LA RAGAZZA CON LA PISTOLA  directed by Mario Monicelli (Italy, 1968)

“All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun”, said Jean-Luc Godard and Mario Monicelli set out to prove him right in this enjoyable comedy caper from the late 1960s.

This particular girl with a gun is Assunta Patanè, a beautiful young Sicilian woman who, having been seduced and abandoned by an oily Latin-lover sets out to murder him to restore her honour.

She is supported in this mission by the women in her community who are all dressed in black as if in mourning for the loss of her maidenhood.

They give her a gun, passport and a one-way ticket to pursue the philanderer who has fled to Britain.

Carlo Giuffrè is perfectly cast as the caddish Vincenzo Macaluso whose ‘wham bam thank you m’am’ seduction technique brings out the killer instinct in Assunta.

On first arriving in Scotland, the language problem is pronounced as is the cultural shock of seeing men in skirts for the first time.

Assunta knows only a few words of English but ,miraculously, even those who say they can’t speak Italian somehow transform into fluent speakers and soon everyone in England has mastered her mother tongue.

Language lessons. The English residents get stuck with the word ‘puttana’ which can mean ‘tart/whore/bitch/slag’ – take your pick!

The film is a very revealing presentation of British life as seen through foreign eyes.

Fashions that must have looked quite swinging and hip in the sixties look very frumpy and dated now and there is a disturbingly high proportion of bearded young men smoking pipes.

The settings serve as a kind as whistle-stop tour of the country as Assunta follows the trail of Vincenzo with the gun in her handbag. The locations take us from north to south – Edinburgh, Sheffield, Bath, London and Brighton.

En route she meets three potential English suitors. First up there’s Anthony Booth (Cherie Blair’s dad!). With a blonde mop-top and tight trousers, he looks quite camp although his macho credentials are proven by his skills as a mechanic and his passion for rugby.

Next, she meets Corin Redgrave (brother of Vanessa)  a suicidal, homosexual who, despite being gay, still pledges his love for Assunta and wants to marry her.  The most sophisticated of the three and a kind of father figure, is surgeon Dr Osborne played by a stiff Stanley Baker.

None of this is meant to be taken seriously as the movie is really just a contrived vehicle for the peerless Monica Vitti who, as ever, stands out as a timeless beauty – here she looks a sultry Italian mix of Amy Winehouse and Julie Christie.

As she becomes more assimilated into the British way of life she becomes more liberated – she joins the peace movement, finds work singing in a small restaurant and dresses like a true sixties girl.

This transformation coincides with her abandoning plans to shoot Vincenzo and when he reappears into her life she turns the tables by treating him as a one night stand.

She drives off in her white mini cooper to the new love of her of life (Dr Osborne) leaving Vincenzo impotently muttering: “she always was a whore!”

This movie is very dated but lots of fun. The Sergio Leone style opening credits with pseudo-psychedelic soundtrack by Peppina De Luca give you a flavour of the piece.

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