Arrived at the twenty-seventh film as a director, Carlo Verdone looks to Mario Monicelli and his Friends of mine for One lives only once, a bitter comedy with melancholy implications (at least in its intentions) that seems almost a Salento variant to Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo’s wandering Odio estate. His new film, which due to the numerous controversies related to the confused distribution has become a sort of involuntary media case, after arriving in three cinemas in Rome at the end of April arrives exclusively on the Amazon Prime Video on-demand streaming service, which with Carlo Verdone is also planning a television series.
Three years on Blessed madness the author returns with one of the most diverse and impromptu works of his filmography, offering an unprecedented look at society and its characters: historically interested in the small sympathies and the more or less subtle clumsiness of ordinary people, and above all in a comedy that springs from the “clash” between his “heroes”, between his masks, and the world they don’t seem to belong to, Verdone with You live once only changes face and type of comedy.
An experiment perhaps, certainly a different perspective: unfortunately the results are not reported as exciting.
We were four friends at the bar
The story of You Only Live Once follows Professor Umberto Gastaldi (Carlo Verdone), “leader” of a formidable medical team (to which even the Pope turns) made up of the instrumentalist Lucia Santilli (Anna Foglietta), the anesthetist Amedeo Lasalandra (Rocco Papaleo) and his assistant Corrado Pezzella (Max Tortora). It is also the story of a group of relentless masters of prank, passionate about creating ruthless jokes (and here we intercept the Monicelli mentioned at the beginning), jokes that Umberto, Lucia and Corrado often and willingly organize to torment Amedeo.
But the character of Rocco Papaleo, as also seen from the trailer, will be the engine of the film: Amedeo will in fact be diagnosed with an incurable disease, a diagnosis of which, however, only his friends become aware.
To find the courage to reveal his terminal condition to his lifelong companion, therefore, Umberto, Lucia and Corrado organize an on the road trip to the seas of Salento, whose sunny landscapes (on which the director will dedicate himself with an insistence postcard propaganda) will be the backdrop to their latest adventure.
Much more linked to the gut comedy that distinguishes De Laurentiis films than the situationist and refined one of Verdone’s work, One lives only once paradoxically ignores the author’s cinema of which he bears the signature and goes on for homemade jokes, often centered on sex, orgasms, betrayals. Another type of comedy, in short, diametrically opposed to the comedy investigated far and wide by Verdone and his characters starting from the 1980s and more exasperated even than that of Benedetta follia, who demanded a certain elegance from his gags and above all not a little preparation.
And also the comparison with Monicelli, immediate although perhaps not necessarily sought or wanted by the director, shows the side of a great lack of background.
In the gypsies of My friends and in his contemporary comedies there was so much bitterness, almost a sense of nihilism, that One lives only once, never seeks and therefore remains an end in itself, merely wallowing in mockery and derision.
At this point, devoid of the intellectual games and the reasoned comedy typical of Verdonian art, the most serious mistake would seem to be that of wanting bet everything on the plot and its twists: a little too superficial, the elements of the plot work together convinced of their potential but unaware of being directed towards an almost self-declared predictability, which when it occurs causes the house of cards to collapse revealing a striking sterility.