by Enrico Petrucci

C’è ancora domani (There's Still Tomorrow), Paola Cortellesi's first work as director, has become a box office hit. A success that is on the verge of surpassing 30 million euros and perhaps surpassing at Italy box-office the other year hit: Barbie. And like Barbie, C’è ancora domani shares that of having become a "feminism vs. patriarchy" media case.

Just a media bubble or a deserved success? Certainly, the media case for C’è ancora domani was also initially fueled (perhaps also to obscure the good but patriarchal Comandante with Pierfrancesco Favino). But unlike Barbie, which also lends itself to antithetical readings (here the two opposing analyses of Machiavelli, the positive one and the negative one). For Paola Cortellesi's film, the verdict is immediate: cinematically, it is an excellent film.

Cortellesi stays on the safe side of neorealist stylistic devices, playing with the viewer and realizing a plot twist in the vein of Shyamalan and Nolan (we warn the reader that there will be spoilers). Openly, the film remains a hybrid: a drama constructed with the gags and characters of a comedy. And there is no lack of verbosity. Even with these elements, the audience leaves the theater satisfied.

The limitations (and problems) of C’è ancora domani are not technical. The problems are on the symbolic and communicative level of what this film has become. Perceived and narrated as a kind of double documentary on the patriarchy of Italy then and Italy now, and not as the kind of fairy-tale satire that it really is.

To ascribe to C’è ancora domani a real documentary and social redemptive value to the film and its "narrative sleight of hand" is not only a mistake. C’è ancora domani realizes a nihilistic vision of the social redemption of the protagonist Delia. The uncritical appreciation of C’è ancora domani leads to a Catch 22 paradox: one emancipates oneself by voting, but at the same time voting is completely useless, because seventy years later the patriarchy of the abusive Sor Ivano is still there.

More than the movie itself (we repeat: valid), the reflection it provokes has something surreal about it and becomes the litmus test of the objective limits of the Italian cultural debate and of that kind of psychological subservience to the totem of cinematic neorealism.

A powerful idea inspired by Anna Garofalo

Ma prima entrare nel dettaglio delle letture di C’è ancora domani è necessario svelare il plot-twist che lo ha portato al successo. Il film parte come dramma d’impronta neorealista: Delia, moglie e madre vittima delle violenze del marito vive come unica prospettiva di riscatto il matrimonio della primogenita con un “buon partito”. Su questo canone classico s’innesta quella che sembra una prospettiva di fuga di Delia con un vecchio amore, il meccanico interpretato da Vinicio Marchioni che sta per emigrare al nord. Ma scopriremo alla fine che l’agognata fuga di Delia non è andare al nord con la vecchia fiamma, né nella posta si è palesata una lettera d’amore. La lettera è una scheda elettorale e la “fuga” è la l’andare a votare per il referendum monarchia-repubblica e per le elezioni dell’assemblea costituente: il primo voto aperto al suffragio femminile.

An allegory between love letters and ballot papers, inspired by journalist Anna Garofalo's phrase at the end of the movie: ballot papers as love letters. The trick works, the viewer is deceived. The trick is successful.

The viewer is satisfied. But when you think about it, it turns out to be just a trick: the characters are just gimmicks serving the gag, completely unmotivated. The context is dramatic, but the resolution is comic.

Stereotypes between patriarchy and gags

The fact that C’è ancora domani is more a satirical fable than an example of neorealism is made clear by the continuous gags that make the husband's violence "comic": the film begins with the two of them waking up and the husband responding to his wife's "good morning" with a backhanded blow. And the father of the protagonist who is just as violent and maniacal as his son, insists to the heir that he beats his wife too often, ergo 'violence' loses its meaning. He then unravels in a gag according to the father that the couple's problems stem from the fact that the son did not marry one of his cousins. Anthropological-cultural background of the Italian province? Nah, the gimmick of marrying (or not) cousins is an old The Simpsons gag (Episode 24, season 6). This father-in-law is more like the late Gino Bramieri's Nonno Felice (an old politically incorrect sit-com) than a violent symbol of patriarchy.

A story that proceeds with gags or directorial virtuosity. Even successful ones, like the violence that turns into a kind of dance to the notes of Nessuno song, rearranged by the vocal and double bass duo Musica Nuda. Pure cinema that reminds us, in an age of cancellation culture, how to deal with drama and misfortune with irony. Dangerously, the scene seems to suggest that the victim is also an accomplice, accepting the violence in a tragic pas de deux.

An 'explosive mix'?

Everything in C’è ancora domani is deliberately exaggerated. And to "blow up" her daughter's wedding, when Delia realizes that her future son-in-law will be as violent as Mastrandea's Sor Ivano, she goes so far as to blow up the groom's family bar with the help of an American military policeman!

Paola Cortellesi's fairy tale realizes a scene that refers to the imagery of racketeering and becomes the narrative junction to resolve a marriage in danger. The choice to solve the violence of the patriarchy with TNT in front of a shutter seems like a gag of the comedian Renato Minutolo when he imitates the historian Alessandro Barbero... "With violence you can solve everything, you just have to use enough of it...".

There is still tomorrow to continue with the exaggeration: it amuses or moves the spectator without bothering to mature the consciousness of the protagonist Delia. The maturation of the characters takes place, as they say in Boris (a sitcom set behind the scenes of the worst Italian TV dramas): "suddenly and senselessly".

The same daughter and fiancée, a kind of feminist talking cricket in the first half of the movie, it is not clear why she is so self-conscious. She is a daughter of the patriarchy and a brutalized mother in working-class Rome in 1946: where did she get all this class consciousness? With a little effort, the screenwriters could have mentioned the trade union, or put a book like There's No Turning Back by de Céspedes on the girl's bedside table? Nothing, one wonders maliciously if this maturation of the girl does not depend on having attended the fascist youth organization before 1943... a bit like all those great communist intellectuals who came from the ranks of the GUF, Fascist University Student organization !

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A fairy tale to think about representation?

Gags and good direction that keep the viewer entertained until the final reveal. All the women in the movie (who have never shown any female solidarity among themselves) find themselves voting. The vote in the ballot box as a love letter to the common good. The intrinsic value of the liturgy of voting. A beautiful message in times when, between Brexit and Trump, universal suffrage is considered a danger and democracy is overrated. But at the same time, are we sure that the message of C’è ancora domani is really positive?

A fine analysis from a historical-memetic and cinematic point of view was made by Marco Grosoli on the cinema website Grosoli writes:

"If the movie believed this perspective, as myriads of well-meaning viewers seem incredibly and stubbornly determined to believe it, it would be the ugliest, most qualunquist and miserable movie in the world. It would be a movie that says to the audience: "Give up all hope of social advancement and believe in history, because progress will come automatically, without you developing the slightest form of conscience".

The Paradox: a Catch-22 Between Choice and Patriarchy

But it is not only what Grosoli observes about the film itself and the genuine enthusiasm that greeted it. The problem is also that C’è ancora domani was received as a kind of documentary, as a testimony of lived life (as Paola Cortellesi says in interviews, it's also inspired by her grandmother's stories) and as a denunciation of the prevailing patriarchy. And among many enthusiastic reviewers of the film, another paradox is realized (in addition to the nihilistic reading pointed out by in 1946, people voted against patriarchy, but patriarchy is still here.

From genuine enthusiasm for C’è ancora domani, we moved on to an uncritical acceptance of every implication of the film. This was made possible by three conditions. The objective impoverishment of the intellectual debate, the movie is liked because it is 'w democracy ʍ the patriarchy'. A conditioned reflex worthy of George Orwell's Ministry of Truth's newspeak mechanics.

Then there is the play of parts in a public opinion that combines the usual morbid attention to crime news with forms of moral panic that the government itself seems unable to escape. Ergo, this (like Barbie) is the movie that is needed, and word of mouth is joined by the bass drum of the media. Seeing the movie is a political action before it is a movie. It is a form of affective learning and begins with school matinees.

The ambiguous myth of neorealism

But there is one last element that contributed to its instinctive success with the general public and seems to have nullified any cognitive defense in the analysis of the film. C’è ancora domani is a perfect combination of the neorealist mood with elements of “commedia all’italiana” genre. The movie rings true, not because it is truthful (in fact, it does everything not to be), but because it blends in with these stylistic elements. It is an internalized neo-realism for which Italy can only be the ragamuffin of the shoeshine boys and the cunning losers of so much Italian comedy. A kind of negative myth, internalized by generations, even though the two trends themselves cover only a small part of the long adventure of Italian cinema.

When people say that postwar Italy lacks myths, they are wrong. The combination of neorealism and Italian-style comedy is now a powerful and entrenched myth, and what's worse, Italians don't even realize they're living in it. The success of C’è ancora domani can be explained in this way.

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Essayist and popularizer, among his publications Alessandro Blasetti. Il padre dimenticato del cinema italiano (Idrovolante, 2023). With Emanuele Mastrangelo Wikipedia. L’Enciclopedia libera e l’egemonia dell’in­formazione (Bietti, 2013) and Iconoclastia. La pazzia contagiosa della cancel culture che sta distruggendo la nostra storia (Eclettica, 2020).