L’Automobile (The Automobile) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

One of the final films featuring one of the greatest actresses of cinema, Anna Magnani.  “L’Automobile” (The Automobile) showcases the actresses in another amazing performance, but it’s also a ’70s film that makes a statement to Italian society of its dependence on the automobile.  A televised film that was a sign of the times, but still a film demonstrating Magnani’s brilliance as an actress.

Images courtesy of ©RAROVIDEO 2011. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: L’Automobile (The Automobile)


DURATION: 93 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Italian with English Subtitles, Monaural

COMPANY: RaroVideo


RELEASE DATE: February 28, 2012

Directed by Alfredo Gianetti

Written by Alfredo Gianetti

Produced by Giovanni Bertolucci

Music by Ennio Morricone

Cinematography by Pasqualino De Santis

Edited by Renato Cinquini

Production Design by Francesco Bronzi

Set Decoration by Osvaldo Desideri

Costume Design by Maria Baroni


Anna Magnani as Anna

Vittorio Caprioli as Giggetto

Christian Hay as Lou

Donato Castellaneta as Guidino

Renato Malavasi as Matteo

Pupo De Luca as Istruttore di guida

Ettore Geri as Un tedesco

From the 1962 Oscar winner writer of Divorce – Italian Style and available for the first time on DVD, The Automobile, an episode from the TV mini series The “Three Women”, featuring Italian movie icon Anna Magnani with music composed by the genius Ennio Morricone, comes this classic 70s Italian story of Anna, an experienced prostitute who has become an institution in the Roman nightlife. In reality she is lonely and aimless, and decides to buy a car in order to satisfy her need to feel like a normal woman. On an outing to the beach to celebrate her new sense of freedom she meets two men who convince her to let them drive her new car, and things deteriorate from there.

In 1971, a three film mini-series (“L’Automobile, “1943: Un incontro” and “La Sciantosa”) which aired on Italian television and would feature the work of filmmaker/writer Alfredo Giannetti (“Divorce Italian Style”, “Il ferroviere”, “A Man of Straw”), the music of Ennio Morricone (“The Untouchables”, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, “Once Upon a Time in the West”) and most notably the final year of acting for renown actress Anna Magnani.

For many cineaste and those who have watched many Italian Neo-Realism films, Anna Magnani is an actress who was important to cinema as she was known for her roles such as Roberto Rossellini’s “Rome, Open City” (1945), Luchino Visconti’s “Bellissima” (1951), Daniel Mann’s “The Rose Tattoo” (1955),  Sidney Lumet’s “The Fugitive Kind” (1959) and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Mamma Roma” (1962) to name a few.

So, for many cinema fans, 1971 was the final year to watch Anna Magnani and suffice to say, many fans tuned in.

“L’Automobile” (The Automobile) is a film that features a role that Anna Magnani has played before, a prostitute in post-war Italy, a sign of the time.  But in the case of this film, Anna Magnani is Anna, the prostitute who has been in the business for far too long.

And while observing the younger prostitutes having fun as part of the Roman nightlife, she also notices that the days of women and men meeting indoors have changed to women now leaning in cars waiting for a man.

For Anna, she doesn’t own a car, she rides a bus to the Pines Hotel where she lives and is best known by many men as “The Countess”.

But now Anna wants to experience something different in her life and possibly get out of the career as a prostitute.  What about buying a car?  She has saved up all her hard-earned money, why not buying something she can love, take care of and travel anywhere she wants to go.

Problem is, she doesn’t know how to drive.  So, Anna calls her good friend Giggetto (played by Vittorio Caprioli, “Il Generale della Rovere”, “Tout va bien”, “Le magnifique”), who happens to own a vehicle, that tends to not run all that well.  But hopes he will teach her the basics for riding a car and so it will prepare her for taking a test to obtain her driver’s license.

Eventually, Anna passes her test and buys her dream car, a yellow convertible Fiat.  And for Anna, it’s the first major purchase she has made with her life.  She uses all her savings as a down payment, she purchases the best car insurance possible and she worries about her car as if it was like a child.

But when Anna decides to venture outside of the city with her new automobile, life for Anna will change forever.


“L’Automobile” is presented in 1:33:1, color and and monaural Italian with English subtitles.

Picture quality for a 1971 film is actually very good, as the film doesn’t look like an early ’70s film in the fact that it’s not that aged.  In fact, the film looks a lot better than some ’90s films that I have watched on video, so the overall picture quality is pretty good for its age, considering the film is 40-years-old and is a TV film.

Audio is monaural, Italian dialogue was clear as with Ennio Morricone’s score.  English subtitles are white and easy to read.


“L’Automobile” comes with the following special features:

  • Original Trailer – (1:44) The original theatrical trailer for “L’Automobile”.
  • Video Introduction – (16:34) Featuring a video introduction by Mario Sesti (film critic and curator of the International Rome Film Festival).
  • PDF Booklet – Featuring a wonderful 12-page booklet which includes a film analysis by Bruno Di Marino, “Cinema according to Anna Magnani” from “Arianna” (1963) and “L’Europe” (1973) and “Two or Three Things about ‘Nannarella'” by Patrizia Pistagnesi, “Hommage a Anna” (1989).

Anna Magnani has had a long career of impressive films and working with the best directors and writers in the business.  Beloved in Italy, adored by cineaste and even winning an Oscar for “Best Actress” for the 1955 film “The Rose Tattoo”.  She was an amazing actress who was compared to Greta Garbo because of her acting and came to the United States and won various awards.

But by the early ’70s, Magnani health would be at a decline and 1971 would be the final year of the actress who would die of pancreatic cancer in 1973.

While those who have never watched a Magnani film would probably look at “L’Automobile” as standard ’70s cinema and a slice-of-life tale about an older woman buying her first automobile and venturing outside of the city with it.

But Anna Magnani as an actress who had worked in post-war Italian neorealism films, she comes from the old Italy who saw how her beloved city has changed.  From the automobile was a sign of economic prosperity of the ’60s and by the ’70s, everyone has one and the city has become nothing but a 24/7 traffic jam.

And in 1971, French filmmaker Jacques Tati also depicted this in his 1971 film “Trafic” featuring his character Monsieur Hulot who came from the old country of France and had to get used to the modernizing of society and its dependence on the automobile.

But watching the film, actress Magnani is able to capture this disenchantment of life and society through her career with remarkable efficacy and perhaps this film of an older Magnani was evident that the actress still has it.  She demonstrates genuine emotions and expressions that make you believe in the character.

Sure, “L’Automobile” is a televised movie and part of a trilogy.  It is comedy but also statement to Italian society from a generation who saw the city of Rome transformed into a near immobile parking lot.  And while there are more impressive Anna Magnani films out there, her 1971 films including “L’Automobile” would show that no matter if she was succumbing to pancreatic cancer, no matter if it was an older Anna on film, because it was on television, a large audience would get to experience Anna Magnani, actress extraordinaire that was able to play a character and become it.

As for the DVD from RaroVideo, the picture quality is in very good shape considering it’s a ’70s film and has no signs of the usual aging film.  As mentioned, I have seen ’90s films that look its age and for “L’Automobile”, aside from clothing and the music played by a live band at the beginning of the film, the film doesn’t look terrible as you would expect from a ’70s TV film.  So, this new digitally restored “L’Automobile” looks very good on DVD.

And as far as special features go, you get a verbose video introduction from film critic Mario Sesti and a PDF booklet of Bruno Di Mariono’s critical analysis of the film and more.

With that being said, I enjoyed “L’Automobile” and felt that Anna Magnani gave an amazing performance.  There are magnificent films that she starred in from the past which overshadows this 1973 film and while her performance was great, including her interaction with actor Vittorio Caprioli, the scenes leading up to the finale felt a bit rushed and made me wonder if that was because they had to create TV films in a set amount of time.

Nevertheless, because it is a televised film, I’m grateful to RaroVideo for bringing it out on DVD.  But I do hope that the the other two films in the trilogy “1943: Un incontro” and “La Sciantosa” will be released on DVD in the near future.

Overall, “L’Automobile” is still a must purchase for cineaste who adore actress Anna Magnani.  It’s one thing to watch the films from her past, especially films that she was best known for but to have the opportunity watch her later, final work for me, for a cineaste who have watched many films that she has starred in, having the opportunity to watch Anna Magnani in “L’Automobile” as one of her final films, on DVD in the U.S., I am grateful to RaroVideo for making it possible.

One of the final films featuring one of the greatest actresses of cinema, Anna Magnani.  “L’Automobile” (The Automobile) showcases the actresses in another amazing performance, but it’s also a ’70s film that makes a statement to Italian society of its dependence on the automobile.  A televised film that was a sign of the times, but still a film demonstrating Magnani’s brilliance as an actress.