The movie AVANTI! is appropriately neither director Billy Wilder’s most lauded nor well-seen. Confidently languorous in pacing, it is not unlike the stride of an Italian afternoon, which hinges on a punctuated and generous lunch hour. Here's a comedic demonstration: in one scene, a U.S. government employee freshly deplaned in Ischia is refused assistance by the island's jovial policeman who affably lodges this pranzo defense at the stupefied and hurried American. Indeed the film falls under a sub-subgenre of "Americans vacationing in Italy," which is why I chose to watch it, prefacing my first (and hopefully not last) European voy-aahge.
Jack Lemmon and Juliet Mills meet-cute (or morbid, rather) under funereal circumstance when his father and her mother die in a car accident. What proceeds is reminiscent of In The Mood for Love, as the two try on the roles of their parents'— without the sensuality and longing, but with as many food-related scenes. The film divulges in particular the eating habits of a woman. Mystified by the slimness of Americans (!!), the female lead decries her weight and constantly references her diet. This is so much a part of the joke that her name is...Pamela Piggott. She of course does not look overweight at all.
A bastion of good eating, Italy is an oasis for both gourmand and every-man, and so the most deadly adversary of the dieter. With this in mind, Pamela supplies her own mealtime rations when dining out. She plucks an apple from her handbag and furnishes it on her plate. (The considerate staff offers to peel and cut the thing at least.) Just as the fruit symbolizes man's fallen grace, temptation to sin, Pamela too concedes to the desires of her flesh and asks to try Lemmon's pasta. Just a taste, of course. Arent vacations (though this is for her is not exactly a pleasure-trip) meant to be about indulgence? A reminder for myself not to count calories (or euros) when I'm away. I will defer to my tastebuds and not my waistline, like Pamela towards the end of the film. Enjoying a sunny afternoon alone, she orders tre gelati. All for herself.