Judge Josh Rode doesn't really care for coffee; he relies on Diet Pepsi for his caffeine fixes.
Man consumes in the battle of love far greater energy than the woman. Therefore he must feed himself.
A large hunk of director Alberto Lattuada's filmography consists of dark films with touches of social satire and as much eroticism as the Italian film industry of his time would allow. All of those facets are present to some degree in Come Have Coffee With Us. At its heart this is a comedy, but one with dark undertones and an overt sexuality that should tell you a lot about Lattuada's attitude toward both women and late 1960s Italian society.
Facts of the Case
Emerenziano Paronzini (Ugo Tognazzi, La Cage aux Folles) is single, aging, and looking for just the right situation to settle down in comfort. He finds what he's looking for in the Tettamanzi sisters: eldest Fortuna (Angela Goowin, The Consequences of Love), whose hair nearly reaches her ankles on those rare occasions she lets it down; Tarsilla (Francesca Romana Coluzzi, Red Sonja), whose long legs put her a head above everyone else; and Camilla (Milena Vukotic, Letters to Juliet), the youngest and meekest, whose delicate hands match her sensitive emotions. The sisters' wealthy father recently died, releasing them from lifetimes of forced chastity. It takes only a small amount of schmoozing for Emerenziano to convince Fortuna to marry him. Once living in their home, he finds the other sisters only too willing to succumb to his charms, and soon he is busy each night.
In a sense, Come Have Coffee With Us is a forerunner of today's American Pie-style sex comedies, although thanks to the social norms of his day much less excessive. There is no nudity and every time Emerenziano and one of the sisters is ready to have sex, the camera switches to a rooster crowing behind a hen. By definition, this would be considered an erotic film, but don't expect the sort of in-your-face titillation its descendants provide.
Come Have Coffee With Us takes the concept of a character-driven story to an extreme seldom seen in film. Lacking a conventional storyline, there is no climax to the narrative. Once the characters are settled in, the film becomes one long denouement. Each of the women, on the other hand, have individual climaxes—both narrative and literal—that mark their turning points from uncertain, sex-starved spinsters to ravenous, doting lovers. Unfortunately, they don't get equal screen time, leaving the viewer with only a surface understanding of two.
Only Tarsilla gets her own subplot, as a local man with a heavy debt seduces her into marriage, making the arc feel like a completely separate film. Aside from a couple of jealous glares from the boyfriend as Emerenziano drives past with Fortuna, the two plots don't have much interaction. Even Tarsilla makes no further mention of the subplot once its course is run. The irony is this arc contains all of the story forms the main narrative lacks; there's an introduction, a build up, climax, denouement, and a very nice resolution. There's even an unnecessary epilogue depicting the fate of the boyfriend.
Fortunately, the relatively short scenes and wry script work together to keep Come Have Coffee With Us feeling lively and fun despite its eccentricities and one-note performances. Tognazzi's Emerenziano is not your typical leading man, but what he lacks in charm, he more than makes up for in self-assurance, always in charge of every situation. Sadly, this confidence is pretty much the only emotion Tognazzi brings to the role, which limits his ability to make the audience learn much about him. All three women, likewise, have one primary attribute to go along with their one special physical trait. Fortuna is the eldest, attempting to stay prim and proper at all times. Tarsilla is bold. Camilla is meek. Beyond getting their long-awaited sexual releases, they are all basically the same people at the end as they were at the beginning.
If these descriptions of Come Have Coffee With Us leave you feeling a tad uneven, I'm not surprised. The entire experience feels less like a movie and more like a loosely-bound commentary on various aspects of Italian society of the day. Tarsilla's arc seems to exist only to show that men will stoop to any level to subvert women, and that the clergy is hypocritical and somewhat cruel. Emerenziano goes on an unprovoked dinnertime rant about war. Women are portrayed as repressed sexual beings who need a man to make them happy.
Raro Video offers up a decent standard definition 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with no major defects, minimal grain, and a fading color palette. Surprising, considering the age of the source material. The Dolby 2.0 mono Italian language track is adequate for a film that relies on a lot of speech. It's too bad there was no way to split the tracks into stereo; that would have put a nice emphasis on the sly music selections. The only extras—both courtesy of film historian Adriano Apra—are a lengthy discussion about the film (worth watching if only to see Apra's extraordinarily messed up teeth), and an even lengthier booklet featuring a complete history of Lattuada's film career.
Lattuada has a lot to say and doesn't let a story get in the way of saying it. If you don't insist on small details such as a traditional plot, Come Have Coffee With Us is a dark comedy with a few surprises up its sleeves that will keep you entertained throughout.
Eccentric, but not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Raro Video
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