What are the Christmas movies Italian love to watch? Let’s find out together in this new episode of the Italy Made Easy Podcast, the podcast in slow Italian for all you students of Italian of all different levels.
Welcome, I’m Manu Venditti, your teacher and coach in this program. If you’re listening to me on the podcast, then welcome to this podcast. If, on the other hand, you’re watching me here on Youtube, I’ll wave to you because I can and because you can see me.
So, let’s talk about Christmas, because Christmas is coming up very soon. It is one of the holidays that in Italy - at least - is important… it’s important for everyone, believers and non-believers. Why? Because the “climate” of Christmas - and I don’t mean that in the sense of hot or cold weather - but the Christmas spirit is one that everyone likes, one way or another… even when it’s cold.
What do we do at Christmas in Italy? Well, the usual things that happen in other countries that have a winter Christmas. And that is… the streets are filled with Christmas lights, the trees get decorated, the shop windows are all made up to inspire people to make purchases, there are gift boxes, basically there are the usual Christmas things… there’s very often music… in Italy you’ll frequently hear something that I don’t quite know how to explain, but they are like pipers. Imagine players of a wind instrument typical of Scotland - to try and explain it to you without using the English word - these are the things that you find during the Christmas period in Italy. However, it’s not just this. Obviously television has a big role to play, the media, cinema… everywhere you turn there’s something related to Christmas…. Whether it’s a television commercial, a television program, an interview, a movie, a special… basically, during the Christmas period you pretty much can’t escape from Christmas even if you want to.
One thing that has a lot of success in Italy at Christmas is cinema. There are, I would say, two main categories of movies at Christmas. Movies for the younger ones, the kids - but not only - where generally a big movie comes out from Disney, or from Pixar, something really significant. And this normally comes out on Boxing Day, which is the day after Christmas and the cinemas fill with families and children… and I don’t go because there’s too many people.
Yet the other category, which is the one I probably want to talk to you about today, is something typically Italian - and it’s a strange phenomenon. It’s the “panettone” cinema otherwise known as “cinepanettone”. Do you know what panettone is? Panettone is a typical Christmas dessert, a type of sweet bread with raisins and candied fruit - a classic recipe - “cinepanettone” is a typical Christmas movie. But what exactly is a “cinepanettone”? It’s generally an over-the-top comedy. If you don’t know this word, think about the word “demenza”... what does it mean… and just see if you can understand the adjective “demenziale”.
More than anything, it’s a type of comedy that is just really ordinary… stupid… and if I may say so… vulgar, characterized by puns, storylines that are even a bit sexual, with vulgar scenarios as I said… situations that perhaps compare and highlight the cultural and linguistic differences between Southern Italians and Northern Italians. This are the classic storylines of Italian Christmas movies.
As you will have gathered they aren’t Oscar-worthy films, rather, they’re the exact opposite. They are films of a very low standard, produced on a very low budget, but still have enormous success. I don’t know the exact figures, but the movies that come out at Christmas in this category are always so successful. But why? I don’t know. I don’t know, so don’t ask me. Do I like these movies? Umm, I don’t know. What do you think? This movie genre was born long ago in 1983 with the movie - now a classic - called “Christmas Vacation”.
As you may understand from the name, the story is about people going on vacation at Christmas… that’s pretty much it. And believe me, every year since 1983, there’s been a new installment of this movie series. Always the same story, more or less… a group of friends, of entrepreneurs, unlikely friends that go on vacation to a fancy location - usually - either in Italy or abroad… and then there’s a series of events, misunderstandings, cheating, betrayals… and as I said, vulgarity, etc., etc. But now that I think about it, it’s the exact opposite of the Christmas spirit, especially the vulgarity… Anyway, that’s the situation with these movies.
The main actors of this series - and when I say series I mean this string of movies, this category of movie - are undisputedly Massimo Boldi and Christian De Sica, son of the renowned Vittorio De Sica. And yet Christian De Sica… a great Italian actor Vittorio De Sica… but Christian De Sica makes this type of movie. Anyway! I do have to say though, recently, in the last few years, this series has lost a lot of popularity and other, slightly more intellectual Christmas movies have come out. They’re still comedies, they’re still light-hearted, but with a cast of good actors, of reputable actors that make serious movies and with less vulgarity… with less average storylines and not as repetitive.
If you’re interested in these Christmas movies, ones of not such a low standard, you can try and watch “La Befana vien di notte” with Paola Cortellesi, who is an A list actress, or “5 Star Christmas”... a movie produced and started under the direction of Carlo Vanzina, who is the director of practically every Italian Christmas movie of the last 20 or 30 years, but due to health concerns, the directing of the movie was handed over to another Italian director… Marco Risi, I believe… and so the quality and was improved a little. If you want to give it a go, let me know what you think of it.
Another type of movie exists that always comes around, without fail, religiously during the Christmas period. These are the cinema classics, usually American, the Christmas classics. And so we have movies such as “Home Alone”, “A Christmas Carol”, “The Grinch” and “Miracle on 34th Street”. These are movies that you surely know as well and that you’ve probably seen. There’s also “Gremlins”, “Gremlins” is always one that they put on during the Christmas period. Do they put that on where you are too? Let me know! So, if you enjoy cinema, I’m not sure if I should suggest that you come to Italy during the Christmas period.
But the purpose of this podcast, as is always the case with everything that we do at Italy Made Easy, is to provide you with interesting audio and video material created in a specific way… like we’ve done right here with this podcast.
I shall say goodbye, I wish you the happiest of holidays even if you don’t celebrate them. But if you are in Italy, however, you will experience the Christmas period, and probably in many other countries as well. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, it’s no problem whatsoever, we are always here to help you. And always, truly, we at Italy Made Easy always have the Christmas spirit. We are kind, generous and we try to help our neighbor. That’s all for now, see you in the next episode. Bye bye.