Cinepanettone: A comedic celebration

It’s the end of another shaky year for the world as many countries are stepping back into restrictions after various surges of Corona cases; with vaccines and boosters all around the globe and new mutations in the news, it’s still a difficult moment in history.

This year seems to be a little more hopeful than the last two years of living with corona. We have become used to it, and there is a certain level of determination to keep moving despite the inconvenience of a pandemic.

I’m excited to hear of direct flights from Australia to Rome on Qantas from June 2022, which means visitors coming to Italy or the possibility of a flight home to Australia. An option that hasn’t even been mentioned before now.

Getting to Perth, Western Australia, from Sicily over 2021 was rather long-winded. The best option was to fly out of Rome, stopping in Dubai, going all the way to Melbourne and then catching another flight over to Perth, with an estimated travel time of 47 hours.

As I’m writing this, it’s Christmas week, and Italians are in their usual last-minute scramble for Christmas presents. No doubt many are preparing festive menus even though many families may still be separated again this year. It is still a difficult time, but most Italians are living it in their usual mixture of strength and joie de vivre.

Italy will mostly stay home for New Year 2022 and Christmas 2021, which will undoubtedly be filled with slices of panettone or pandoro and glasses of prosecco around the dining table.

It doesn’t feel like Christmas in Italy, but we are doing our best to make the best of a terrible situation. There are so many more Christmas decorations and lights than previous years, and Italian’s will never scrimp on the food on their table.

I have to admit I won’t even mind watching some Cinepanettone anything to take my mind off corona.

I’ve always found it difficult to watch this brand of terribly politically incorrect, seemingly outdated cheesy comic Italian escapism cinema that spews out every Christmas. It’s always so terrible but wildly popular in Italy.

The Cinepanettone farcical genre began in the 1980s and is reminiscent of the terrible Carry-On movie franchise so insanely popular in 1960’s Britain.  

A typical Cinepanettone is set around the festive season. Many famous mainstream Italian actors usually play bungling, wealthy and presumptuous middle-class stereotypes who visit glamorous or exotic places. The plot usually involves cheating husbands, mistaken identity, secrets, love stories, misadventures, family relationships, out of control partying, suspension of disbelief and general silliness.

It’s all so bad it’s good and popular with the Italian public. I’d compare it to watching reality television; you find yourself watching to see how bad it’ll get, and then when it’s finished, you berate yourself for wasting so much time watching.

The two unabashed kings of this genre are Massimo Boldi and Christian De Sica. They have made twenty-six Cinepanettone movies together, including Vacanza su Marte (Vacation on Mars) last year. Yes, it seems they have run out of locations for their Christmas vacations, so they ended up heading to Mars last year, and instead of premiering at the cinemas, it was all directly streaming on Amazon Prime, yet another sign of the times.

Boldi, a Milanese comic and Roman actor De Sica, son of Italian neorealist director Vittorio De Sica are masters of wordplay, slapstick, cross-dressing and anything that will get a laugh. Their style is reminiscent of many other tremendously popular comic duos throughout cinematographic history, from Laurel and Hardy to Abbot and Costello, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and other Italian artists like Franco e Chicco and Bud Spencer and Terrance Hill.

This very visual, physical and at times innocent type of humour has always been widely popular in Italy, and it’s pretty endearing as it indicates a childlike spirit inherent in Italian culture. In Italy, you will often see old black and white movies of Laurel and Hardy on the television as they are still very much loved and revered.

The Boldi De Sica duo has pretty much broken up thanks to a combination of age and artistic differences. While they dominated the Cinepanettone grnre, they don’t have the exclusive rights.

Many other mainstream directors have tried their hand at this comedic celebration and have revived this sometimes tired genre. For example, 2019’s movie Il Primo Natale (Once Upon a time in Bethlehem) from Sicilian comedian’s Ficarra and Picone is a hilarious retelling of the Christmas story. 

Ficarra and Picone’s style reflects a new comedic generation filled with clever farce, satire, and wordplay without the need or desire to become vulgar. Their recent movies are intelligent reflections of the ironies of the Italian culture, particularly in the southern Italy of their native Palermo.

This year’s haul of cinepanettone begins at the cinema once again with Christian De Sica, (without Boldi) who is staring in Chi ha incastrato Babbo Natale (Who tricked Father Christmas) with Angela Finocchiaro and Diletta Leotta. Then on Amazon prime there is Io sono Babbo Natale (I am Father Christmas), the final film featuring legendary Italian actor Gigi Proietti, who passed away last year.

Many will be revisiting the older Italian Christmas classics in the cinepanettone genre as Italians are most definitely creatures of habit. As most people do, they will enjoy their rituals from a nice slice of Cinepanettone to the culinary delights of seasonal eating, Saint day celebrations and the San Remo song festival.

The cheesy, corny Christmas movie genre offers up a little bit of light entertainment for everyone.

Lord knows we always need some laughter and childlike wonder after the few grim years passed.

14 thoughts on “Cinepanettone: A comedic celebration

  1. Rochelle, I discovered your blog while browsing things about Sicily. What you say about Sicily and Italy resonates with me. You see, I was born in Italy and emigrated, by choice or destiny. I took the opposite path than the one you took. I do not regret the choice, but I do miss some of the things left behind such as culture, family, friends, food, history. From distance, you tend to emphasize the good things and forget the bad ones. Italy has so many good things to offer but also many bad things, as your posts describe so well. I am not sure if the Italians will ever be able to get rid of the shortcomings that stop them from becoming the best they can be as a nation.
    Thank you for your time.
    Michael (Michele)

    1. Salve Michele,
      I’m so happy you discovered my blog and it’s wonderful to have you reading along. Thanks for sharing your point of view. I think no place in the world is perfect and humans are always so restless (I know I am). I spent many years complaining about Italy’s shortcomings but it didn’t change them nor did it make me feel much better. I like to think I’m honest, I don’t idealise things and I try to keep it real. I believe there is always something to be shared or learned from the world. I try to find the interesting stories. I don’t forget the negative, just try to move beyond it. I think the best lesson to learn from Italy is how Italians are able to be happy despite their countries shortcomings. That’s the most fascinating story.
      Thanks for commenting.
      Hope you are keeping safe✌

  2. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Cinepanettone! One of the traditions I miss most this year is going to the cinema with my friend to see one of those funny and lighthearted movies! Happy Holidays, Rochelle!

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