Avanti! (1972)

July 01, 2011

Avanti takes place in beautiful Italy, where Jack Lemmon and Juliet Mills (playing a character with the adorable name of Pamela Piggott) are visiting to retrieve the bodies of his father and her mother, who were killed in a car crash in a small Italian town. Lemmon plays a quintessential frazzled American businessman, Wendell Armbruster Jr., who is shocked to find out that his stuffy father had been visiting Italy annually not for business, but to engage in a long-term affair with Piggot's mother.

Pamela's laid back, serene attitude towards the whole situation annoys Wendell like crazy. He's so caught up in the hustle and bustle of funeral arrangements that he has trouble appreciating the quiet beauty of Italy. But his father's death gives him a second chance at life, when he comes to understand just why his dad needed this peaceful getaway, and the company of a sweet, loving girl.

I really can't even count how many things I love in this movie. The scenery is stunning, Juliet Mills' performance is so good you'll wish she starred in 800 movies, and the perfect balance between subtle comedy and poignant drama is remarkable. But I think my favorite part is this scene in the beginning where Juliet Mills opens the curtains, letting the light shine in the mortuary. It's just take-your-breath-away poetic. It looks almost like a classic renaissance painting in Edward Hopper's style, and captures the entire mood of the film in one single shot.

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