Concorrenza Sleale

Italy

Synopsis

Ettore Scola returns to the period and setting of A SPECIAL DAY and the ensemble structure of THE FAMILY with UNFAIR COMPETITION, a new poignant depiction of Italy under the rise of fascism in the late thirties as reflected through the experiences of two Roman retailers.

Through the fresh and simple gaze of two children, from two families, the rather foolish adult world around them unfolds. Indeed their fathers are two arch-rival shopkeepers, both of whom live with their families above their stores in the shadow of St Peter's dome.

Umberto a gentile, is a tailor with an elegant wood-panelled shop, losing customers to Jewish neighbour Leone, who continues to expand the stock in his no-frills haberdashery emporium, overlapping with Umberto's wares and undercutting his prices. The families, nevertheless, are ridiculously similar. The two little boys are classmates and inseparable buddies, their elder brother and sister sweethearts.

That is, until 1938 and the discriminatory "race laws" hurriedly passed in Italy. Suddenly Jewish professors can no longer teach, journalists, doctors, lawyers can no longer practice their professions, Jewish children no longer attend public school. Nor can Jewish families keep radios in their homes, or have "Aryan' domestic help, and soon they can no longer even run their own businesses.

Struck by the injustice and absurdity of these laws, the fierce competition between the Jewish notions seller and the tailor turns instead into an unusual friendship and solidarity as the two families, and their two little boys' companionship, are torn asunder by these events. Among the heroes there is also Angelo (Gerard Depardieu), a lukewarm anti-fascist who, when faced with the race laws, can only mumble under his breath, an intellectual who feels ashamed, yet never manages to act with real courage.

Of course the grim events of the war continue to close in on the notions seller and his family. And, as the unbelieving tailor and his family watch on, the Jewish family is finally forced to sell everything they own, including their shop, and, despite the efforts and sympathy of their friends, turn to flee to an unknown and ominous destiny.

Directors Statement

To live in the same city, an the same street, do the same type of work, belong to the same social milieu, have the same kind of family - a wife, two children, aunts, uncles, grandparents - and yet not be equal, not have the same rights, not be able to go to the same schools, not be able to exercise your own profession nor open your own shop, to suffer intolerance and exclusion. To discover that you are considered 'different', by birth and because of race. This is something that happened in the past to Jews and Blacks. Today it's happening in Europe to immigrants and workers who come from outside the Union.

UNFAIR COMPETITION, the film I wrote with Furio Scarpelli, Silvia Scola and Giacomo Scarpelli, is about the racial laws suddenly passed in 1938 in Italy against Jews: rules and prohibitions enforced in daily life, which were absurd and also - as ofien happens in our merry country - tragically funny and grotesque.

This is the story of two cloth sellers whose shops are side by side and whose professional rivalry at first divides them, fueled by their ruses and dirty tricks, but later binds them in friendship when true injustice is suffered by one of the two.

An amusing and bitter comedy about a part of our history that is rarely treated and of which there is little to be proud.

Director's Biography

Ettore Scola entered the film industry as a screenwriter in 1953, contributing bright material to films of Dino Risi and other directors. Later as director himself, his film We All Loved Each Other So Much (1974), dedicated to Vittorio De Sica, wistfully captured the essence of 30 years of postwar Italian cinema. Scola won the Best Direction prize at Cannes for Brutti, sporchi e cattivi / Down and Dirty (1976) a vivid portrait of misery. His Special Day (1977) — a politically-based allegorical depiction of a brief liaison between a jaded housewife (Sophia Loren) and a homosexual journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) under the gathering clouds of World War II — was nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film. Perhaps one of his most ambitious films was La Nuit de Varennes (1982), a masterful, fanciful, visually striking idea-rich costume epic of the French Revolution. History, politics, and people, and the effect they have one another, continue to be a core theme in the films of Scola, one of the most highly regarded figures in European cinema today.
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Ettore Scola

Written by: Ettore Scola, Silvia Scola, Giacomo Scarpelli, Furio Scarpelli

Cinematography: Franco Di Giacomo

Editing: Raimondo Crociani

Production Design: Luciano Ricceri

Costume Design: Odette Nicoletti

Make-Up & Hair: Franco Freda

Original Score: Armando Trovajoli

Main Cast: Diego Abatantuono (Umberto Melchiorri), Sergio Castellitto (Leone DellaRocca), Gérard Depardieu (Professor Angelo)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Screenwriter 2001
  • EFA Feature Film Selection 2001