You can probably better understand Italy from comedies rather then from dramas.
When I was a child, I learned from our comics how the Italian society really was. Alberto Sordi‘s movies were among my favorites to learn and to have fun.
The list of amusing Italian movies to learn from is long; you should also see Italian movies with Vittorio Gassman an impressing actor with dramatic and comic talent; Marcello Mastroianni and Sofia Loren, together they were magic; Nino Manfredi and other.
Behind those famous front names, you will find incredible talented Italian authors and directors. For example, very few people knows that Rodolfo Sonego, an Italian screenwriter, was beyond most of the most amusing movie from Alberto Sordi and other famous Italian actors of that time. He was one of the mind beyond the film genre Commedia all’italiana.
Watching those comedy movies, you will understand how it was the Italian society of those years. Nowadays thinks are different though.
Today there are some very good contemporary dramatic movies to learn about Italy.
Also the last movie of Paolo Virzì could be good to understand contemporary Italian life as well.
You must notice that these contemporary movies are not comedies, but quite dramatic films. It is more common for dramatic movies or plays to tell the story of real societies.
There is also a long list of old dramatic movies to watch to understand the Italian history and society.
I must mention two dramatic Italian film directors:
- Vittorio De Sica was one of the best or the best Italian film director, he was also an incredible comic and dramatic actor. His artistic story is probably the richest in Italy.
- Francesco Rosi‘s movies were among the best examples of Italian dramatic movies.
Italians love to laugh, this is our strength but it can be also our weakness.
In my opinion, in Italy now we listen more to people that makes us laugh and we love them. Nowadays, Italian most powerful political leaders are “comedians” or they try hard to be funny:
- Beppe Grillo, the leader of M5S is a former famous comedian,
- Silvio Berlusconi, the leader of the right wing, is an entertainer and sometime a “comedian” as well. He is now world wide famous also for his “comedy” performance.
- Matteo Renzi, the new leader of the left, is an entertainer and sometime a “comedian” as well.
- Matteo Salvini, the new leader of Lega Nord Party. The first leader of Lega Nord was Umberto Bossi, he was one of the best example of First and Second Republic “Italian comedian leaders”. Matteo Salvini, in my opinion, is less funny. He tries to compensate the gap with the quantity of his “shows”.
In First Republic politicians were mostly dramatic leaders, playing a serious and boring role, but probably Italians were happier once.
What are now the “funniest” source of information about Italian society?
The contemporary Italian comedies are mainly only good to have fun, they try to make fun of contemporary life and problems without going deep. Unfortunately you will not learn much about Italy from Italian funny movies.
The real heirs of the Italian historical “social comedies” tradition of Sordi, Gasman, etc., are not actually in the movies, but on television, radio and Internet, I will list the best for me:
- My number one is now Maurizio Crozza and his team of writer. To be more independent from politics he had to go away from Rai‘s and from Mediaset‘s television platforms. I am sorry that Crozza’s shows are not yet translated into English, they are a precious source of information on the Italian society and they are incredibly funny.
- Less comic but incredibly talented and valuable is Marco Paolini and his team. He started form theater to arrive in TV with his dramatic and comic play on Italy. His style is unique you have to see his play to understand.
- An other champion is Pif, Pierfrancesco Diliberto, He started from television and now he is on Italian MTV channel with the TV program “Il Testimone”. His reports, on any aspect of the Italian society, are incredibly ironic. He also made one movie about mafia, a master peace, having fun you will learn part of mafia’s story in Palermo and in Italy. One of the very few Italian contemporary comedy that can teach you something about Italy and make you think.
There are some good entertainers to understand Italy:
- I must mention Rosario Fiorello, very different from Maurizio Crozza and Marco Paolini, but some time a revolutionary entertainer, so revolutionary that he had to leave the traditional television and go on You Tube. He is now completely free to experiment what he wants..
- We have also some entertainer that can teach you something about Italy on Radio, I love “Elio e le Storie Tese“, an Italian music band that is also a group of comedians and radio stars.
- Last, but not least, Diego Bianchi, stage name Zorro, his satire is worth to mention. He started with self published satire from Internet to arrive in TV. He his very “Roman”, like it was Alberto Sordi. Now he is on public TV channel RAI 3. It could be that he is less free now, public television in Italy is under political control.
The list could be longer, but I stop here, I will update this post from time to time. Unfortunately very few of those modern comedians and entertainer have an English version. If you find their contents in English please let me know.