A rich businessman is fed up with work, family, society, and goes with a friend to Africa, in search of another friend who had vanished there in mysterious circumstances. They will find him alright - as a tribal chief,...展开surrounded with lots of topless, shapely wives. They are going to return to civilisation, but will their friend come with them ?
Well heeled, tightly strung publisher Alberto Sordi leaves behind job, family and Roman residence to go look for his errant brother-in-law who's been missing in Portuguese Africa for several months. He decides to take along his mild-mannered right hand man Bernard Blier, accountant by trade. Wacky hijinks and movie magic ensue.
My love for this movie probably has something to do with how I first saw it six years ago. I 'd never heard of it before, but I went to see it on the strength of Scola's and Sordi's names when it played as part of an Italian comedy retrospective in the first Paris-Cinéma festival. It was my first time seeing a movie at the Gaumont Convention, and I was delighted to find out the movie was showing on an enormous screen in a state-of-the-art auditorium. The only catch was that I was the only patron -- or so I seem to remember -- in the house. This turned out to be a blessing, because I could get completely lost in the movie without worrying about how its stock "Western European society bad, Africa cool" 60s outlook might have been playing to a contemporary audience all too familiar with recent African history. I could look past the quaint liberalism and simply enjoy the experience.
And what an experience it was. When Sordi's dream of Africa first took flight on that huge screen to the tune of Armando Trovajoli's soaring main theme -- an irresistible hybrid of "Mah Nà Mah Nà"-era Italian pop and bossa nova inflections -- I took off right along and didn't hit the ground again until some hours after the movie was over. I can never recapture that sensation, but if anything, I've grown to love the movie even more as I've watched it over and over again, each time noticing some subtlety in the script's clever structure or some throwaway gag near the edge of the frame. Scola may not be much of a visual stylist, but there's a youthful energy in his filmmaking that he largely toned down over the years -- except maybe for Brutti sporchi e cattivi -- in favor of the thoughtfulness that provides the grounding here. That same mix of vim and reflection, bluster and decency extends to Sordi's characterization, superb even by his rarefied standards. This makes it even more remarkable that Nino Manfredi -- never better -- actually manages to swipe a couple of scenes when Sordi gets to be his straight man. Not surprisingly, Sordi proves to be as adept and self-effacing in that capacity as Blier is for him during the bulk of the movie.