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Luigi Comencini

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From ‘Pane, amore e fantasia’ to ‘Pinocchio’: The Cinematic Journey of Luigi Comencini.

Luigi Comencini, born in Salò, Brescia (Italy), on June 8, 1916, spent his childhood in Agen, France, following his engineer father and developed an interest in cinema. Returning to Italy, he studied architecture at the Polytechnic University of Milan (Politecnico di Milano) and participated in the Littoriali della cultura e dell’arte, an arts competition organized by the Fascist government, winning one edition. His early works, including the short film “Bambini in città” (1946) and his first feature “Proibito rubare” (1948), already showed his interest in childhood and adolescence, which would be a recurring theme throughout his career.

Cineteca Italiana and Architectural Work

Comencini also worked as an architect and film critic. Along with his brother Gianni and Alberto Lattuada, he founded the Cineteca Italiana, a significant film archive.

Rise to Prominence

Comencini’s first major success came with “Pane, amore e fantasia” (1953), featuring major Italian actors Vittorio De Sica and Gina Lollobrigida. This film launched the Italian comedy genre, with Comencini being a key figure alongside Mario Monicelli and Dino Risi. After the sequel “Pane, amore e gelosia“, Bread, Love and Dreams (1954), and other works, he directed Alberto Sordi in Tutti a casa, Everybody Go Home (1960), a tragicomedy about post-September 8 Italy, widely considered his masterpiece. He continued to explore resistance themes in “La ragazza di Bube” (1963) and created other significant works like “Incompreso” (1966) and “Infanzia, vocazione e prime esperienze di Giacomo Casanova, veneziano” (1970).

Documentary Work and Television

For television, he directed successful series like “Le avventure di Pinocchio“, The Adventures of Pinocchio (1971), “Cuore” (1984), and “La storia” (1986). His later film works include “Voltati Eugenio” (1980) and “Marcellino pane e vino” (1991). Comencini had to retire due to Parkinson’s disease, which was diagnosed about fifteen years before his death.

Later Years and Death

Comencini wrote an autobiographical book “Infanzia, vocazione, esperienze di un regista” (1999) and passed away in Rome on April 6, 2007, at the age of 90. He was buried in the Prima Porta cemetery.

Documentaries for Rai

His documentary “I bambini e noi” (1970), aired in 1978, featured interviews with children from various Italian regions, focusing on the poorer ones. This work is considered a turning point in his career, introducing reality into his films.

“L’amore in Italia” Documentary

Rai commissioned Comencini again in 1976 for a documentary on the theme of eros as perceived by the average Italian of the time. Titled “L’amore in Italia,” it aired in December 1978 and was co-authored by Fabio Pellarin and Italo Moscati. A book of the same name followed the broadcast, including all interviews, even those not aired.

Filmography Highlights

  • “Proibito rubare” (1948)
  • “Pane, amore e fantasia” (1953)
  • “Tutti a casa” (1960)
  • “La ragazza di Bube” (1963)
  • “Incompreso” (1966)
  • “Le avventure di Pinocchio” (1971)
  • “Cuore” (1984)
  • “Marcellino pane e vino” (1991)

Family Life

Comencini was married to Princess Giulia Grifeo di Partanna and had four daughters: filmmakers Cristina and Francesca, set designer Paola, and production director Eleonora. His grandson, Carlo Calenda, son of Cristina, has served as a minister in the Renzi and Gentiloni governments.

Featured image source: wikimedia

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