Come Have Coffee with Us

| December 24, 2011

Despite the inelegant title, Alberto Lattuada’s 1970 Italian film, Come Have Coffee with Us, is a keen look at the defining pitfalls of middle-aged passion. The film tells the story of a middle-aged tax collector who forsakes the romantic adventures of his younger years to search for a wealthy wife. In a remarkably short amount of time, he happens upon three spinster sisters whose recently deceased father has left them a vast fortune. The town is abuzz about these sisters, so he creates a plan to woo them before anyone can swoop in before him. Despite his age and his supposed belief in more spartan simplicity, the protagonist is greedy and ends up taking the other two sisters on as mistresses after he marries the eldest.
The script, also co-written by Lattuada, isn’t inherently funny but the actors infuse their characters with a wealth of idiosyncrasies that bring an awkward, dark humor. The film’s dark comedy hits full steam after the protagonist marries the eldest sister and they return from the honeymoon. The sister’s individual odd characteristics are also given greater depth.
Most comedies are not known for their visual sophistication but Lattuada’s direction is particularly strong in how he frames these sisters. The camera consistently highlights their most flattering features, creating a flurry of shots that add interesting rhythm to the more passionate scenes. There is even a certain scene between the protagonist and the middle sister where Lattuada highlights her legs/thighs reminiscent of the iconic imagery in The Graduate.
Come Have Coffee with Us is also fascinating from a historical perspective. When thinking of the sexually charged Italian comedies from the 1960s and early 1970s, images abound of voluptuous bombshells who cause men to lose every shred of their sanity. By putting the focus on middle-aged characters, particularly the three spinster sisters, gives the film a subversive edge over many other sexuality-focused comedies of the region/time period. The consistent focus on a set of physical attributes of the sisters and a very telling scene in which the male lead cuts up rotten apples to form one good one, further underscores the idea that if you took aspects from each sister you would make one attractive woman.
Thankfully, the film doesn’t swerve into sexist tripe. While their sexual adventures bring a lot of humor, Lattuada doesn’t make fun of the characters themselves but the ludicrous positions they put themselves in romantically. The performances of all the leads are what makes this film memorable and a delight to watch. Ugo Tognazzi plays the protagonist, Emerenziano, with aplomb. He balances the ludicrous greed of the only male lead with his more upstanding façade quite well. Out of the three sisters, Tarsilla, played by Francesco Romana Coluzzi, is the standout. Her change from sexually repressed to a sexual powerhouse who goes for what she wants despite societal mores is a treat to watch. The funniest moments of the film are saved for the last few minutes where we see that, despite all his planning, Emerenziano didn’t account for the greed that leads to his unraveling.
The DVD from RaroVideo presents the film in 1:66:1 anamorphic widescreen with a very faithful image. The film is in Italian with English subtitles that have been improved for this new release. Extras include a fully illustrated booklet including a critical analysis of the film and an interview with film historian Adriano Apra.

About the Author:

Angelica Jade Bastien is a freelance writer specializing in screenwriting and feminist pop culture criticism. When not writing she can be found reading comics or discussing why Elizabeth Taylor is her cinematic spirit sister. She lives in Chicago with her lovely cat, Professor Butch Cassidy. You can follow her on Twitter @viperslut.
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