Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
The Criterion Collection
Actors: Gabriella Conti, Albert Sordi, Norma Bengell
Director: Alberto Lattuada
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
As one of the earliest films about the mafia's influence over the personal lives of those involved, Alberto Lattuada's Mafioso also established the way humor is used in gangster movies as respite from tragic, violent circu... more »
A sobering black comedy
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 01/18/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sold on its original Italian release in 1962 as a dramatic expose and in its 2006 US release as a laugh-a-minute comedy, Alberto Lattuada's Mafioso is neither - rather it's an occasionally dark dramatic comedy that doesn't trivialize the way the Mafia have helped hold Sicily in the 19th century for easy laughs. Indeed, considering how much of the film is a gently observed culture clash comedy as auto worker Alberto Sordi takes the wife and kids to his Sicilian hometown for the first time that at times threatens to become M. Sordi's Holiday, it's surprising how morally bleak the ending is when a small favor leads to big trouble. Along the way there aren't many big laughs, more gentle smiles of recognition, and Sordi resists the temptation to overstate to keep his character a recognisable human being rather than a crude stereotype even as he reverts back from the model modern Milanese to the proudly subservient Sicilian piciotto he thought he'd left behind. The film's also subtle and perceptive in its treatment of the Mafia. Though some details - such as the despised owner of the local estate the Mafiosi `manage' for her (the original source of the Mafia's power in Sicily was running estates for absentee Northern landowners) - could be lost on the less informed viewers, it does demonstrate the way it worked on a feudal system of obligation and unspoken threats, be it the threat of ostracism from the community or an inquiry about the health of your family.
Working from a screenplay by as disparate talents as comedy writers Age and Scarpelli (Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli), shockmeister Marco Ferreri and his occasional collaborator Rafael Azcona (La Grande Bouffe), Lattuada has a great eye both for the shop floor scenes in Milan that bookend the film and the Sicilian locations, playing the comedy straight and the drama occasionally dryly comic, with Piero Piccioni providing a driving score that often leaves you wondering if the film is a comedy or a drama. In truth it's both, and if it's not the masterpiece that US critics claimed when it screened 2006 New York Film Festival, it's still a worthwhile rediscovery with a surprisingly sobering ending that doesn't cop out.