Directed by Billy Wilder (USA and Italy 1972; 140 mins. in English)
Billy Wilder’s superlative 1972 rom-com is one of his best and most underrated films. Wilder adapted the Samel Taylor play with his writing partner I.A.L. Diamond, drawn to one of his favorite subject matters: the brazen American in sophisticated Europe (Wilder himself was born in Austria, but mostly worked in Hollywood). Shot in Italy, with Capri as the breathtaking setting, Avanti! opens with successful and uptight businessman Wendell Armbruster, Jr. (Jack Lemmon) landing in Italy to arrange for the return of his father’s body. Perished in a fatal car crash, the American tycoon had been visiting the volcanic island of Ischia for decades, to enjoy the healing mud baths. As it turns out, there was more to his yearly trips. Upon arrival, Wendell Jr. meets Pamela Piggot (Juliet Mills), from Britain, whose mother also died...in a car accident.
Though they do not get along at first, things eventually turn romantic for Wendell and Pamela, as they are delayed over comical and bureaucratic snags: trying to source proper coffins, thwarting a valet who wants to escape to America, working around Italy’s long lunch hours, and, eventually, needing to recover the bodies when they are nabbed by vineyard owners seeking reparations for damage caused to their grapevines by the car accident. Avanti! satirizes the classic rom-com by setting it within the austere and puritanical Roman Catholic society, over gorgeous music by veteran Italian composer Carlo Rustichelli.
Avanti! can be watched on Amazon Prime, iTunes, or Vudu.