The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #9 May / June 2014
At the Cinema
Il Comandante e la Cicogna - Garibaldi's Lovers
by Erik Zidowecki
May / June 2014 | 

Despite the English title, Garibaldi's Lovers is not a steamy, torrid film full of sex scenes and love stories. It is a single love story and comedy between a widowed plumber and a struggling artist (why are the artists always struggling? Haven't they seen enough films yet to tell them that perhaps art is not the most lucrative occupation?).

The story takes place in Genoa, Italy, where there is a square containing a statue of the great Italian hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi. We hear Garibaldi's thoughts on the poor state of modern society as he looks out over the activities of the citizens. He also argues with another statue, this one of the still living Gian Mario Cazzaniga. We hear from a few other statues briefly during the film, but the main narration comes from Garibaldi.

It is a single love story and comedy between a widowed plumber and a struggling artist.

While the film has the inanimate objects that have voices, it also has a living creature that doesn't in the form of a stork named Agostina who is subtly and surprisingly crucial to the story. It is no wonder than that the original Italian name of the film is Il Comandante e la Cicogna (The Commander and the Stork).

Elia and Agostina in a grassy area, meeting in secret

The primary characters are Leo, he plumber we mentioned and the artist, Diana. Leo is raising his 13 year old son, Elia, and his growing-up-too-soon daughter, Maddalena, alone, and is becoming overwhelmed by the responsibility of it. Although his wife, Teresa, is dead (we never learn how), she talks to him during the film, although it is unclear as to whether she is really a ghost that keeps appearing to smell the coffee (the one thing she truly misses about being alive) or is just in his imagination, and she wishes that Leo would find another woman to fill his life.

Diana is a modern artist of sculpture and painting, but her work doesn't seem to be well received, so she is in debt. When we first see her, she is trying to collect money owed to her for a piece of art, only to watch the buyer being arrested. Apparently, he owes a lot of people money, and she is directed towards an attorney firm who is handling the man's financials. When she pushes her way through that, the attorney informs her that the money will be tied up for several months. But there is hope; he loved the fresco she had done for the arrested man, and hires her to paint one in the office.

Leo and Diana, posing as husband and wife, to fool a realtor

Meanwhile, Elia has been getting into trouble, first for bringing a bag of fish heads to school, then for stealing frozen frogs from a grocery store. He is evicted from the store with another shoplifter, Amanzio Zosulich, who claims he was helping the store by "reclaiming" expired foods, which they shouldn't be selling. Amanzio is an eccentric who is studying several languages at once, loves to spout famous quotes at people, and won't hesitate to question the way other people are conducting their business (which gets him into trouble). He and Elia become friends, and Elia introduces him to Agostina, a wild stork who has befriended Elia and for whom he has been getting the fish and frogs for.

Connections get made, for Amanzio is Diana's landlord, to whom she owes money, and Leo, seeking legal help to aid his daughter after a sex video of her gets released to the internet by her slimy boyfriend, meets with the attorney for which Diana is doing the fresco. The attorney, Malafanno, talks Leo into participating in a property purchase transaction, which puts Diana and Leo into the role of husband and wife to convince the realtor.

Amanzio, in his apartment, listening to a cassette to practise languages

When Elia receives a strange phone call in German, he turns to Amanzio for help. Amanzio uses his language skills to discover that Agostina has been hurt and is Switzerland, so he and Elia take off to rescue her. Meanwhile, Leo finds out that Maddalena's newest boyfriend is not who he pretends to be, and that he was used in an illegal scheme. Before he can fully deal with that, however, he must race off to save Elia, who he believes has been kidnapped by a "maniac".

Surprisingly, the film has some special tidbits for language learners. As previously mentioned, Amanzio is learning languages. We see him sitting on his bed with a large radio hanging down from the ceiling, playing an audio tape. From the recording, we hear a man giving a phrase, then telling the language that it should be repeated in. Amanzio tries to repeat the proper phrase, but we can tell he isn't very good at it. He may not be as bad as he appears, however, for he and Elia manage to piece together enough Swiss German to learn the fate and location of Agostina.

Leo and the ghost of his wife, Teresa, talking about their kids

Leo also has a Chinese partner in his job named Fiorenzo who rattles off in Chinese at his wife who is sure that Fiorenzo is cheating on her. She even hires an investigator who places a listening device on their vehicle to catch him in the act.

Garibaldi's Lovers is a fun and enjoyable film and is directed by Silvio Soldini, who also did Bread and Tulips, which I reviewed here before. It is done in much the same manner, touching on the smaller quirks, interactions and coincidences of life that bring people together.

At The Cinema - Il Comandante e la Cicogna - Garibaldi's Lovers
Writer: Erik Zidowecki
• "Il Comandante e la Cicogna" Internet Movie Database <>
All images are copyright Lumière & Company, Ventura Film, RSI-Radiotelevisione Svizzera

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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