Anni 90 is the comedy that makes us understand what was happening in Italy thirty years ago

Anni 90 is the comedy that makes us understand what was happening in Italy thirty years ago

The 90s have been an irresistible cult object for a decade, between TV series, animation and music that have helped to fuel a positive and almost mythological image of a decade enclosed by two epochal events such as the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the 'Sept. 11. If for the United States, the undisputed center of Western pop culture, it was a phase of strong optimism and economic prosperity, the situation on the other side of the ocean was quite different, especially in an Italy where people began to talk right at that time. period of stagnation and crisis. Unsuspected witness of the moment in which the Italian 90s become what those who lived through them remember is an episodic comedy released exactly thirty years ago, in 1992: Anni 90 by Enrico Oldoini from La Spezia, director among others of brilliant comedies such as Belli Freschi and He is worse than me .

The rise of the Northern League, the AIDS epidemic, the first cell phones and the last flashes of Milan to drink are the great themes that recur in the nine episodes of the film , an ensemble film where alongside the ever-present Massimo Boldi and Christian De Sica are Nino Frassica, Ezio Greggio, Maurizio Mattioli, Nadia Rinaldi, Andrea Roncato. Great themes that above all form the backdrop for a comedy that avoids the temptation of instant movies, those cinematographic products designed for short-term use with omnipresent and detailed references to recent news events. In Anni 90, current events are a ploy to create situations typical of Italian comedy, without the time frame becoming a cumbersome wink. A particular balance that of Oldoini's film, despite the challenging and self-referential title to signal from the beginning the intention to outline a precise historical moment.

In this sense, Anni 90 immediately sets the record straight. In fact, the film opens with an exchange between Franco Benigno, interpreter of an updated version of the southerner transplanted to the north played by Diego Abatantuono a decade earlier, and a girl he met in the disco: "Luckily you're not from the League!" "For heaven's sake, I adore the man from the south!". The rest of the episode deals with the theme of HIV and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases using the expedients of slapstick cinema, with a nod to the well-known 1990 progress advertisement which was the first to speak to Italians about the virus epidemic. A delicate theme that in Italian cinema is discussed for the first time in a product aimed at the general public: it would have taken another decade for Özpetek's The Ignorant Fairies, and even Philadelphia with Tom Hanks would have been released only the following year, in 1993 , after years in which the theme had been relegated to feature films outside the mass circuits such as Parting Glances with newcomer Steve Buscemi.

And precisely the progress advertisements, very topical in the period between awareness campaigns on AIDS and against drug abuse undergo a semantic reversal in the so-called regressive advertisements that cover the 90s, short interludes between one episode and another where themes such as the abandonment of the elderly and the use of condoms are taken up in parody terms among the younger ones. The rest of the film juggles between group therapies, with Roncato in great shape, and misunderstandings en travesti, in the same period in which Maurizia Paradiso becomes the first trans woman to host an Italian television program, Colpo grosso. Among others, the sketch with Nadia Rinaldi and Christian De Sica is memorable, where the ancient expedient of lovers who have never met is reinterpreted as the interference between the mobile phones of the protagonists, objects still not very common among Italians at the time .

The leitmotif of all the episodes is Milan, the ubiquitous and spot-on backdrop for the film's intentions: it is precisely from the Milanese capital that the series of investigative investigations by Mani Pulite which would have concluded the season of the First Republic, and it is precisely in the Piazza Duomo glimpsed in the episode "The Carnival Party" that the drinking Milan of the 80s has its center, reaching its last blows at the beginning of the decade next. A place and a year which, in their coincidence, make the 1990s an unwitting witness to the moment in which Italy leaves behind the idea of ​​widespread well-being (in 1991 there is an overtaking which for a short time makes the country the fourth largest economy in the world, followed in 1992 by the blood and tears maneuver to save public finances) and a political order established at the end of the Second World War to enter an era that is still ongoing, where stagnation and economic crisis are constant keywords while Silvio Berlusconi and the Lega are still holding court in the political debate.

From a strictly cinematographic point of view, the premise of Anni 90 has noble roots, inspired by another episodic comedy to which Oldoini himself is very Legato: I mostri , a 1963 film by Dino Risi starring two protagonists such as Vittorio Gassman and Ugo Tognazzi, of which the director from La Spezia made a spiritual sequel in 2009 entitled I mostri ogg i . If the cynicism of Anni 90 is caciarone, goliardic, in line with other comic products of the period, that of I mostri is so sharp and anomalous that in tandem with the versatility of the Tognazzi/Gassman duo makes it a milestone of Italian cinema: even one of the cruellest scenes of Anni 90, the one that mimics the Telefono Azzurro with the son of Nino Frassica beaten by the latter together with Ezio Greggio, does not come close to the ruthless indifference of Tognazzi who, watching with his wife a Nazi shooting projected on the big screen in a cinema, he proposes to the woman to redo the wall of their villa like the one that can be glimpsed behind the condemned men.

In a rare combination of timing, immediacy and authorial dignity, the 90s offers a faithful portrait of the year in which the Italy we know today was born under the mask of disengaged comedy, without the documentary pretensions of products with a similar setting as 1992 - The series, but without at the same time slipping into the farcical like S.P.Q.R. - 2000 and ½ years ago, comedy by the duo Boldi & De Sica of much bigger grain that transposes the events of Tangentopoli into ancient Rome. Enrico Oldoini thus gives us an unexpected starting point for understanding what was happening in Italy thirty years ago, with the genuineness of a television program like Telemike that Boldi, at a certain point in the film, can't wait to go home to look.

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