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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: Mafioso



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#1 of 4 Matt Hough

Matt Hough

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Posted March 05 2008 - 01:07 AM


Mafioso
Directed by Alberto Lattuada

Studio: Criterion
Year: 1962
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 102 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: Dolby Digital 1.0 mono Italian
Subtitles: English
MSRP: $ 29.95

Release Date: March 18, 2008
Review Date: March 5, 2008


The Film

3.5/5

Any fan of the Italian neorealist movement in cinema can see its influences still in command of director Alberto Lattuada in his 1962 comedy-drama Mafioso. Much of the movie is filmed on real streets, in real factories, and with real people as part of the mise en scène, and the director goes out of his way to sustain as realistic a feel for his film as possible, difficult when you’re dealing with a character who seems as naïve as Snow White. The movie has definite pleasure and a couple of genuine shocking jolts along the way, but you have to buy into the leading man being a good-hearted innocent to truly appreciate the film as a whole.

Busy Milan auto manufacturing supervisor Nino Badalamenti (Alberto Sordi) finally takes an overdue vacation with his wife (Norma Bengell) and two daughters returning to Sicily to visit his parents and sister. Though he loves his homeland, he hasn’t visited there in quite a long time, and his parents have never met his wife or their grandchildren. While there, he pays a social call on the town’s godfather Don Vincenzo (Ugo Attanasio) who’s quite taken with Nino’s respect and genuine charm and sweetness. After helping Nino buy some land for the original price quoted by a greedy landowner who was trying to stiff him, Don Vincenzo elicits a promise from Nino to repay his kindness if he’s ever able to offer assistance with anything. Bad decision.

For three-quarters of the movie, the script by Marco Ferreri, Rafael Azcona, Agenore Incrocci, and Furio Scarpelli keeps things light and airy. Even the scenes with the potentially treacherous godfather have an ease and a grace that keep apprehension pushed back in our minds. Lattuada directs a lyrical sequence as the family goes to the shore, and there are laughs to be had when Nino’s wife introduces his sister Rosalia (Gabiella Conti) to the joys of waxing, especially that pesky black mustache that has kept potential suitors at a distance. But things take a dark and nasty turn during the last quarter of the picture, a turn that leaves a decidedly sour taste in the mouth during the film’s final sequence despite the ironic use of the jaunty music score by Piero Piccioni.

Alberto Sordi is completely delightful as the sweet-natured innocent Nino, and his genuine astonishment at the surprising turn of events registers as totally believable. Norma Bengell’s Marta takes some getting used to as her icy and whining shell defrosts during the course of the film. Ugo Attanasio’s godfather is, in the nature of these men later made icons by Francis Ford Coppola in a series of films, suitably gentle and genial on the surface and venal underneath.

By 1962, some of the Italian neorealist techniques appeared a bit out of date for the period, and Mafioso does suffer a bit from the movement’s more primitive look and feel. The film, though, is entertaining in a small, slight fashion as a comedy that’s more gentle than farcical and a drama that’s more momentarily surprising than emotionally draining.


Video Quality

3.5/5

The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented in anamorphic video. The film’s look is just a bit light thus harming black levels and reducing contrast considerably. It’s certainly sharp enough, and aside from a stray hair or two, is clean and artifact free. The dull white subtitles are easy to read though some whiz by quickly. The film is divided into 20 chapters.

Audio Quality

2.5/5

The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track does contain low levels of hiss and occasional flutter. Volume levels at the beginning and end are too pumped up resulting in some distortion of the music on the track, and the dialog was post dubbed resulting in that hollow sound emblematic of many neorealist films.

Special Features

3.5/5

This “budget” Criterion release has fewer bonuses than the usual release, but there are some interesting additions to the disc.

“Ritratti d’autore” is a segment of a 1996 television interview program in which young director Daniele Luchetti talks filmmaking with director Alberto Lattuada. The 4:3 interview lasts 16 minutes.

Carla Del Poggio talks for 8 minutes about her first meeting with the director whom she later married, how Mafioso came about, and how her father (who played the godfather in the film) and her director husband worked together so well in the film. The interview is presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Alessandro Lattuada, the son of the director, speaks for 7¼ minutes about his father’s youth and his later work as a director. It’s also presented in anamorphic widescreen.

The disc presents a gallery of 14 Keiko Kimura caricatures of the major characters in the film which the viewer can step through.

Two theatrical trailers are presented on the disc. The original Italian in 4:3 treats the film as a mafia tale and runs for 2¼ minutes. The American trailer is in anamorphic widescreen and emphasizes the comedy aspects of the film. It runs 2 minutes.

A 25-page booklet is included in the package containing film critic Phillip Lopate’s overiew of Lattuada’s career and a glowing critique of Mafioso, curator Roberto Chiesi’s discussion of the Sicilian mafia and the accuracy of its reflection in the movie, and a conversation with the director excerpted from Claudio Camerini’s book about Lattuada.


In Conclusion

3.5/5 (not an average)

Mafioso is a heady mixture of both light and dark elements of Italian neorealism in the period of the form’s maturity. Criterion has presented the film in a fine package that fans of the director or the style of filmmaking will surely appreciate.


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

[PG]119195101[/PG]

#2 of 4 Michael Reuben

Michael Reuben

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Posted March 05 2008 - 06:29 AM

I haven't seen the Criterion disc, but I saw the film during its NY arthouse run a year ago. It's a fascinating film, not only as a historical snapshot, but as an early sketch of many of the gangster figures that would become cultural archetypes through the Godfather saga and the later films that the saga made possible (including The Sopranos). The performances are uniformly excellent, and the story is told with a disarming directness and simplicity that has aged very well. Essential viewing for any fan of the modern gangster film.

M.
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#3 of 4 Haggai

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Posted March 06 2008 - 03:06 AM

Thanks for the review, Matt. I loved this movie when I saw it in its theatrical re-release, so I'm really looking forward to getting the DVD.

#4 of 4 Deepak Shenoy

Deepak Shenoy

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Posted March 08 2008 - 07:06 AM

While I own 60-70% of the titles Criterion has released so far I have to say that some of my favorite titles are those by lesser-known (at least by me - compared to say Fellini or Antonioni) Italian directors. A few that I would personally recommend are the pair of comedies/social satires by Pietro Germi (Divorce Italian Style and Seduced and Abandoned) and the crime/political dramas by Francesco Rosi (Salvatore Giuliano and Hands Over the City). I have not seen Mafioso yet but it seems to be yet another one of those hidden gems in Criterion's catalog of lesser known Italian films.

-D