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.
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.
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