A quirky trio—Tortorella (Anna Magnani), an aging film extra; her buddy, professional fraudulent claimant Umberto (Toto); and his partner in petty theft, Lello (Ben Gazzara)—converge through a series of mishaps on New Year’s Eve. Their conflicting agendas become clear as they move from one crazy character and mad caper to the next, ultimately ending up in church.
A decidedly unglamorous take on Roman life reminiscent of Hollywood “screwball comedies” of the Thirties and Forties, Mario Monicelli’s The Passionate Thief is a lot of fun despite a couple of tiresome scenes I zoned out on. Fred Clark’s portrayal of “the American”—loud, rich, and unsophisticated yet likable—made me laugh out loud.
(Gene Siskel Film Center) B-