Dec 122010

The film Big Night not only touches on important Italian food themes including immigration and good food. But it is also works from almost every angle as a work of art: acting, script, cinematography…

For the uninitiated the film is divided between two restaurants Primo and Secondo’s Paradiso and Pascal’s Italian Grotto, the first representing integrity and good cooking, the other, across the road, shameless commercialisation.

The present author has the pleasure of watching Big Night a couple of times a year with classes and his last viewing he felt that he had peeled away yet another of its many layers.

The Paradiso is always associated with white from the tablecloths to the waiter’s clothes; the Grotto with red – including red lighting within and red neon signs. The Grotto is also the route to intoxication – it is through the Grotto (Pascal’s wife) that Secondo gets his supply of illicit alcohol.

Pascal, the boss of the grotto, with his name relating to Christ’s death, is a diabolical individual who tells Secondo ‘I am anything I need to be at any time’ and who at one point chases a chef out of his kitchen while the chef is on fire!

Secondo, in their final confrontation, tells Pascal that Pascal is ‘nothing’ (classic Catholic description of evil) and that Secondo’s saintly brother Primo ‘lives in a world above you [i.e. Pascal]’. Primo, meanwhile, refers to angels in his conversation with his love Anne…

Heaven vs Hell, Paradise vs Underground Cave, White vs Red, Integrity vs Manipulation. It is crude but unlike many symbolic systems it doesn’t irritate.

Next viewing this author will be worrying about all the references to cowboys and pioneers that are still obscure. SY

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