The 1960s and 1970s were a flourishing period for what was defined as the “Italian comedy”. A cinematographic genre that makes fun of Italians’ vices and defects, even those of the past. Paul the heat (1973), directed by Marco Vicario, belongs to this trend. A film as irreverent as it is disruptive, with the scenes shot in the heart of Catania.
It represents a family of barons, called Castorini, completely prey to lust, to see in every woman the rudimentary sexual desire. The grandfather (Lionel Stander) and uncle Edmondo (Gastone Moschin) are totally slaves of the most primal instincts, whose nephew Paolo (Giancarlo Giannini) inherits all of this. The latter, who is the protagonist of the film, begins his sexual experiences with the maid Giovanna (Ornella Muti). Various events have shaken Paul and his addiction to sex. First of all, the death of his father Michele (Riccardo Cucciola), by suicide, who distinguished himself from the other family members for his moral integrity. It is understood that his gesture was dictated by a deep intolerance towards that dissolute, narrow, mediocre, arrogant context.
So Paul decides to go to Rome to live there, but here too he gives in to lust, passing from one lover to another. He realizes more and more that he cannot offer women anything besides the sexual dimension. This causes him deep anger and frustration. He returns to Catania for the disappearance of his mother, after several years, and the death of a child, a housekeeper, makes him reflect, once again, on the meaning of his life. He tries to save himself by marrying the pharmacist’s niece, but no sexual understanding exists between the two. She is inhibited and leaves Paolo. He tended to resemble his father Michele in terms of temperament. but now he finds himself alone, facing a crossroads, whether to continue to give in to lust or to give up.
Paolo the heat: period and places of the setting
The events of the film are placed in the span of time that goes from the fascist period to the second postwar period. Many scenes are set in Catania, in places such as via Crociferi and piazza Dante. The scene in which Paolo, as a boy, goes to visit the maid Giovanna, now isolated, was shot in Forza D’Agrò. The rest of the story takes place in Rome. The film constitutes the cinematographic transposition of the homonymous novel by Vitaliano Brancati. These, as in the Bell’Antonio, he criticizes Gallism, an attitude very rooted in the south. The difference between the two films is that while Mastroianni’s character is melancholy, in Paul the heat grandfather, uncle and nephew are grotesque, greedy, insatiable. Loneliness then breaks into their lives. The following year, 1974, the parody was released Paul the cold, starring Franco and Ciccio.
Meanings of the film
The main emerging aspect is that of individuals who do not have a good relationship with sexuality. Sicily, until a few decades ago, was a land where the sexual dimension has passed as something sinful. Therefore the behavior of the Castorini family constitutes a reactivity towards this. Sexuality becomes an obsession to be pursued to be pursued at all costs, rather than balancing it with other dimensions and therefore striving for a greater balance.
Grandfather, uncle and nephew are insatiable, they see the woman as an object to satisfy their appetites. They themselves tend towards self-objectification: beyond sensuality they are unable to offer anything in terms of feelings, intellect, creativity. An irreverent film towards the idea of demonstrating irrepressible virility at all costs, as a sign that distinguishes.