Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Montalbano and the slip of the sheets

Thanks to resolution of technological and delivery issues, I'm again watching the Italian television series based on Andrea Camilleri's Montalbano novels.

The Snack Thief, from the book of the same name, offers something missing from the TV versions of The Shape of Water and The Terra-Cotta Dog: Montalbano dining at the Trattoria San Calogero. I'd wondered if the director had dispensed with such scenes as part of the trimming necessary when adapting a book. But a short scene at the San Calogero about a quarter of the way through this episode has all the easy intimacy and food-loving joy of the books.

One minus: Television is less able than books to supply information for a gastronomic illiterate like me, and I can't always tell what Luca Zingaretti, as Montalbano, is eating on screen. One plus: Perhaps better than books, television can convey the pleasure that Montalbano takes in his food even when eating alone.

=============
I complained in November about Katharina Böhm's performances as Livia, and comments on my post suggested interesting reasons for the complaint. Böhm gives a better account of herself in The Snack Thief, possibly because the story makes greater demands on her.

And a simple slip of the sheets in one of her scenes highlights a difference between Italy and America. Livia and Montalbano are talking in bed, and they are fully awake as they do so. That means they're sitting up rather than lying down, and that means none of that nonsense one gets on American television with the woman pulling the sheets up to cover herself.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

Labels: , , , , ,

27 Comments:

Blogger solea said...

No fair, i can't wait to watch them! Supposedly att internets/cable allows u 2 purchase access to the Rai uno channel; of course att doesn't cover my area so i'll have to wait...
I bet i will like it better than watching Alain Delon as Montale.
Be sure to play Ornella Vanoni while watching!

January 13, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

solea, you may be able to watch them at the RAI website on your computer (w/o subtitles). You may be prompted to download a viewing application (possibly Microsoft Silverlight) in order to do so.

> www.montalbano.rai.it
> click on "Rivedi i Film Tv"

From that page you may select which episode you want to view.

I think I mentioned to Peter in another post that we purchased all the Montalbano DVDs (4 sets, with English subtitles) from Australia's Family Boxoffice website, www.fbo.com.au

It's easy to set your DVD player to "region-free" viewing if you have not already done so. Everyone in my family has enjoyed watching every episode at least once!

January 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solea, with a name like that, I can well understand your sensitivity to portrayals of Montale. I was surprised when I heard that someone had filmed Izzo's stories. It's hard to imagine any script doing them justice, but I wouldn't mind a look.

The Montalbano series is also available from MhZ Networks in Virginia. I'm not sure what region the discs are suitable for, though. MhZ sells the series as a complete set or in single DVDs with two episodes on each.

January 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, you had indeed mentioned elsewhere that you'd bought the Montalbano discs from Australia, but you had not mentioned the possibility of watching the series on the RAI Web site. Having read all eleven books thus far translated, and with my scraps of Italian, I might find a search there worthwhile. Thanks.

January 13, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, in several of the episodes the characters talk about what they are preparing, eating. One of my favorite scenes has Montalbano at the home of a man from whom he is soliciting info about a case. The man is preparing supper, he asks Montalbano, Would you like some? No, thanks, I've already eaten... What are you preparing? Pasta con i broccoli. Next scene = Montalbano and the man sitting at table scarfing down the pasta. I agree with you that the pleasures of eating are even more immediate when seen on screen.

There is a bit of excitement building in Italy as the next 4 Montalbano episodes are in the pre-production, location scouting stages in Sicily and I think RAI may be trying to get a bit of a buzz going as the Montalbano website there has new-and-improved video apps.

January 13, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, my two Italian friends, each of whom owns a restaurant, have just come into the Pen & Pencil Club. Luigi tells me that he loves Montalbano and that he shows the series at his restaurant. And, just like the proprietor of the San Calogero and Montalbano, he told me that even though he opens at 5, if I show up early -- at 2 or 3 -- he will cook me dinner.

The novel "Voice of the Violin" has a scene in which the old woman invites Montalbano to stay for lunch, and he tries to refuse because he thinks she'll serve gruel or some similar old-woman food. She corrects his impression, tells him her housekeeper is preparing some dish Montalbano loves, he salivates, and he joins her for a delicious lunch. To my mild disappointment, the television episode does not reproduce this scene.

January 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I found the RAI site, downloaded the necessary software, and started watching "Giro da Boia." It opens with a furious speech by Catarella, quite a treat for a non-Italian speaker like me, deprived of sub-titles.

I did hear a "pirsona pirsonalmente," which I had expected but did not remember having heard in previous episodes.

January 14, 2010  
Blogger Simona said...

Towards the end of The Snack Thief, Montalbano eats a cassatina while drilling the secret service agent.

January 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. That's quite a scene. Montalbano is a cool character to be able to enjoy a meal in such tense, angry circumstances.

I can think of two places to look for the recipe for a cassatina: your blog, and Stephen Sartarelli's footnotes.

January 14, 2010  
Blogger Simona said...

I have an entry in my blog for cassata, but not a recipe. Montalbano eats a small version. To make a cassata is on my wish list, but, in its full glory, it's quite a complex undertaking. To begin with, I'd need ricotta made with sheep's milk whey. When I finally get to it, it will be a simplified version of the dessert.

January 14, 2010  
Blogger Simona said...

I don't have the English version, so I am curious: what did Sartarelli say in his footnotes?

January 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

" ... in its full glory, it's quite a complex undertaking."

It appears that Adelina has challenged even your skills.

January 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know if Sartarelli gives an end note for cassata; I meant that his notes would be a good place to look. I think my copy of The Snack Thief is at work. I'll make a note to myself to check for a cassata note tomorrow.

Sartarelli does not provide recipes, but he will give the basic components of a dish mentioned in the text whose name he has wisely left in the original language, which in turn might make it unfamiliar to readers. His simple descriptions make enjoyably mouthwatering reading.

January 14, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Unfortunately, the page has not been updated in 4 ½ years but at the Italian language www.vigata.org/cucina/ricette.shtml are recipes for a number of the dishes mentioned in the Montalbano novels as well as the pages in the novels where they occur.

With the help of Web sites like Simona’s and a bit of online searching it is fairly easy to find English-language versions of these Sicilian treats. I made a version of a cassata once—what a project! My family liked the marzipan shell over the cake as this is also commonly found in a lot of Scandinavian cakes, like Princess cake. I wonder if my Norman ancestors liked those Sicilian almonds so much they took them back to Norway with them to develop their own marzipan treats.

If I’m not mistaken, a cassata plays a starring role at the end of “La pista di sabbia.”

January 14, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, I will be attending a conference in Philadelphia at the end of February. Is your friend Luigi's restaurant in the central city area? Its name? I think it would be fun to eat Italian food and watch a Montalbano at the same time (which of course we have done at home but it's not the same thing).

January 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I have learned that the Montalbano industry has spawned any number of Web sites offering Montalbano tours, Montalbano reciples and "libri nei libri di Montalbano."

Hmm, is Sciliy where marzipan came from? I always liked its appearance better than its taste, I must say. Of course, maybe I've never had the good stuff.

January 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Luigi's restaurant is in Center City, and so is Giancarlo's. Let me know before you arrive, and I'll see what I can arrange in the way of mealtime viewing. I'm unsure whether Salvo Montablano would approve of watching television while eating, though.

January 14, 2010  
Blogger solea said...

Cassata...both a sicillian dessert and an old world mafia murder technique.

Also, unfortunately, Delon as Montale is only okey. The books are portrayed in French "tv miniseries" and they don't quite portray Montale or the racism issues as I would like to see them. And, just in case you were going to ask, I would like to see Al Pacino from his role in Carlito Way's as Montale.

January 14, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, glad you were able to successfully download the Montalbano videos and enjoy them. I hope others will, too. A girlfriend of mine who has read all the novels and who speaks Spanish found she was able to get quite a bit out of the RAI programs.

I have several of the Montalbano-related books, including 2 cookbooks and 2 guidebooks to places in the Montalbano novels. “La Sicilia di Andrea Camilleri: tra Vigata e Montelusa” has a lot of nice photos and includes both places mentioned in the novels as well as those used as locations for the TV series. But there are many more Montalbano items out there! No board game, yet, though.

I think at least one origin of "marzapane" is in the Mediterranean. We saw lots of marzipan treats in Sicily -- including a wide variety of almond paste marzipan pastries decorated and colored to resemble fruits and other objects. We have the same thing in Norway where pigs made of marzipan paste are a good luck gift at Christmas. Not everyone likes marzipan; it can be quite sweet and it's not always prepared as smoothly as it should be. But with a dark chocolate covering a marzipan bar can tempt most candy lovers.

Sicily in almond-tree-blooming time is supposed to be exceptionally pretty.

And thanks for the offer of a potential Montalbano mealtime viewing.

January 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solea, is cassata the technique similar to hog-tying, in which the victim is tied behind his back by the neck and the ankles and is thus forced to strangle himself? Sartarelli does explain that in his end notes.

I remember remarking somewhere that I was surprised Izzo had been committed to the screen because of the rawness of the stories, his consideration of racism included. Pacino, something of a live wire, might be a good choice as Montale. I wondder if Alain Delon was too cool for a role like that.

January 14, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The Dutch crime writer A.C. Baantjer is the subject of a board game, so Camilleri has something to look forward to.

It would be fun to watch Montalbano with someone who can understand what's happening on screen.

January 14, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, I followed Elisabeth's instructions per Montalbano and watched Il ladro di merendine on RAI. My Italian runs the gamut from Ciao to Arriverderci but I was able to follow it reasonably well having read The Snack Thief in English just a couple of weeks ago.

I thought the actors who played the minor parts were fabulous but I didn't really go for Zingaretti. When I was reading the book I saw Marcello Mastroianni in the part.

That Camilleri is a good read though as is Mr Lawton whose Blue Rondo I've just started reading. No messing about with those guys.

January 15, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, I have more Lawton discussion on the way for your enjoyment.

Your comment about the casting in the Montalbano series is interesting. Consensus heretofore had seemed to be that Zingaretti made an unexpected but fine Montalbano.

I learned a bit of Italian from my recent viewing of Il ladro di merendine and La voce del violino and was able to delight my two Italian friends by telling them, with a great show of exasperation I like to think worthy of Montalbano: "Giancarlo/Luigi, ti prego di non fare lo stronzo!"

January 15, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Shite - Stronzo Do I smell a linguistic theme here?

January 16, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sh— Hell, yes! It's not my fault that a decline in the power of god and the devil has left bodily functions as one of two sources of insults. I couldn't go round calling people whoreson! or scapegrace! now, could I?

January 16, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

And the next time your boss is pestering you, you can bark (or mutter under your breath) in an exasperated tone (like Salvo to Mimì,: "Non mi rompere i cabasisi." A fine oath for which there is, regrettably, no feminine equivalent.

Whoreson, scapegrace... In my younger days I read a great many Regency romances. The best of them capture the period setting through the use of, among other things, appropriate Regency slang. Ninnyhammer, cod's head, chaw-bacon, etc. the list goes on and on of amusing insults that are now, sadly, subsumed by the limited vulgarisms of the modern lexicon.

January 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Cabasisi" plus your statement that Salvo's plea is gendered suggests that it's equivalent to the Portuguese "Não enche meu saco!" Hmm, there is someone at work who occasionally reminds me of Dr. Lattes ...

Thersites, the "deformed and scurrilous Greek" in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, is a good source of invective. I always liked "Scurvy lord! Beef-witted Lord!"

January 19, 2010  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home