Scent Of A Woman
Receiving a belated American video release, the 1974 Italian film Scent Of A Woman is in many respects darker, more uncompromising, and more involving than its better-known 1992 remake, which is most famous for giving Al Pacino a belated and undeserved Academy Award for his scenery-chewing turn as a blind retired military officer. Unfortunately, while the original is in many ways superior to the saccharine, melodramatic Hollywood remake, it's still not an especially good film. Vittorio Gassman plays the protagonist, an alcoholic, misanthropic, sexist pig who takes a young soldier along with him for one final weekend of debauchery before a planned double suicide with a fellow disabled retired army officer. But while the Hollywood film takes great pains to show its protagonist as a kind-hearted, charismatic romantic who hides behind a gruff exterior, Gassman plays him as a miserable, drunken, whoring failure lashing out at a world that doesn't accept him. In place of Pacino's tango-dancing and self-righteous monologues, Gassman limits himself to fondling nubile companions, engaging in drunken rages, and emotionally abusing anyone who comes close to him. Of course, the Hollywood remake's superfluous prep-school subplot/finale is absent from the Italian original; in fact, there's a distinct sense that Gassman's character would rather stick his dick in an electrical socket than earnestly teach his young companion a lesson. Ironically, what makes the Italian Scent such a drag is the exact opposite of what's wrong with its remake: Whereas the Hollywood version turned its two protagonists into lovable scamps, the two leads in this movie are so thoroughly unlikable that it's difficult to care about them. Gassman has no admirable traits, while his companion is a shallow, bland youth who never seems less than irritated by the cranky blind man. Neither of the two films is anything special, but they do illustrate Hollywood's remarkable ability to reduce tricky, unconventional fare into crowd-pleasing, predictable star vehicles.