Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
In almost a one-man tour-de-force, Cesare Zavattini wrote, directed, and acted (as Antonio, an 80-year-old man locked up in a mental institution) in this witty, sharply-paced send-up of the hypocrisies of the world. When people seem to be as brain-dead as Antonio suspects, then extreme action is needed to bring them around -- and so he escapes from his confinement to bring his message to a slightly deaf world. He shouts anti-Christian slogans in the Catacombs that once protected Christian lives, and he climbs up on a balcony made famous by Mussolini and does his own haranguing -- asking people to spit up all the meaningless old words they continually use and create new, accurate, and liberating words. At one point, Antonio has a discussion with the Pope in which they both agree that violence and killing have got to be stopped -- but neither the Pope nor the "madman" seem to be able to come up with a shared solution. One of Antonio's methods -- to freeze-frame the violence shown on television and therefore, "stop" it -- just does not seem to have the effect he desires. If the Pope and television cannot stop society's worst problems, then the situation has really gotten out of hand.