Many, many years ago, when I first came to Italy and was looking for films to practice my listening comprehension on, I bought a rather expensive VHS cassette, from Ipercoop.
Ipercoop still exists, but no longer sells VHS cassettes, nor DVDs for that matter. They have some reasonable malt whiskies, though.
Anyway, the film I splashed my cash on was the famosissimo Fellini movie ‘La dolce vita’. There was an attractive actress on the cover of the VHS, so I was sure it was going to be worth the money!
Predictably, I didn’t understand much of the dialogue (I was just starting out with the language) but a greater problem was the film’s narrative structure, which was not what I was expecting, and left me rather disappointed.
I guess I’d been expecting something like ‘Pretty Woman’, but set in Rome rather than L.A.
Wrong! Everyone in the film, it seemed, was miserable – there were no happy hookers or kind billionaires. And there was no uplifting ending.
Basically, this was something very different from the Hollywood fare I was used to. I guess that was a big part of the point.
Many years later, now also many years ago, we published an ebook ‘easy reader’ based on Felini’s film, and, as I read it and reread it in the pre-publication stages, it brought back the emotions I’d experienced when watching the VHS. Confusion, mostly, but also sadness.
Our ‘book of the film’ writer, cum Italian teacher, Giovanni, is also an award-winning screen writer, and he really nailed the film in his summary for learners, as he always does.
But check out the reviews of our ebook version and you’ll find people writing that they couldn’t make head nor tail of it, that it was disjointed, and so on.
Since then we’ve done plenty of other Book of the Film ‘easy reader’ ebooks, and similar reactions are not uncommon.
The story is depressing! What happened to the main character – it wasn’t explained! The parts of the film don’t fit together!
And so on.
The only one I recall getting mostly positive reviews was ‘La vita è bella’, a comedy set during the Holocaust/Shoah, which did have a sort-of happy ending (I’m trying not to give too much away). But that one was kind of Holllywoody…
And the point is?
Reading books and watching movies is a great way to improve your foreign language skills, but a certain readiness to confront content that is, well, DIFFERENT, helps a lot.
I confess, when I was learning Italian by reading trashy novels, I mostly chose translations of trashy novels written in English by Brits or Americans, stuff I knew I would like.
Dealing both with the language and with genres or styles I was unfamiliar with was, at first, too much.
It must be said that Italians are different. Weird, even. Proof positive is that they think Fantozzi is wildly funny!
We’ve done two Fantozzi ‘Book of the Film’ easy readers, and both of them went down badly. One of our students/ebook buyers, who has bought every, single thing we’ve ever published (with one exception) hated the first Fantozzi ebook so much that she refused to buy the second.
And yes, when I first came to Italy, I thought Fantozzi was rubbish, too, and wouldn’t watch the endless repeats on Italian TV.
But if everyone ELSE likes it…
So, years later, with Giovanni’s help, and a more flexible take on what people may or may not find funny, I finally got why Italians spilt their sides laughing.
Time is short today, so I’ll briefly mention that next week we have a new ‘Book of the Film’ easy reader coming out, a comedy western. I watched the film, which is part of Italian cinema history, and read Giovanni’s text, which is, as always, faithful to it, and a good introduction.
If you’ve got no sense of humor and/or don’t like punch ups and fast gun play, you’ll hate it, so don’t buy it.
However, to accompany the new one, I’m also planning a discount on ALL our ‘Book of the Film’ ebooks, if I can get the website to do that.That’s next week.
In the meantime, if you’re at a loose end, check our our inventory on these two pages. You’ll find all the movie ebooks I mentioned above, and more!
This one generated plenty of reviews, at least, and some interesting discussion. If you’re in doubt about whether it’s for you, read them (they contain loads of spoilers, but knowing what happens is not really the point, as the issue is more ‘why?’)
An original Italian easy reader by Giovanni Galavotti
The 1970 political thriller on which this ‘easy reader’ is based was a massive success for director Elio Petri, winning many prizes, including that year’s Oscar for the Best Foreign Language movie.
The story takes place in Rome in the summer of 1969, at what would be the beginning of Italy’s ‘years of lead’. It reflects on the power of the apparatus of the state, and the roles played by those who worked within it or rebelled against it.
The unnamed protagonist, a senior police officer and head of the homicide squad, murders his lover but then immediately sets out to leave as many clues as possible…
- .pdf e-book (+ audio available free online)
- .mobi (Kindle-compatible) and .epub (other ebook readers) available on request at no extra charge – just add a note to the order form or email us
- 8 chapters to read and listen to
- Comprehension questions to check your understanding
- Italian/English glossary of ‘difficult’ terms for the level
- Suitable for students at intermediate level and above
- Download your Free Sample Chapter (.pdf)
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When your order is ‘completed’ (allow up to 24 hours), a download link will be automatically emailed to you. It’s valid for 7 days and 3 download attempts so please save a copy of the .pdf ebook in a safe place. Other versions of the ebook (.mobi/Kindle-compatible, .epub) cannot be downloaded but will be emailed to people who request them.
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