Less cloyingly sentimental than Giuseppe Tornatore's CINEMA PARADISO, Pupi Avati's STORY OF BOYS AND GIRLS has the same affection for the lost past, and the importance taken on in retrospect by every detail of childhood.
Silvia (Lucrezia Lante Della Rovere), a girl from the country, and her city-bred husband-to-be Angelo (David Becchini) host a dinner party to celebrate their impending marriage. It's held at the rustic home of Silvia's parents, and more than 30 friends and relatives are invited. The day begins
with cooking: pasta, bread, game, soups and sauces are prepared and stored by an ever-growing army of sibling, cousins, aunts and uncles. Even the village priest joins in, and when he has a spare moment, he listens to the confessions of the children. They tell him that when they run in the fields,
they hear wings beating overhead, but that no matter how quickly they look, they never get a glimpse of the angels.
Later, Angelo's mother and sisters arrive. It's the first meeting of the two very different families, and there are many tensions around the table. Angelo's relatives feel he's marrying below them, while Silvia is nervous about marrying above her class. Silvia's parents are fighting: her father
is heart-broken because he's just learned that his mistress has been unfaithful, while her mother is fed up with his infidelities. Angelo's relatives, who are prudes and snobs, are horrified by the lusty talk. The banquet begins, and course after course of food is brought to the table. The
conversation continues, as do the unforseen incidents: most dramatically, a gun is fired and Silvia's mother slightly wounded. At the end of the evening, the guests go their own ways, some changed by the day's events, some exactly the same as they were when they arrived.
Although it isn't told through the eyes of a child, THE STORY OF BOYS AND GIRLS might as well be: it has the tone of wide-eyed, nostalgic wonder one has come to expect from stories told by a narrator haunted by bittersweet regret for the days of his youth. The film was written and directed by
prolific Italian helmer Pupi Avati, who is virtually unknown in the United States. Co-author of the screenplay for Pier Paolo Pasolini's notorious SALO, Avati is probably best known to horror buffs for his cult giallo LA CASA DALLA FINESTRE CHE RIDONO. BOYS AND GIRLS, in contrast, is a gentle
comedy of manners, set in an Italy on the brink of fascism and yet almost entirely apolitical--only a brief speech at the dinner table by an altogether likable cousin even alludes to events outside the family circle. The cast of characters is sizeable, and the web of relationships that link them
both complex and tenuous.
Beautifully photographed and rich in character detail, BOYS AND GIRLS is somewhat chaotic in structure and utterly cavalier in its placement of the story within a larger context. Avati's narrow focus on family relationships is deliberate, but the fact that it's nearly impossible to tell whether
the film is contemporary or a period piece until more than halfway through is disconcerting. Avati also plays fast and loose with the passage of time; it's never clear how much has elapsed between the beginning of preparations for the banquet and the final toast, though it seems to be a single
Still, BOYS AND GIRLS isn't really about the big picture. Avati's real interest is the telling gesture, the careless phrase that reveals far more than it was meant to. STORY OF BOYS AND GIRLS is a film for viewers who complain that contemporary movies are shallow and devote more time to gadgetry
than personality--it offers an embarrassment of character riches. (Adult situations.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: Less cloyingly sentimental than Giuseppe Tornatore's CINEMA PARADISO, Pupi Avati's STORY OF BOYS AND GIRLS has the same affection for the lost past, and the importance taken on in retrospect by every detail of childhood. Silvia (Lucrezia Lante Della Rove… (more)