Mario Monicelli’s ‘Renzo e Luciana’ is easily the most overlooked segment of Boccaccio ’70, released in 1962.Each part of the portmanteau was directed by an esteemed Italian director, yet the absence of a Hollywood star and an apparent need to reduce the overall length of the feature saw Monicelli’s offing dropped for American release. The move prompted mutiny from the other three directors involved in the project, who refused to attend its premiere screening at the Cannes Film Festival.
His simple story, of a young, newly married couple, is tinged with comedy, and human empathy. Luciana (played by Marisa Solinas) is forbidden to marry by the terms of her employment contract, but refuses to play by the rules. She marries Renzo (the spectacularly named Germano Gilioli), a fellow worker, in a whirlwind ceremony that sees her getting changed from her prim book-keepers uniform to a demure wedding dress in the back of her father’s car – in an extended lunch break.
The awkwardness of the young couple, whose wedding night is constantly disrupted by intrusive relatives and the intermittent flashes of a neon sign on the balcony – is by turns both touching and comical. Luciana is headstrong and decisive, against the grain qualities of stereotypical 1960’s Italian females. A key scene at the local lido sees Luciana attired in a simple black and white striped linen dress and straw sun-hat. Surrounded by relaxed swimmers in classic swimwear she stands apart from the crowd, a stance that parallels her astute and canny decision at the end of the short.
The premise of Boccaccio ’70 is loosely based on the allegorical sex tales of Boccaccio’s Decameron opus. An Italian author, Boccaccio wrote The Decameron (loosely translated to ‘Ten Days’) between 1348 and 1353, a collection of 100 stories told by 10 storytellers over a period of 10 days. Recognised as a literary masterpiece, Boccaccio favoured bawdy fun over preached righteousness, set against the onslaught of the Black Death, his stories ring with truth.