The Passionate Thief | Chicago Reader

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106 minutes · 1960

This trenchant 1960 social drama, adapted from two stories by Alberto Moravia and directed by Mario Monicelli (Big Deal on Madonna Street), reunited the Italian comedian Toto with the magnetic Anna Magnani, his frequent stage partner during the 1940s, and for one of the few times in his career he cedes the spotlight to someone else, giving an unusually subdued performance as a middle-aged bit actor who's in love with a brassy movie extra. On New Year's Eve, when Rome has become one big party, a petty thief (Ben Gazzara) cajoles Toto into helping him pick pockets and fools Magnani into believing he's attracted to her, and the trio encounter a variety of revelers, including some German aristocrats and a boorish American tourist (Fred Clark). Monicelli takes a number of digs at the Church and the dolce vita of the privileged (even poking fun at the Fellini film); his heart is with the little people, who cling to their humor and dignity as means of survival.

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