Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Big Night



Notes: Samuel Goldwyn Company. 107 minutes.
Secondo Pilaggi: Stanley Tucci
Primo Pilaggi: Tony Shalhoub
Gamriella: Isabella Rossellini
Pascal: Ian Holm
Phyllis: Minnie Driver

Directors: Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci
Producer: Jonathan Filley
Screenplay: Joseph Tropiano and Stanley Tucci
Cinematography: Ken Kelsch
Music: Gary DeMichele

Summary: During the 1950s, two immigrant Italian brothers,Primo and Secondo are trying to face the difficulties of runninga restaurant. Primo is a master chef who serves culinary delightsevery night. The only problem is that frequently there is no oneto serve food to. The two brothers are lucky if anyone even showsup to eat, since the diners all expect standard Italian-Americanfood and not gourmet fare. When someone does decide to dine attheir restaurant, Paradise, Secondo is forced to cope with hisbrother’s artistic temperament. When one woman orders risottoand is dismayed that it doesn’t come with spaghetti, she ordersit on the side; Secondo goes into the kitchen to ask Primo toprepare a side of spaghetti. Instead of preparing it Primo becomesenraged that she would dare to eat two different starches withher meal. The neighboring Italian restaurant owned by Secondo’sfriend Pascal is filled every night, but the food that is servedthere is strictly meatballs and spaghetti. Desperate to keep theirrestaurant open Secondo asks Pascal for a loan; instead Pascalpromises to get the famous singer Louis Prima to eat at Secondo’srestaurant, in the hope that the celebrity’s dining there willput it on the map. The brothers invest all they have in the anticipated”big night.”

Commentary: As preparations begin for the big night withLouis Prima the food takes the starring role. The preparationof the timpani is a wonderful sight to behold. The pasta is hand-madeand rolled and everything is put into an enormous pot with thecare of a surgeon. Finally when the two brothers decide to servethe timpani they carefully remove the lid and turn the pot upsidedown, like a cake. Then before Primo cuts it he lightly feelsthe timpani and cocks his head as if he can hear the timpani.Watching everyone eat the magnificent feast is no less excitingthan watching it being prepared. After eating the feast that Primoprepared everyone is exhausted, one woman tearfully exclaims,”My mother was a terrible cook!” In the final momentsof the film we are also treated to a wonderful scene in whichthe two brothers wordlessly eat a simple omelet. Big Nightis truly a food film; without the food there is no movie. Thereare too many food scenes to list all of them. It is also worthyto note that not once will you see spaghetti or meatballs in Primo’skitchen.

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