Cannes Classics screens The Birds, the Bees and the Italians

Film still from Signore & Signori (The Birds, the Bees and the Italians) © RR

The 2016 Cannes Classics line-up includes an anniversary screening of a restored copy of Signore & Signori (The Birds, the Bees and the Italians) by Pietro Germi, joint Palme d’or winner in 1966 with Claude Lelouch’s Une Homme et une femme (A Man and a Woman).

“Sorry for making you laugh…”. These were the words spoken by Pietro Germi in response to the catcalls and booing when he accepted his Palme d’or, considered undeserved by some. And yet the Jury, presided over that year by Sophia Loren, didn’t miss a trick: this little-known masterpiece has retained its place in the history of Italian cinema.

Pietro Germi was influenced by neorealism in the early years of his career and his first films were social dramas. He really made his name in 1961, however, when he adopted a new tonal register with Divorzio all’italiana (Divorce Italian Style), which featured an outstanding performance by Marcello Mastroianni and earned the director an Oscar for best screenplay, among other awards.

For Signore & Signori (The Birds, the Bees and the Italians), Germi left Sicily for the Veneto, creating a blend of the best ingredients of transalpine cinema of his generation. His comedy of morals draws both on the sketch film genre and the political conscience of the era. Across three narrative segments, the film intertwines the frivolities and infidelities of a host of characters to paint a corrosive portrait of the Venetian bourgeoisie, in all its hypocrisy and the base instincts of its sexuality.

Presented by Cineteca di Bologna, Istituto Luce – Cinecittà, DEAR International. Restored by Cineteca di Bologna, Istituto Luce – Cinecittà and DEAR International at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory.