Alternate Best Actor 1963: Alberto Sordi in Il Diavolo

Alberto Sordi did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning a Golden Globe, for portraying Amedeo Ferrettiin in Il Diavolo.

Il Diavolo is an interesting film that follows an Italian merchant through his travels in Sweden.

It is probably fair to say that Alberto Sordi’s Golden Globe win for best actor in a musical or comedy, is the most obscure winner in the history of the category. This is to the point that one ought to give that often dubious awards group some credit for recognizing a non-English language performance in a film that was not a major awards touchstone otherwise. They might have been on an Italian kick, with Marcello Mastroianni having won the previous year for Divorce, Italian Style, however that was an Oscar nominated turn as well. I won’t diminish the win though as this is rather a different turn to examine from comic actor Alberto Sordi. An actor, I’ll admit, I have only a limited perspective of in a few scant, though more than decent turns, in English language films, and his notable devastating turn in An Average Little Man. Of course that turn was one that went to a very dark place, however the nature of this role also has really two sides within it.

Sordi’s unique talents so strongly evident in that later performance is evident here as well though in perhaps lower stake circumstances. Our man Amedeo is just indeed an average man as well, but in the circumstances of just a business trip. A trip he foresees more for pleasure despite being a married man, of course. Sordi, even with this intention, brings a such a considerable charm through his affable screen presence. This making Amedeo’s endeavor almost have this certain oxymoronic innocence within it. This approach is effective however from his earliest moments of essentially admiring the local women who he comes across early in the film. Sordi brings the utmost earnestness in his energy in every one of his greetings towards these women however he manages to find just the right manner for this. In that he does certainly deliver the requisite lustful quality of Amedeo however he carefully does not over do it to the point of becoming excessively sleazy. He’s best instead by being just a bit sleazy however so well realized within Sordi’s comic manner that still finds a charm even within that.

Sordi’s performance is essential the film beyond his exact journey though in a particular way as he stands as a reactionary lead. This makes enough sense as his communication skills are limited as an Italian in Sweden, however how Sordi reacts to each given situation very much makes both the comedic and dramatic thrust through the film. Although less extreme than in An Average Little Man, Sordi’s performance very much functions within both atmospheres to realize Amedeo’s journey here. Sordi is very funny in initially keeping that same, lets not beat around the bush here, horny grin across his face with each potential “conquest” he meets. Sordi’s equally effective in conveying then the certain disappointment as each opportunity instead opens himself up to a different part of the Swedish culture that isn’t sex related. Sordi finds in these moments the right humorous disappointment in his expression in a given moment, but balances that with the right degree of shame all the same. A particularly wonderful scene is as he’s met with a carol instead of any sort of tryst, and his eyes convey so well the character’s certain dismay though that Sordi so effortless conveys to that quiet appreciation though with a definite embarrassment underlining it all.

Throughout Amedeo’s journey he does not discover a sex romp, but instead discovers a perhaps a little strange however still welcoming country with far more to offer him that debauchery. Sordi’s performance then becomes one of this interesting discovery of each new situation underlining each with a bit of Amedeo’s sort of discovery of each place while also creating a sense of the reflection of it within himself. In the grand finale, of sorts, we get really two sides of Sordi’s performance so effectively intertwined once again. This being mostly in a hilarious fashion throughout a sequence of ice car racing where Sordi’s reactions are priceless to the insane, rather dangerous, hi-jinks of his female host. When finally though it seems he’ll get his initial desire of sex, Sordi derives such a poignancy in his timid way of speaking the truths of a man who has in reality only been honorable to his wife despite his straying thoughts throughout. This is a wonderful turn as Sordi very much delivers on the promise of this goofy tourist looking for all the wrong things in all the wrong ways. His comic reactions are consistently funny throughout the film, but what takes the performance further is creating this honest sense of growth in the character. This in creating a genuine portrait of a man learning more about himself in what is an overarching comedic turn.

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