Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Alberto, We Miss You

The other night I spotted this phrase in a neighborhood in north Rome. Do you know who Alberto is?

I can only guess that they're referring to Alberto Sordi, a Roman comic actor of mythical proportions who made his most famous work in the 50s and 60s. Of the 150 films he was in, he is probably best-known and loved for "Un Americano a Roma" where he plays a Roman so enamored with American culture and all things American (wishing he had been born in Kansas City) that he tries to live an American lifestyle among the Romans and even fakes an attempted suicide leap from the top of the Colosseum to gain attention for his plea for American citizenship. Given the anti-American climate these days, it's touching that this film has had such enduring popularity. Just one year after the film's release in 1954, Sordi was even invited to Kansas City and made an honorary citizen for promoting the city through this movie.

If you've never seen or heard about the film, but you've been to Rome, chances are you've seen this still taken from the movie:

Tell me you've seen this! I mean, it's only posted in just about every down-home Roman trattoria in existence. In fact, I have this idea rolling around in my head to document every restaurant that has it. It would be simple, just take a picture of the picture, then list the name and address of the restaurant. Next time I see one, I'm starting... and you are all welcome to send me yours as well. We can start an Italy-wide list.

I'd love to be able to embed this scene in my post, but unfortunately it's been taken off of YouTube for copyright restrictions. However, the world wide web is indeed wide, and so you can still view it here.

Basically it's a battle between a plate of macaroni (maccheroni), and what Sordi's character considers an "American" meal (yogurt, jam, milk...random things he finds in his kitchen). In the end, he can't resist the pasta and utters what has arguably become one of the most famous lines in Italian cinema: "Maccheroni, m'hai provocato e io ti distruggo adesso, io me te magno." Which translates roughly to: "Macaroni, you've provoked me and now I'm going to destroy you, now I'm going to eat you up." (Much better if you can watch and understand it in the original context of the movie.)

When Alberto Sordi passed away in 2003 at age 82, his funeral was attended by Ciampi (the president at the time), Rome's current mayor Veltroni and former mayor Rutelli, as well as other important figures in the local and national government. But most touching was the outpouring of love from Rome's citizens. According to this article, on one day prior to the funeral, around 60,000 mourners filed past the open casket in front of city hall, and this continued for days. At the funeral, banners filled the square outside of the Basilica of S. Giovanni, one of the most memorable of which said: "Yesterday you were an American in Rome, today you're a Roman in heaven."


Held Hostage in Atlanta said...

Thanks for the information and insight! I have seen that photo numerous times, but did not know what it represented. Now, I'm off to find a copy of the film. Love your blog!

Gracie said...

There're two much loved actors I like the most, Sordi and Totò, two of the very best, unforgettable and never imitated. Sordi was a very down to earth and loving and caring person too.

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Held Hostage: Welcome! Glad to have solved a mystery for you. Thanks for the compliment! And, BTW, hope your captors over there in Atlanta are treating you well.

Gracie: I know, Romans tend to view Sordi as a member of their extended family, it's really something special!

avery said...

I've seen this like 5 times and I love it! Such a classic film! Sordi is the best and the scenes of Rome are so cool and picturesque.

Toni said...

Thanks for the scoop on this film. Looks good and I'll have to check into it. My favorite of his also stars David Niven, called Best of Enemies and set during WWII. It's wonderful, but I can't find it anywhere in video stores or even on the 'net. Check into it. If you find it, you must see it.