A brilliant opening sequence sets up this comedy
of the uptight American executive and the romantic and sentimental Englishwoman. Jack Lemmon
flies to Italy
to pick up the remains of his father, who has died while away "on business". It turns out, however, that the business
he was doing consisted of an annual two-week rendezvous
with a mistress of long standing.
Lemmon must get the body back to the U.S.A. for the big funeral "with closed circuit TV and all". But things are not so simple in the land where lunch is a four hour break. The main fun is in watching the continental ambience, and the adaptability and openess of Julie Miles, break down the irritable, rushed American businessman.
It's a broad comedy, with elements of farce - an enjoyable and easy to watch film. Wilder's interest in national characteristics is to the fore, as is his usual cynicism. The film is interesting morally, with its (very continental) gung-ho endorsement of male adultery as a pocket of romance and peace in a life straight-jacketed by social convention. Of course, only Lemmon is married, and the film's resolution, though the executive may go back to his life a warmer, more flexible individual, makes no real critique of his society or its conventions.
Best line: "Is this the way the Italian justice system works?!"
"Let's talk about Sacco and Vanzetti."
Billy Wilder, 1972, Colour, 140 mins.