VIVA ITALIA: Dupont Circle

The Italia to which "Viva Italia!" refers is the world of the Italian picture magazine.To anyone who follows the seamier activities of princesses and stewardesses, cardinals and movie stars, there is no American, French, or English publication that has quite the slick flair for making the rich and successful look ugly and miserable.

There are nine separate episodes in the film, and the characters are a cardinal, a terrorist, a rock star, a kidnap victim, a papal aristocrat, a child porno star and assorted other rich people, each more hypocritical and selfish than the one before. Not only the characters, but also the plot lines are familiar from sensational news stories, of which Italy seems to put out more than its fair share.

Individually, some of the mini-stories have a point to make. Alberto Sordi turns in three fine and quite different quick sketches: a man who, with booming cheerfulness, condemns his mother to a nursing home; a comedian who turns tears to laughter at his partner's funeral; and an upper class playboy who pours his charming chatter over an accident victim dying in his limousine. Vittorio Gassman also does three roles, the best of which is his well-groomed cardinal expertly deflecting legitimate social protest.

But even the best scenes are merely anecdotes, hardly fleshed out, and the worst resorts to the old standby of food-throwing. Taken together -- with that title -- they suggest a papparazzi view of the country. Why anyone should want to wish such people long life remains unanswered.