to do it on his behalf. On the way out they meet Harry the police officer, another good friend of H's. Sidney finds help in unscrupolous columnist and notorious pervert Otis. Sidney basically sells him his ex Rita. She is desperate too because she is about to lose her job and has a kid in school. Sidney knows it and promises that the influential Otis can help her keep her job. Initially she is disgusted at being treated like a prostitute, but then she accepts. Otis seems to remember her. The moment Sidney walks out Rita confesses to Otis that they slept together two years earlier. Otis keeps his word: in return for the girl, he publishes in his column a smear article that Steve is a drug-addict and communist. While hanging out at H's office Sidney reads H's column of the following day and runs to offer his services to the comedian who will be praised in that column claiming he, Sidney, will get his name printed in that column.
Steve comes to Sidney's office to complain: he has been fired, and suspects that H and Sidney are responsible for the smear article. When he leaves, Sally gives her boss a bad look: she is his conscience.
When Susan learns of the smear article, H pretends to have nothing to do with the article and confronts his sister. He has created a regime of terror between the two, who sleep under the same roof. He has a portrait of her on his desk, like she were his wife. To prove that he has nothing to do with it, H calls in front of her to reinstate Steve to his job. Steve confronts H at the club. H pretends to be nice to him, but uses Sidney to make him snap so he, H, can pretend to be the offended party. Steve, losing his tempere, accuses H. of manipulating and terrorizing his sister. H orders his sister never to see him again. She meekly accepts. Steve is definitely ruined.
Coldly, H tells Sidney to have Harry the cop finish Steve once and for all. Even the sleazy cynical selfish Sidney balks at the idea of finishing Steve, but H buys him easily by promising to let him write his own column while he, H, goes away for a few months with his sister.
Susan and Steve break up. Steve walks out of the club. He is arrested by Harry who finds marijuana on him (planted by Sidney). Sidney finds Susan at home devastated by the news, ready to jump from the balcony in her underwear. He saves her just in time. H walks in just at the time when they are in her room and, seeing her undressed, attacks Sidney in a fit of jealousy. During the fight Sidney screams the truth. Susan coldly dresses up and walks out, determined to return to Steve. Before leaving, she tells H how much she hates him. H calls Harry has has Sidney arrested for planting marijuana on Steve. He gets his revenge and proves one more time his power to destroy lives, but his sister is definitely lost.
A High Wind in Jamaica (1965), un apologo che contrapponeva corsari teoricamente feroci ma in realtà ingenui, e bambini teoricamente ingenui ma in realtà feroci, e Don't Make Waves (1967). A young handsome man, Carlo (Tony Curtis), parks his car near a cliff overlooking the ocean and opens a bottle of wine while he enjoys the views. He notices a young attractive woman who is trying to paint the landscape but then gets upset with the wind and throws the painting into the sea. The woman gets into her car and drives away, but her bumper hits Carlo' car and causes it to start rolling down the hill. Carlo' car eventually crashes down a switchback further down the hill while the clueless woman is driving down that road and is almost hit. When Carlo appears, she blames him for pushing his own car down the hill and almost killing her. Then she lights a cigarette and throws the match away. The match falls on the gasoline that is pouring out of the car and starts a fire that almost burns Carlo alive. Again, she claims it was him who started the fire. Thankfully there are witnesses and she eventually realizes the mess she has created. She apologizes to Carlo and invites him to her place. He is an insurance agent and she is an Italian immigrant, Laura (Claudia Cardinale), in search of fortune in Los Angeles' movie industry. He accepts her hospitality but in the middle of the night someone knocks at the door: it's her sugar daddy, Rod, a rich and married business man. Luckily the business man seems to believe their story. The following day Carlo is determined to take advantage of the incident. Laura has been the lover of this business man for six years. He has told her that his wife is handicapped and he does not want to break his wife's heart with a divorce. Except that later Carlo drives to the businessman's office and meets his wife: the sexy and perfectly healthy Diane. Carlo is determined to get a job as a salesman selling swimming pools and makes an amazing sale in front of him. Rod cannot refuse, both because he's afraid that Carlo will tell his wife of Laura and because Carlo seems to be indeed a good salesman. Laura helps him get an amazing deal on a house with a view and on a Rolls Royce. He can now live the life of the rich. At the beach Carlo has fallen in love with the supersexy and athletic skydiver Malibu (Sharon Tate) who is dating bodybuilder Harry, a good but naive boy. Carlo hires Harry to help him move some furniture and tries to demoralize him. In the meantime Diane has hired a private detective and found out about Laura and her husband. Diane tells Carlo that she owns her husband's business and is planning to divorce him and she would like to offer that job of manager to him, Carlo; and she implies that he could then become her lover too. Carlo is more interested in Malibu, a stately beauty who can hardly articulate a greeting. Carlo connives with a famous astrologer to convince Harry that he has to stop making love to Malibu. Harry confides in Laura, who immediately senses the scam. Harry even thinks that Carlo is his best friend. Carlo has a great idea to promote the swimming pools that they sell: having Malibu the skydiver jump from a plane and land into a pool. Ron vetoes the idea, but Carlo still carries it out except that... he falls from the plane and, save by Malibu in the air, skydives with her into the pool. Then she takes care of him in her house and they make love. Harry comes to bid her goodbye, tears rolling down his eyes, still unaware that Carlo simply stole his girlfriend. Heavy rains cause Carlo's house to tilt and then collapse while the house is full of all of them: Ron, Diane, Malibu and Laura. The police and the firemen are busy with all sorts of emergencies and cannot help them. It is Harry who comes to their aid. Harry has found out the truth but is not mad at Carlo: he just wants Malibu to marry him. The catastrophe is helpful for everybody because Diane makes peace with Ron, Carlo finally falls in love with Laura (who has finally realized she doesn't want to marry Ron anyway), and Malibu accepts to live poor with Harry. The house eventually rolls down to the beach. Carlo and Laura just play with the waves. chiusero la carriera di uno dei più amari registi Britannici, emancipatosi da vincoli di genere, capace cioè di esprimere la propria basilare sfiducia nelle convenzioni e nelle istituzioni, nel modo di vivere e di pensare, tanto nel registro comico quanto in quello drammatico.
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