Nationality: Italian. Born: Trevico, Avellino, 10 May 1931. Education: Studied law, University of Rome. Career: Scriptwriter on films with Ruggero Maccari, from 1953; directed first film, Se permette parliamo di donne , 1964. Awards: César Award, for C'eravamo tanto amati , 1975; Best Director, Cannes Festival, for Brutti, sporchi e cattivi , 1976; Special Jury Prize, Cannes Festival, for Una giornata particolari , 1977; Best Screenplay, Cannes Festival, for La terrazza , 1980; Grand Jury Prize for Body of Work, Cannes Festival, 1981.
Films as Director:
Se permette parliamo di donne ( Let's Talk about Women ) (+ co-sc); La congiuntura (+ co-sc)
"Il vittimista" episode of Thrilling (+ co-sc)
L'arcidiavolo ( Il diavolo innamorato ; The Devil in Love ) (+ co-sc)
Il commissario Pepe (+ co-sc); Riusciranno i nostri eroi a trovare il loro amico misteriosamente scomparso in Africa? (+ co-sc)
Dramma della gelosia—Tutti i particolari in cronaca ( The Pizza Triangle: A Drama of Jealousy, and Other Things ) (+ co-sc)
Permette? Rocco Papaleo ( Rocco Papaleo ) (+ co-sc)
La piú bella serata della mia vita (+ co-sc)
Trevico-Torino . . . Viaggio nel Fiat Nam (+ co-sc)
C'eravamo tanto amati ( We All Loved Each Other So Much ) (+ co-sc)
Brutti, sporchi e cattivi ( Down and Dirty ) (+ co-sc); one episode of Signori e signore, buonanotte (+ co-sc)
Una giornata particolare ( A Special Day ) (+ co-sc); one episode of I nuovi mostri ( The New Monsters ; Viva Italia! ) (+ co-sc)
Che si dice a Roma (+ co-sc)
La terrazza (+ co-sc)
Passione d'amore (+ co-sc)
Il mondo nuovo (+ co-sc); La Nuit de Varennes (+ co-sc)
Le Bal (+ co-sc)
Maccheroni ( Macaroni )
Famiglia ( The Family )
Splendor ( The Last Movie )
Che ora e
Viaggio di Capitan Fracassa
Mario, Maria e Mario
Romanzo di un Giovane Povero ( Diary of a Poor Young Man ) (+ sc)
Segment titled "1943–1997" in Corti italiani (+ co-sc)
La Cena (+ co-sc)
Un americano a Roma (Steno) (co-sc with Ruggero Maccari); Due notti con Cleopatra ( Two Nights with Cleopatra ) (co-sc with Maccari); Una Parigina a Roma (co-sc with Maccari)
Lo scapolo (Pietrangeli) (co-sc with Maccari)
Nata di marzo (co-sc with Maccari)
Il mattatore ( Love and Larceny ) (co-sc with Maccari); Adua e le compagne ( Love à la Carte ) (co-sc with Maccari); Fantasmi a Roma ( Ghosts of Rome ) (co-sc with Maccari); "La storia di un soldato" ("The Soldier") episode of L'amore difficile ( Erotica ; Of Wayward Love ) (Manfredi) (co-sc with Maccari)
Anni ruggenti ( Roaring Years ) (Zampa) (co-sc with Maccari); Il sorpasso ( The Easy Life ) (Risi) (co-sc with Maccari)
I mostri ( The Monsters ; Opiate '67 ; Fifteen from Rome ) (Risi) (co-sc with Maccari); La visita (co-sc with Maccari)
Il gaucho ( The Gaucho ) (Risi) (co-sc); Alta infedeltà ( High Infidelity ) (co-sc); Il magnifico cornuto ( The Magnificent Cuckold ) (co-sc)
Io la conoscevo bene (Pietrangeli) (co-sc); Made in Italy (Loy) (co-sc)
Follie d'estate (co-sc)
Le dolci signore ( Anyone Can Play ) (Zampa) (co-sc); Il Profeta (sc)
Noi donne siamo fatte cosi ( Women: So We Are Made ) (Risi) (co-sc)
Vacanza (Guillot) (pr); Mitico Gianluca (Lazotti) (pr); O samba (Constantin) (pr)
By SCOLA: articles—
"Se permettete parliamo di Scola," with J. A. Gili, in Ecran (Paris), November 1976.
Interview with Aldo Tassone, in Image et Son (Paris), November 1977.
Interview with Dan Yakir, in Film Comment (New York), March/April 1983.
Interview with Mario Monicelli, in Chaplin (Stockholm), 1983.
Interview with A. Cornand and others, in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), February 1984.
"Monsieur le President ovvero un modo meno nevrotico di stare a Cannes," in Bianco e Nero (Rome), July/September 1988.
"Visuelle Stenogramme," in Film und Fernsehen (Potsdam, Germany), January 1989.
Interview with H. M. Fendel, in EPD Film (Frankfurt), August 1990.
"A Place for the Soul," in Chaplin (Stockholm), 1992.
"Un cinéaste oublié: Antonio Pietrangeli," in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), May-June 1998.
On SCOLA: books—
Gili, Jean, Le Cinema Italien , Paris, 1978.
Tassone, Aldo, Parla il Cinema Italiano: Volume 1 , Milan, 1979.
Bondanella, Peter, Italian Neorealism to the Present , New York, 1983.
Liehm, Mira, Passion and Defiance: Film in Italy from 1942 to the Present , Los Angeles and London, 1984.
De Santi, Pier Marco, and Rossano Vittori, I film di Ettore Scola , Rome, 1987.
Ellero, Roberto, Ettore Scola , Florence, 1988.
On SCOLA: articles—
Gili, J., article in Ecran (Paris), April and November 1976.
Haustrate, G., "Un haut lieu de partage," in Cinéma (Paris), August/September 1976.
Carcassone, P., article in Cinématographe (Paris), October 1977.
Micheli, S., "Ein besonderer Tag," in Film und Fernsehen (Potsdam, Germany), April 1978.
Ieperen, A. V., "Comedie makt realitet verdraaglijk," in Skoop (Netherlands), May 1978.
Andersson, W., "Brutti, sporchi, cattivi & una giornata particolare," in Filmrutan (Sweden), 1978.
Gili, J., and others, "Une Journee Particuliere," in Avant-Scene (Paris), 15 June 1979.
Zaoral, Z., article in Film a Doba (Czechoslovakia), October 1985.
Blum, Doris, "Scola's World," in World Press Review (excerpted from Die Welt ) (Bonn), January 1986.
Bassan, R., and R. Lefevre, " Macaroni: Wilder's Touch," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), February 1986.
" Macaroni Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), April 1986.
De Santi, P. M., "Scola e Scarpelli dal disegno al film," in Bianco e Nero (Rome), July/September 1986.
Quenin, F. Navailh, "Le Choix d'Ettore: determinant," in Cinéma (Paris), 4 May 1988.
Bjorkman, S., "Nostalgi och satir," in Chaplin (Stockholm), 1989.
Anttila, E., "Scola: Suuren perinteen haltja," in Filmihullu (Helsinki), June 1990.
Cinémaction (Courbevoie), January 1992.
Douin, J. L., "Pain, Amour, et Dialectique," in Télérama (Paris), 17 February 1993.
Douin, Jean-Luc, "Pain, amour et dialectique," in Télérama (Paris), 17 February 1993.
Degli-Esposti, Christina, in Screen (Oxford), Summer 1997.
* * *
Revered more in the international film community than in American cineaste circles, chameleon director Ettore Scola's name is inexcusably absent from several English-language reference works. With Scola, one has to dig deep for the auteurist consistencies that make less elusive artists easier to pigeonhole. While Scola's fascination with political attitude and social change dictated by purely personal psychology never varies, he skips the light fantastic through such specialties as historical epic ( La Nuit de Varennes ), the musical ( Le Bal ), screwball comedy ( A Drama of Jealousy ), domestic drama ( The Family ), and grand romance ( Passione d'Amore ). In each case, the director gives established genres a uniquely invigorating spin. Critic Stephen Harvey compares Scola to Joseph Mankiewicz, and that pithy summation of Scola as a Mankiewicz seasoned with oregano sheds light on how Scola's comic screenwriting background (over fifty screenplays) informs his later career as a filmic maestro.
Before directing his first feature in 1964, Scola was a writer and illustrator for satirical magazines, a scriptor for radio, and a screenwriter for movies, mainly comedies, directed by Nanni Loy, Antonio Pietrangeli, and Dino Risi, among others. Often constructed as star vehicles, his scripts contributed to the fame of such Italian mainstays as Vittorio Gassman, Ugo Tognazzi, and Alberto Sordi. From this particular brand of Italian comedy—bungling incompetents muddling through desperate situations, war's grotesqueries, life's ironies—Scola's work has progressed to complex studies of his countrymen dealing with their history and social environment.
Although Scola's directorial debut, Let's Talk about Women , echoed his film-star showcase scripts, the bold A Drama of Jealousy (The Pizza Triangle) established him as a quirky chronicler of amore as a no-win situation; the film is a sort of "Waiting for Cupid" where every day is a luckless Valentine's Day. C'eravamo tanto amati , a tribute to Vittorio De Sica, is not only about the difficult, frustrating post-World War II years of three men whose class differences overwhelm the close bond they formed while fighting for the Resistance. It is also a complex survey of thirty years of Italian cinema and its relationship to Italian history, photographed in various appropriate cinematic styles. La Terazza also dissects the Italy-Cinema symbiosis as it scrutinizes the mores of Italian intellectuals, now middle-aged and no longer creative, forever failing to measure up to their heroic past.
In even his earliest directorial efforts, details of costume and milieu are integrated into Scola's cinema of ideas compellingly, because inveterate sketch artist Scola is graced with a visual sensibility that will reach its apotheosis in La Nuit de Varennes and Passione d'Amore. In Riusciranno , set in modern Angola, an Italian bourgeois explores twentieth-century Africa in a nineteenth-century concept of a safari outfit, while Brutti, sporchi e cattivi (literally "dirty, nasty and bad") satirizes the unavoidably disgusting appearance of the inhabitants of an impoverished village in a movie Scola had intended to introduce with comments by Pasolini.
What is most striking about Scola's oeuvre, however, is his gift for compression. Restricting his observations deliberately to confined areas (for example, the coaches in La Nuit de Varennes , the microcosmic dance hall in Le Bal , the family domicile that survives decades of unrest in The Family ), Scola forces his encaged protagonists to reveal the inner turmoil that informs their societal stances. Nowhere is this economy more apparent than in Una giornata particolare , which demonstrates oppression in a super-organized society that devalues individuality. Moving deeper and deeper inside the confined setting, a fluid camera concentrates on the facade and interior of a workers' dwelling on 6 May 1938, when Mussolini welcomes Hitler to Rome. As the radio blares Il Duce's doctrinaire self-confidence, two trapped members of this society—a domestically repressed housewife and an anti-fascist homosexual—meet by chance and share their humanity for a few hours. Whereas in The Family , the family unit struggles to withstand the winds of war and upheaval, in the stylish Le Bal , the decades-shifting dancers merely reflect the changes transpiring outside their social cocoon. Telescoping the French Revolution inside a few coaches, without portraying starving hordes or the king trying to escape the rabble's wrath, Scola's La Nuit de Varennes forces the opportunity for rumination upon an upper class facing a climate hostile to them. In a masterfully compact fashion, Scola continues to examine the past in order to interpret the present. Particularly in The Family , Scola avoids the epic sweep of traditional political cavalcades in favor of an intimate revisionism of history.
In all Scola's films, the choreography of history steps in partnership with his simpatico actors, gliding camerawork, and updated neorealistic melancholy. Even taking his overcooked Hollywood debut, Macaroni , into consideration, and the failure of his last films to secure American releases, Scola's place in humanist film history is unassailable. Unlike many screenwriters who turn director to ensure an unedited venue for their glorious dialogue, when Scola has something to say he lets his mise-en-scene do the talking. His manner of working liberates film stars from their confining personas and challenges moviegoers to experience the ambiguous passions of his characters. As in that embryonic Fatal Attraction for the nineteenth century, Passione d'Amore (newly minted as a Sondheim musical, Passion ), Scola's relentless pursuit of beauty is an all-consuming mission, one that makes this filmmaker sympathetic with misfits like Fosca, whose emotional deprivation in Passione d'Amore is not categorized as a negative, but as an occasion for greater sensitivity. Scola revisits the impersonal past to give it a human face.
—Lillian Schiff, updated by Robert J. Pardi