Paolo Villaggio


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Paolo Villaggio (Italy, 1932) debuted as a television comedian (notably with the brutal character Professor Kranz) and acted in Mario Monicelli's Brancaleone alle Crociate (1970). The book "Fantozzi" (1971) collected short stories about the misfortunes of a humble working man haunted by an extremely cruel destiny but also victim of his own willingness to be exploited. The book became a bestseller (and a sort of lumperproletariat epic in the Soviet Union) and was turned into successful films: "Fantozzi" (1975) and "Il Secondo Tragico Fantozzi" (1976), both directed by Luciano Salce. The former features the scene of Fantozzi's epic daily struggle to get to work on time, the scene of the company's soccer match, the tennis match, the Japanese restaurant, and his vain courtship of a spinster colleague. The latter boasts some of his best farcical skits: the launching of the ship, the hunting party and, above all, the whole company forced to watch "Battleship Potemkin" while Italy is playing the most important soccer game. Last but not least, the film ends with a ridiculous suicide attempt. As the Fantozzi character became a national anti-hero, Villaggio self-directed Fantozzi Contro Tutti (1980), with the lengthy scene about the cycling adventure mandated by the new company owner, while Neri Parenti directed all the subsequent ones: Fantozzi Subisce Ancora (1983), Fantozzi va in Pensione (1988), in which the poor accountant tries in vain to adapt to retirement life and eventually pays the company to hire him back, Fantozzi alla Riscossa (1990), in which Fantozzi is selected for jury duty in a mafia trial, Fantozzi in Paradiso (1993), perhaps the most melancholy of the series, in which even his wife pities him after he is told that he only has a week to live and his own daughter kicks him out of his own house, and she pities him so much that she pays Fantozzi's not-so-secret romantic love to sleep with him etc. Each one is a simply a series of farcical skits about the poor abused employee and his desperately pointless life.

The Fantozzi "mask" continued the Italian tradition of the medieval "commedia dell'arte" while borrowing the catastrophic humor of silent-cinema slapsticks and adapting both to the tragicomedy of ordinary people crushed by the vast bureaucratic society.

Fracchia la Belva Umana (1981), directed by Neri Parenti, was a film about another television character invented by Villaggio: the pathetic failed employee has a double who is a brutal killer, the exact opposite.

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