The Overcoat (Il Cappotto)

| January 19, 2012

I’ve had the opportunity to review quite a few things from Raro Video and I can honestly say that Alberto Lattuada’s The Overcoat (Il Cappotto) is the best thing I’ve seen from them. Based of the short story by Nikolai Gogol, the film is set in Italy’s 1950’s and follows Carmine (Renato Rascel), a city clerk that is very poor and needs a new coat badly to fend off the coming winter. Shortly after making a few bumbling mistakes at the office, even in front of the mayor, Carmine is fired from the office and sent home. After a few days of wallowing in despair, he tries to go to the office and beg for his job back. In the process, he overhears a group of the mayor’s men talking about schemes and bribes concerning the new VIP’s that the mayor is expecting. Once Carmine tells his former boss about what he knows, he receives his job back, as well as a hefty bonus and decides to get the overcoat that he desires. Shortly after, tragedy ensures as Carmine’s overcoat is stolen and must deal with the bitter cold of reality. While the film is very tragic and might be hard for some people to deal with, I think that The Overcoat is a fantastic addition to Raro Video’s tradition of releasing films of Italian cinema and one of the best things they have to offer.
Lattuada’s film is quite the accomplishment, as an adaptation of the classic Russian short story and a post-Italian Neo Realist film. While the film retains many of the trappings of Neo-Realism’s focal points of poverty and economic despair, we are given too many chances in the beginning of the film to be drawn into Carmine’s position as a caricature than worry about his plight. Once we are thrown into his dilemma, it devastates us even more to see the once goofy clerk now put through real hardship. This is probably due to the many scriptwriters that were attached to the project, which include Lattuada himself, as well as Cesare Zavattini, one of Neo Realism’s key contributors. Although there is the occasional blurred frame, the cinematography by Mario Montuori is fabulous, especially during the night time sequences, that are lit like a film noir, to give the streets and back alleys of Pavia a menacing edge.
Raro Video’s presentation of The Overcoat is very well executed, with a great video and audio tracks, a audio commentary by Italian film historian, Flavio de Bernardinis, an interview with film director Angelo Pasquini and a 19 page booklet containing essays about the film. This is the usual attention that they give to their DVD and Blu-Ray’s, but the inclusion of the commentary is really great and gives wonderful insight to the film. I had a great time with the movie and the extras included just made me fall in love with the film a little bit more.
Overall, this is just one of the best Italian film’s I’ve ever seen and I’m glad that a company like Raro Video has given it this prestigious treatment. Sure, The Overcoat is a sad film, but one with a lot of heart and great moments that no one should dare miss. Highly Recommended!

About the Author:

is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He's an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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