Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fatty Girl Goes to New York (Umberto Lenzi, 1982)

"First of all, what's the point of going to New York if everyone there speaks Italian? You might as well have called it "Fatty Girl Goes to Roma." Another clear giveaway was the fact that all the members of the television crew wore lab coats (something they only seem to do in Italy). And secondly, you expect me to believe that a slender disco queen in her mid-twenties is a fat teenager just because she wears high collars and turtleneck sweaters, and always seems to holding her breath? I don't think so." Hey, you! Get away from that keyboard. Yeah, you. Scram! C'mon, vamoose! What the hell did that pratt just write? Ugh, what a load of crap. I'm sorry, but looks like some wannabe "film critic" wandered into my realm and started typing words about the amazing Fatty Girl Goes to New York (a.k.a. Cicciabomba) without the express written consent of the House of Self-Indulgence. (Why don't you just delete what they wrote?) No, I want everyone to see what kind of lameness they would have to endure if I wasn't around to set them on the path towards righteousness. All right, now that I've done that, let's get this thing underway, shall we? It's racist, it's anti-gay, it looks down on fat people, it promotes bullying, and yet, it's totally awesome. And get this, it's directed by Umberto Lenzi. (You mean the guy best known for making Cannibal Ferox and Nightmare City?) Yep, that's him. Sure, there were parts of this film that made me uncomfortable, but any motion picture that goes out of its way to foster Italian legginess is okay in my book.

Growing up with a parent who had zero respect for the nation of Italy and not being a fan myself of mafia movies, I had a preconceived view about all things Italian. And let's just say, that view was mostly negative. As I grew up, I began to form my own opinions. And slowly but surely, I started to become exposed to Italian pop culture. At first, it started with horror movies. Then, in the spring of 2005, I discovered Italo Disco. Thanks to the internet, the powers that be (square, close-minded program directors) could no longer prevent me from hearing the music of the world. And after being given this new-found freedom of choice, I repeatedly found myself gravitating towards the synthy grooves of Italo Disco.

One of the first artists I came across who performed this style of music was Donatella Rettore. While technically not "Italo Disco" in the traditional sense (Rettore's music seems more influenced by punk, ska, and new wave, plus she sings, for the most part, in Italian - the majority of Italo Disco artists sing in English), she was close enough to fit the bill.

Looking like Anne Carlisle from Liquid Sky from certain angles (what am I talking about, she looks like Anne Carlisle from Liquid Sky from every angle), Donatella Rettore's brash appearance and slick sound really struck a chord with me.

However, when I heard that Donatella Rettore had starred in a movie that came out in 1982, the same year she released Kamikaze Rock 'n' Roll Suicide, I was somewhat skeptical. The reason? Well, for starters, the film's total lack of zombies, crazed killers in black leather gloves, women in prison or blood thirsty cannibals was troubling to me. And after my initial interest had faded, I sort of forgot about the movie.

Well, after giving myself a swift kick in the pants, I'm happy to say, I finally took the plunge, and I'm ready devour Donatella Rettore's film debut as Miris Bigolin with the full force of the area between my chin and forehead. (What about your genitals?) What about them? (Aren't they going to devour the film, too?) I guess. Anyway, ciao, and welcome to Happy, Italy. (That can't be right.) No, she said the town was called "Happy." (I don't know 'bout you, but that's kind of obnoxious. Nonetheless, don't forget to mention the opening credits.) Oh, yeah. They're set to a Rettore song and feature cartoonish drawings of the lead character getting into all kinds of comedic situations of a sticky nature.

Waking up at 6:35am, we quickly learn that Miris Bigolin (Donatella Rettore), who shares a room with her beauty queen sister Deborah (Gena Gas), doesn't like to be called "cicciabomba," which means "fatty girl." Her sister finds this out the hard way, after she receives to two pimp-quality slaps to the face. While Debbie is, according to her mother, "the pride of the village," Miris is a bit of pariah. You see, on top of being overweight (which I guess was frowned upon in early '80s Italy), Miris is causing headaches for the dipshits who run church radio station she works at. They want her spin classical music, but she insists on playing that newfangled new wave music.

As she's getting on her motorcycle to go to school, Miris gets in a confrontation with a waiter. The only reason I'm mentioning this is because Miris confronts the same waiter later on in the film. (Meaning?) Oh, I'm just pointing out, in my own awkward way, that the film isn't afraid to employ recurring gags.

Shirking complicated makeup effects, the makers of Fatty Girl Goes to New York basically stuff a couple of pillows underneath Donatella Rettore's clothes and shove cotton balls in her mouth. Oh, and to avoid using a prosthetic to give Miris a double chin, they simply cover her neck with scarfs and high collars. Though, they do use makeup to give Pinocchia (Adriana Russo), Miris' best friend, her trademark nose. (How do you know that's not her real nose?) Trust me, it's not.

While Pinocchia is obsessed with boys, it's obvious that Miris prefers cake. (Wow, that was a cruel thing to say.) No, Miris says, and I quote, "Boys?!? I prefer cake." Strangely enough, the boy Pinocchia is obsessed with, Mirko Mariani (Dario Caporaso), takes a liking to Miris. Well, not really, he wants her to do his Greek homework, which she agrees to do in exchange for a date. Before you call Miris naive for falling the oldest trick in the book, she has a trick up her clownish sleeve as well. Oh, and when I say, "clownish sleeve," I ain't being cute, her current wardrobe is beyond clownish.

After beating up a couple of homophobic scumbags (they were picking on Bimbo, the town's thoughtful Marilyn Monroe impersonator) and receiving a lecture from her lame bosses, Miris revels with her friends over the fact that Mirko was expelled for his Greek homework, or I should, say, her Greek homework (word on the street is, it was a tad on the crass side). Venting his anger at Miris and, what he declares, "The Ugly Girls Gang," Mirko vows to get his revenge.

Pretending to be "Angelo," Mirko pulls a nasty prank on Miris, one that culminates with Mirko and his sycophantic band of creepozoids hosing Miris with water while chanting "cicciabomba" at her. Had enough with being picked on, Miris decides to kill herself... Damn, this film took a dark turn. Don't worry, as she's preparing to seal her doom, she learns that she has just won a trip to New York City. So, in other words, suicide can wait, it's time to hit The Big Apple.

Barely off the plane, Miris is offered to be the spokesperson for a new weight loss program that involves swordfish extract or some bizarre shit like that by the hoty-toity  Baronessa Judith von Kemp (Anita Ekberg) and Arthur (Howard Napper), her English lackey.

Realizing that being the test subject for a new fad diet isn't all it's cracked up to be, Miris struggles to lose weight in the early going.

Then one night, while dreaming of food, Miris wakes up to get a snack. Passing a mirror on her way to the kitchen, she barely recognizes herself. Letting out a scream, Miris is suddenly svelte and... (Don't you dare say fabulous. She still dresses like a clown.) In order to complete her transformation, Arthur sicks a hairdresser and a stylist on Miris.

The newly refurbished Miris makes her debut on national television. Bursting through a photo of her former self, Miris is now a new wave goddess. And get this, she's a pop star, too. (Huh?) Just go with it, man. Now sporting shortish blonde hair, Miris, who is wearing a red blazer as a dress and a pair of red tights, performs a song about exploding heads and sandwiches. Accompanied by six or seven dandies in tuxedos, Miris is a hit. Meaning, everybody loves her.

(Are you sure this is the right message you should sending young people? Lose weight, get a new wave-friendly makeover, and people will like you.) I don't know. Who cares. (Oh, when you put it that way.)

Deciding to strike while the iron is hot, Miris does a series of photo shoots for magazines such as Time, Vogue and Life. And you know what that means? (Overexposure?) Well, yeah. But more importantly, more kooky outfits. My favourite outfit from the photo shoot being the black leather and lace get-up. In terms of the entire film, my fave would have to be the orange and purple new wave get-up with the Chinese theme.

You'll notice that newly refurbished Miris utilizes her legs more than she did before. In fact, I didn't even know the pre-makeover Miris had legs. At any rate, Miris uses her legs to her advantage on four separate occasions. (Are you sure it wasn't more like six?) Yeah, you could be right, she does flaunt her legs a lot in this film. And why wouldn't she? They're only her best new feature. If I was suddenly blessed with long, shapely legs, the kind that drive Italian men and their non-Italian allies wild with desire, I would flaunt them as well. Hell, I don't think I would wear pants ever again if I had Rettore's gams.

When Miris discovers that her legs look great in red nylons, black nylons and even white nylons, she decides to go back to Italy to settle a score. (You mean get back at Mirko?) Exactly. Reuniting with The Ugly Girls Gang, who, like, Miris, have who have all gotten makeovers as well, Miris wields her lengthy legs like they were two mouthwatering batons of corporal comeuppance.

Since she's going to need to do more than just thrust her lusty legs in the faces of her enemies, Miris, who is, it should be noted, now unrecognizable to most of the townspeople (even her delusional grandmother doesn't recognize her), hatches a plan to sabotage Mirko's engagement with the mayor's daughter.

Will Miris and The Ugly Girls Gang come out on top? Who's to say? All I know is, Fatty Girl Goes to New York was a refreshing change of pace from the stuff I usually watch. While I didn't agree with the message the film seemed to be putting out there, it's light and frothy fun from start to finish. (Are you sure about that? Two characters nearly commit suicide and Miris and The Ugly Girls Gang force feed Mirko's fiance junk food--making her fat in the process. And I don't want to alarm you, but I think Miris's grandmother might have Alzheimer's.) Okay, minus the moments you just mentioned, it's light and frothy fun.


  1. Anita Ekberg looks uncomfortable as hell during that entire scene you posted. Especially at the end when she's looking back at the camera. "I need this payday... not much else coming down the pipe."

    Now I better go eat something and listen to goth music or I'll start crying.

    1. Don't say that, as that's all I'm going to think about the next time I watch the scene. ;)

    2. 【between tears and bites of comfort eating, while desperate music wails in the background】

      I just looked at IMDB. Her next film wasn't for another four years. And there hasn't been much after that. According to wikipedia her recent years in old age have been extremely difficult health and money wise.

      This shoot must have sucked for Anita. She's put on weight due to the natural processes of aging. I think she still looks goddamn amazing in that clip. But she is no longer super slim and beauty-pageant ready (i.e. insane proportions) like 22 years earlier in "La Dolce Vita." And her role is as an older lady hawking diet pills to a fat girl whose life is made perfect due to extreme weight loss. While in her own professional life she is probably having a tough time getting work because she's in her early 50s, has limited acting range (she may be Swedish but was never Ingrid Thulin, Bibi Andersson, Harriet Andersson, or Gunnel Lindblom), and is now normal human sized. Unlike the film's star. Talk about a burn.

    3. I just looked at her IMDB. I'm surprised by how little I've seen of her. But then again, I tend to only watch movies made between 1970-1995.

      Oh, and Ingrid Thulin is the shit in Salon Kitty.

    4. I should get around to watching "Salon Kitty," considering how much I love Ingrid Thulin. She was in about nine or so Bergman films, I think. With "Winter Light" and "The Silence" being her finest performances. "The Face" ("The Magician") are also excellent. She moved to Italy in 1970 and lived there for over thirty years. So I'm not surprised that Tinto Brass showed up outside her door, probably begging her to be in his movie.

      Now that I think of it, "Fatty Girl" was directed by Umberto Lenzi. So any dark or really mean-spirited moments should be totally expected.

    5. You could be right about Umberto being responsible for the mean/dark moments, but I think he just took the gig for the money.

    6. I think that's why Umby took ALL those gigs.

      Eurospy, peplum, westerns, giallo, violent crime dramas, cannibals, gore. Umby did 'em all! Honestly, though, that takes some ability behind the camera to just tackle whatever project the studio/producers throw at you.

  2. I'm dying here. And I'm Italian.

    See, I wear a lot of turtlenecks because they hide my double chin. Oh, who am I fooling? I wore turtlenecks when I was super skinny! Turtlenecks never go out of style. :)

    Yes, darn radio station program directors! I had one in college who hated new wave music--this was the early 90s and everyone was on the grunge bandwagon--so I used to piss him off and play Ultravox. No one's going to stop me from exposing as many of my fine city's denizens to Midge Ure!!!!!

    Did you see the Key and Peele took a picture with LIAM NEESONS!!!!

    1. Turtlenecks make my neck itchy.

      Grunge is just heavy metal dressed up in flannel.

      It's not exactly Midge Ure-related, but I'm currently obsessed with Systems of Romance.

      No. Did they explode into a million little pieces? :D

    2. I used to love Nirvana. But haven't listen to them since my early teens. Hate to say it but I just grew out of them. Not sure why I went back to listening to old death metal several years ago. And now get way more out of it. I bought the limited edition Morbid Angel "Blessed are the Sick" remaster digipack CD the other day. At the same time as Ministry's "With Sympathy." Not as good as "Twitch." But still fun.

  3. Oh, and I had no idea you were such a big fan of Ayayron Paul.

    1. I love Ayayron Paul! He's adorable. I hope he'll have a career after Breaking Bad.

      I've been listening to Ultravox all day. I blame you. :)

    2. Speaking of Ayayrons, Ayayron Eckhart is playing Frankenstein?!?

      The Ultravoxs in my SHIT!!!!