Screenwriter, actor, director Ricky Tognazzi has been called the most “American” of the Italian filmmakers ( I’m still trying to decide if I agree with that) and he’s been at it for a long time. At 56 he’s been in some way involved with dozens of movies, including a role in “Nine” with Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s the son of Ugo Tognazzi , a famous Italian actor who played the gay cabaret owner Renato Baldi in La cage aux folles (the French version).
When I was in Rome I saw his latest, Il Padre e Lo Straniero, (The father and the foreigner)
written and directed by Tognazzi, the story of an unlikely friendship between 2 fathers, and last night I watched an older, mafia movie that’s available in the US with subtitles, La Scorta (the escort).
My husband watched it with me and it’s good for me to have the feedback from someone who isn’t as wild about Italian movies as I am for a little objectivity. Brian’s first reaction was that it seemed dated, really ’90s and I had to agree, since it was made in 1993 and had all the bad 90s music, hair, clothes, and mustaches to prove the point. But looking past all that there’s a pretty good crime story that kept our interest. Another critic called it a thriller, and just as I felt an eye roll coming on, I reconsidered. Maybe there isn’t tons of violence and action, but there is a feeling of menace and dread that took me over and didn’t let go throughout the whole movie.
La Scorta is “the escort”, rather 4 escorts, police officers chosen to protect mafia judges in Sicily – maybe the most dangerous jobs on the planet. In La Scorta, a judge and his “scorta” are assassinated and a new one arrives to take his place. Judge de Francesco is honest and determined and the escorts that who have been assigned to him come to respect him and share his cause in a way that makes it seem like it’s them against the world as they begin to unravel the web of government corruption that they’re discovering. The judge tells his four escorts, “You’re the only ones that I trust”, and I really can’t blame him.
As the escorts nervously speed him from home to work and wherever else he’s going, not stopping for traffic lights or accidents, seeing danger in every abandoned car on the road, and panicking if the gates to the station don’t open, I found myself holding my breath and wondering what it must be like to live in such a world.
This is not a thriller, but it’s fascinating – and it’s true. The movie was based on a real story of just such a judge and his escorts, those who have accepted these suicide missions in the effort to make Italy and the world a better place.