Unfortunately, not yet on DVD, or at least, not yet in the Netflix database, nor really in the IMDb database either. Pay attention to a screening in your town, sounds well worth the effort to track down.

“Mafioso” | Salon Arts & Entertainment : Sometimes the resurfacing of a lost movie is more than just a chance to get acquainted with a forgotten gem of filmmaking. Sometimes it feels more like the discovery of a lost world, as if a celluloid Atlantis were rising before our eyes. That's the feeling you get watching Alberto Lattuada's buoyantly melancholy dark comedy “Mafioso,” which was released in 1962 but has been rarely seen in the United States: It's now being rereleased by Rialto Pictures (whose role as excavators of the lost and forgotten seems more and more important in a world of too many throwaway contemporary movies), opening this week in New York and next in Los Angeles, with other cities to follow.

In the United States, Lattuada's name doesn't have the same currency as those of his compatriots Fellini, De Sica and Antonioni. In fact, he gave Fellini his first break as a filmmaker, sharing a directing credit with him on “Variety Lights” (1950). But “Mafioso” makes you want to see more of what Lattuada, who died in 2005, had to offer. Calling “Mafioso” a black comedy feels slightly incorrect: It's too subtle, its tone shifts too deft and prismatic, to be called anything so starkly definitive as “black” -- “charcoal” is more like it. And even though “Mafioso” is terrifically funny in places, it's likely to leave you feeling disquieted and unsettled. It's as if Lattuada had snuck in, while we were busy chuckling at both the broad jokes (involving female facial hair) and the sly ones (about the ridiculousness of macho posturing), and brushed the thing with a quiet glow of despair.

J Hoberman of the Voice writes
Alberto Lattuada's tricky-to-parse Mafioso dates from 1962 but, with its abrupt tonal shifts and disturbing existential premise, this nearly forgotten dark comedy could be the most modern (or at least modernist) movie in town.

Released by Rialto on the heels of its triumphantly rediscovered Army of Shadows, Lattuada's tale of a “modern Sicilian” who returns to his roots is a genre film and character drama that undermines notions of genre and character alike. Mafioso is bracketed by shots of Alberto Sordi's proud and foolish efficiency expert striding through a huge Milan Fiat factory. In between, Sordi—a gifted farceur with matinee idol looks—executes a prolonged psychological pratfall. Once Lattuada pulls the rug from beneath his character, Mafioso careens from comedy of manners (and neo-realist travelogue) to something far more hilariously shocking.

The sort of man who admonishes a worker for laboring too fast and shaves while polishing his shoes and talking non-stop, Sordi plays a wildly successful Southern transplant—complete with a chic Northern wife (Brazilian actress Norma Bengell) and two blond children. His world is momentarily complicated when he learns that his boss is a fellow Sicilian (by way of New Jersey) but modern times really turn feudal once he returns en famille to his home village for a vacation. Wife and kids are swept up in a series of screaming reunions and huge meals. The table goes silent when Bengell lights a post-lunch cigarette but the real culture shock is Sordi's. Always voluble, he becomes borderline hysterical, his “Northern” persona disintegrating as he abruptly bursts into song upon his return.

Mafioso exerts its own sort of time twist, reorienting one's sense of film history. This was seemingly the first Italian movie to portray the modern mafia (Eye of the Needle, also a comedy, was released around the same time) and it's a blueprint for The Godfather in sardonic, compressed, anecdotal form. (Also reversed: This is The Godfather looking out from Sicily rather than back at it.) Given the movie's virtual dictionary of mafia euphemisms, it's hard to believe that Mario Puzo hadn't seen Mafioso while writing his novel; it would be fascinating to know if Martin Scorsese (just 21 and still living at home?) caught the movie when it played 42nd Street during the summer of 1964. Like Mean Streets, Mafioso has characters who talk without ever saying anything and communicate all manner of things by not ever mentioning them.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by swanksalot published on January 19, 2007 1:14 PM.

If Only was the previous entry in this blog.

Corporate Media sucks is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.37