Years ago I thought I was familiar with all of Billy Wilder's movies and as I thumbed through what might have been an old copy of Playboy, perhaps a Sex in the Cinema article, I came across a picture of a nude Juliet Mills and Jack Lemmon sitting on the rocks in an unknown Billy Wilder film, and was determined to one day see that film and much more of the Nanny from The Nanny and the Professor. VCRs were just coming on the market, so I had to wait a few years till Cinemax showed it in the early morning. I stayed up most of the night to satisfy my prurient interest and what I ended up with was a film I didn't want to end, a tune that played over and over again in my head for days, and one of my most favorite movies. Yes, this movie is a comedy, sometimes a very black comedy, and sometimes a satire filled with irony. Yes, it's a romance, all about a wonderful romance that sparks up between two seemingly opposite people in the strangest of places at the strangest of times under the strangest of circumstances, the way romance quite often does. And at times there's sadness and pain to tug at your heart. It's all about discovering who you really are when you've lost your way in all life's confusion, and also about perhaps being better than your parents when you get older and more like them. Lemmon is the consummate cad, Juliet Mills the most charming Englishwoman to grace a celluloid comedy, Clive Revill is perfect in his most Oscar-deserving role as the hotel manager Carlo Carlucci, the Italian cast members never fail to entertain, and the music is as catchy and memorable as any Bernstein or Tiomkin or Goldsmith score. The movie may be 2-1/2 hours long, but the time passes quickly as Lemmon and Mills rediscover love and youth and passion, and I always find myself wishing that I could see the two lovers returning a year later like their parents. Billy Wilder may have given us dramatic gems like Stalag 17, Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, and Sunset Boulevard, given us comedic gems like Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot, and romantic gems like The Apartment and Irma La Douce, but it wasn't till the end of his career that he could take qualities from all of those and give them a magical, lyrical feel and atmosphere and come up with a jewel like Avanti!
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A successful businessman goes to Italy to arrange for the return of his tycoon-father's body only to discover dad died with his mistress of long standing.
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April 1, 2019