The Overcoat (1952)

aka Il cappotto
Article 5345 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-14-2017
Directed by Alberto Lattuada
Featuring Renato Rescel, Yvonne Sanson, Giulio Stival
Country: Italy
What it is: Comedy / Drama

A harried and somewhat hapless government clerk becomes enamored with the idea of getting a fine new coat to replace his raggedy one. When he gets an unexpected bonus, he finally gets his dream… but for how long?

For those familiar with the Gogol story on which this was based, the fantastic content (the appearance of a ghost) doesn’t manifest itself until near the end of the story. This is the third adaptation of the story I’ve seen for this series. The first one I saw increased the amount of fantastic content, but only borrowed aspects of the original story and went in a different direction. The second one was more faithful, but ended the story previous to the manifestation of the ghost. This one, though it updates the action to the present and changes the professions of some of the characters, is perhaps the most faithful and retains the fantastic content.

This movie has a high rating on IMDB, but I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed with the first half of the movie. That’s because the movie is very slow to get moving; it dedicates too much of its running time to comic scenes with the lead actor and to scenes featuring the pompous, self-important mayor. Not that the scenes are bad, mind you; they’re just overlong and interfere with the story getting into gear. The movie improves immensely once it decides to focus on the main plot, and the second half is immensely satisfying. Two scenes in particular stand out. One has the mayor’s dedication ceremony being interrupted by the appearance of a horse-drawn hearse. The other is the final scene in the movie, which should linger on in my memory, even if it somewhat modifies the ending of the Gogol story. This one is recommended, though I advise patience during the first half. And, after two days of foreign movies without subtitles, it’s nice to see one that has English subtitles in all their glory.

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