Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

The Desperate Pursuit for the Almighty Buck

Cleveland Press July 9, 1965

The get-rich-quick obsession, the money-won't -buy-happiness theme have been used repeatedly in drama, but they are worth another go-around in the talented hands of actor Vittorio Gassman and director Mauro Morassi.

The pair excels at social tragi-comedy as witness their earlier film, "The Easy Life."

In "II Successo" ("The Success"), Gassman is a discontented 38-year-old intellectual who sneers at the crass ways of his well-healed acquaintances but envies them and longs to be one of them.

HE HAS a comfortable apartment, a lovely wife (Anouk Aimee), a loyal friend (Jean Louis Trintignant), but no peace of mind. His lowly status gnaws at his soul. He considers every lesser man with more than he has a walking insult.

Gassman is a minor executive in a large real estate firm. He has inside knowledge of a future development, uses the information to purchase adjoining land even though he has no money to meet the note when it comes due.

The film then follows his frustrating pursuit of funds to cover his note, his frantic and gradually degrading efforts as he loses wife, friend and self respect.

Life isn't all tragic and neither is this motion picture. But the laughter is the laughter of satire and cynicism.

AT A party Gassman listens with annoyance as people discuss their ownership of boats, summer homes and even a mountain, is too ashamed to admit that a Fiat parked outside is his when another guest says he has dented it with his sports car. He romances a wealthy woman whose face causes him to shudder; persuades his father to sell his farm, takes him into his apartment, chickens and all.

The slight story is impressive on the screen because of the talents of director and actors. Director Morassi keeps his film tight, his scenes short, has an eye for small but revealing details.

Gassman is a master of nuances. So much is expressed with a shrug, a gesture, a curled lip.

His portrayal of an obsessed man makes clear at every point that he is aware of his own ruin, that he recognizes the hollowness of success when it does come.