The Scientific Cardplayer an Italian Drama
The Scientific Cardplayer is the English language title of a 1972 Italian drama film Lo Scopone Scientifico. The film was directed by Luigi Comencini, with screenplay Rodolfo Sonego. The basic storyline is about an aging American millionairess from the States who, with her card playing partner and chauffeur, George, heads for Rome to play cards. They travel the world doing this, to their own amusement, playing cards against poor people, but providing the initial stake. This gives the poor people a brief taste of having money, and they have a remote possibility of keeping it, or even winning some more, but the millionaires and her partner are extremely good at cards and keep winning.
In this film, they journey to Rome in order to play against a poor couple, Peppino and Antonia, for their annual game. As per usual, she donates the initial stakes yet wins the game. This evokes the revengeful wrath of their daughter Cleopatra.
A Number of Acclaimed Stars
The Scientific Cardplayer is described as a black comedy, and stars Bette Davis and Joseph Cotton as the millionaires and her partner. The poverty-stricken Italian couple are played by Alberto Sordi and Silvana Mangano. Alberto Sordi and Silvana Mangano won the 1973 David di Donatello Awards for Best Actor and Actress.
The Scientific Cardplayer is all about the Italian card game of Scopa, and requires some understanding of the game to fully appreciate this movie that is based on the gameplay, and many of the tension-filled moments are derived from moments in the game. Scopa is one of the two major national card games in Italy. The game, which is only really popular in Italy, Brazil and some North African countries relies on a standard Italian 40-card deck, which is fairly rare. Scopa is generally played between two players or four in two partnerships.
The Game of Scopa
The name Scopa is Italian for broom, and this describes the game adequately, because the aim is to sweep all the cards from the table, which is then termed a ‘scopa’. The game itself is perfectly suited to the Italians, and playing scopa is a highly entertaining activity, with continuous loud chit-chat between players that often becomes a shouting match. The game does nevertheless have a skill aspect, and is not just a game of chance.
The Scientific Cardplayer has several additional and darkly comic roles, and the eclectic group of characters make this a film of contrasts, both in terms of personalities and an interesting plot, but also in terms of the contrast between the luxury where the millionaires lives and the impoverished surroundings where her opponents survive.
Role of Gambling in the Film
The gambling aspect lends this under-rated film an element of chance that makes the plot work. The gambling scenes are all that could be expected of an intense game of scopa, and a wonderful opportunity to gain a feel and an understanding of this card game. The acting, as evidenced by the awards won, is exceptional, and is one of three films that Bette Davis and Joseph Cotton made together. The film is also part of the legacy to the extraordinary features of this American actress.