When Italians think about how Milan appeared in movies over the years, they definitely think about the irresistible Toto and Peppino out of “Toto, Peppino, and the Hussy” – the 1956 film directed by Camillo Mastrocinque. The main characters are two Neapolitan landowners visiting Milan, at the north of the country. Despite the spring season, our heroes arrive at the station wearing an unlikely Cossack-like outfit, making the Milanese smirk at them.
Many films inspired by Milan propose similar scenes, in which an immigrant from the South of the country finds himself pulled into the large and active northern city. These films tell stories of difficult integration, alternating comic or grotesque situations. But Milan is also an expression of a labor culture that has led it to be the symbol of the economic boom at the turn of the last century. Many Italian filmmakers have actually used the city as a film set to tell stories of desire for personal achievement and social redemption, or to shed light on some aspects of mass industrialization.
Let us try to discover the second Italian city by number of inhabitants, keeping in mind the films that have celebrated its various corners and the personality of its inhabitants. From Mario Camerini, that here in 1932 shot his “Men, you rascals …”, the film that brought Milan and the Cathedral for the first time on the big screen and now provides us with the memory of a city that already showed all its activity and vitality. The critic Filippo Sacchi, from the columns of the Corriere della Sera, reviewed it this way: “It’s the first time we see Milan on the screen. Well, who could have imagined that it was so photogenic? “.
If you are planning on visiting Milan, you must obviously start from the Piazza del Duomo, the city’s symbol. The most important monuments are in fact in the historical center, in the streets around the large square that is dominated by the cathedral, one of the largest churches in Europe. From there you can take a journey to discover true symbols of the city, such as the Castello Sforzesco, or the artistic heritage preserved at the Pinacoteca di Brera. But to think of Milan also means the Fashion Week or the Salone del Mobile, or to be more actual, EXPO 2015. Milano the gray, is in fact a vital, lively, and economically dynamic city.
And Piazza Duomo is the backdrop to the famous scene of flying brooms of “Miracle in Milan”, Vittorio De Sica’s masterpiece of 1951. In the dreamy film the protagonist is an orphaned boy who dreams of a world where “Good morning really wantsto say a good morning.” In the final scene – which seems to have been inspirational for the scene of the flying bicycles in “ET” by Steven Spielberg – the protagonist, along with a group of homeless people, steals the brooms of a group of garbage collectors, and then flies away on top of them towards that world he dreamed of.
And yet, the desire for personal achievement and improvement of one’s condition are the basis of “Rocco and His Brothers”, the 1960 film by Luchino Visconti. On the other side the industrialized man in the grip of neurosis, in some way an archetype of the great workers of Lombardy, is the protagonist of the beautiful “The Working Class Goes to Heaven”, a film by Elio Petri of 1971 with an immense Gian Maria Volonte.
To satisfy the most curious, and also provide some inspiration for visiting Milan via a walk off the beaten track, we can remind you that “Nirvana” by Gabriele Salvatores was shot almost entirely in the Portello district of Milan, in the old Alfa Romeo factories, while “Chemical Hunger” – Antonio Bocola and Paolo Vari, 2007 – is set among the youth of the Barona, the suburban South of Milan. Mario Monicelli has also set “Popular novel” (1974), with Ugo Tognazzi, Ornella Muti and Michele Placido, in the tenement of the New Tower of Sesto San Giovanni and in the district of Lambiate.
Milan is then a continuous interweaving of its places and personalities that are modeled inside it. Over the years, we have seen so many aspects of the city and its old and new inhabitants in the movies: from the dream of improving their condition entrusting everything to a difficult and long journey, via the Milan of the factories and the “Milan to drink” in the most frivolous and fanciest meaning of the term. In these films we saw unforgettable comic scenes, as well as many occasions for reflection on the Italian culture and society. Such as the film that received the Golden Lion for Best Film at the 67th Venice Film Festival in Venice in 2010: we’re talking about “Somewhere” by Sofia Coppola. The American director uses Milan, and the Telegatti awards ceremony, to speculate on the emptiness that surrounds environments such as television, where appearance is worth a thousand times more than any substance, and the mouth serves mainly to smile.
Small ideas to have a trip around Milan and immerse yourself in the history and culture of a city, taking inspiration from the eyes of filmmakers who have looked at it in about 80 years of film history. And also to avoid sounding like Antonio from “Toto, Peppino, and the Hussy”, who spoke these words upon arriving in the city: “Now that we are finally in Milan, shall we go see this famous Colosseum?”.