Mafioso (1962)

15 03 2008

A good-natured and easy going commedia all’italiana for a solid fourty-five minutes or so, and then it takes a really random mafia twist and ultimately, tries way too hard to be more than what it is capable of. What Alberto Lattuda is trying to say in the final scenes is indeed good, but it’s executed in the most obvious way with heavy-handed symbolism being thrown from all directions. This is a nice effort, but I guess it sort of magnifies the problem I have with a lot of Italian comedies from this period. It’s undeniably funny, but there’s no people, no feelings – just exaggerated character types stuck in awkward situations. Still, it really is a lot of fun as long as you don’t expect much.

Nino now working at a white-collar job in Milan, travels back to his blue-collar roots of Sicily, along with his wife and two daughters. While he is over-joyed, his wife is slow to accept the Sicilian culture which results in some very alienating meeting between herself and Nino’s parents. Eventually, Nino catches up with everyone in town (or so it seems) and his old friend, Don Vincenzo who is secretly recruiting someone to do a “favor.”

The early sequences of Nino’s family mingling with each other are fantastic, filmed with excitement on Lattuda parts. I don’t know his own history, but I’m guessing he had to experience some of this stuff. The scene in the outdoor living room, for example, is a perfect representation of what I mean. It seems to get all the specifics right: the awkward pauses, the two families getting “use” to each other. Nino accidentally bringing up the topic of old friends who are now “evil” politicians. I suppose this film confirms that I’m not a huge fan of these Italian comedies (give me Antonioni or Olmi any day, please) but I will admit, they are really really funny at times.

Still, the minor strengths breed the eventual downfalls of all these type of films and that is: I hate everybody here. Nino is annoying and completely unlikable and every time he’s at a point of disagreement with another character, I like that other character more. This perfectly explains why his wife is by far the most interesting person in the movie: she’s given the least amount of conventional development, ridden off merely a “snobby” character and is treated as a pet by Nino. When the film finally takes its (admittedly smooth) turn towards the serious side of things, my interest just completely drops out. A very admirable effort, though, and I certainly wouldn’t mind watching it again if only for the wonderfully awkward family interaction that occurs early on.

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