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The Criterion Collection presents
Mafioso (1962)

"You guys are exactly the way I left you eight years ago."
- Nino (Alberto Sordi)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: March 04, 2008

Stars: Alberto Sordi, Norma Bengell
Director: Alberto Lattuada

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:43m:14s
Release Date: March 18, 2008
UPC: 715515028226
Genre: gangster

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B-AB C+

DVD Review

Given this film's title and its Sicilian provenance, you might expect it to be a forerunner to the Mob pictures of Francis Coppola and Martin Scorsese, a link between Neorealism and the post-Code renaissance in Hollywood—but after a couple of frames (or even just a glance at the jokey DVD cover art), it's quickly clear that we're in for something else entirely, more of a cosa nostra comedy of manners. (It's a movie with a sensibility closer to After Hours than GoodFellas.) Alberto Lattuada's black comedy can be tonally uneven and structurally is rather ungainly—it sometimes feels like you're watching mismatched halves of different movies—but it's got a wry sensibility and an affection for Sicily that goes a long way.

The film starts off rather jarringly looking almost like a Milanese industrial film. We meet Nino (Alberto Sordi), a manager in a northern Italian automotive plant, clocking out just before his vacation—he's about to take his lovely young wife and their two little daughters to meet his family, for the first time, in Sicily, but not before agreeing to perform a favor for his boss: the delivery of a gift to Don Vincenzo, who we are led to understand is the local capo for this thing of ours in Nino's home town. Lattuada has an eye for the landscape, and for the procedural—he loves the cars, trains and boats that the family must take on its arduous journey, and when they make it to their destination, much of the film is about intra-Italian cultural differences. Nino's Sicilian family is boisterous, exuberant; his wife, Marta, is more reserved, so it's no surprise that they think she's stuck up, and she thinks they're more than a little coarse. Much of the story is about the pull of the old neighborhood, and of how it is informed by the code of omertà—Nino's pals are exactly the same, and the unspoken governance of the town by Don Vincenzo and his soldiers is made abundantly clear when one of the old gang is foolish enough to inform on another.

Just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in—though he doesn't say as much, it seems clear that Nino headed north to get out of the orbit of Don Vincenzo and his comrades, but now that he is back, the family is intent on putting Nino's loyalty to the test. The second half of the film becomes a more conventional action picture, whereas the first had been a frisky comedy of social mores—some of the plot turns are abrupt and I don't want to give them away, but you can't help noticing that Nino gets treated much like suicide bombers do before they're dispatched to commit their heinous crimes, with the promise of everlasting glory, for their families here on earth, and for themselves in the hereafter.

The movie kind of moves forward in fits and starts, and can be a little unsatisfying—it's neither funny enough to provide lots of belly laughs, nor sufficiently interested in the workings of organized crime to be a wholly successful mob picture. But it's kind of intriguing as a mash-up, with a Neorealist's eye for the Sicilian landscape, a tongue firmly in its cheek while examining familial and social mores, and with enough passing familiarity to take much of the mob's workings for granted. And Sordi helps Lattuada hold the whole thing together—he can be broadly comic, but his Nino never becomes such a buffoon that we lose sight of the fact that first and foremost he's a family man, and wants to protect his little girls. It's not riotous and it's decidedly uneven, but it's clever enough to win over your good will.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A glimmering transfer, one that looks as good as any Italian film from the period, and better than most. Location shooting can be unforgiving to some of the film stocks of the 1960s, but the black-and-white photography looks saturated and nuanced throughout. Exemplary work.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoItalian and Sicilianno

Audio Transfer Review: Any Italian you may speak will be sorely tested here, for much of the dialogue is in a heavy Sicilian dialect. Those of us principally reading along with the subtitles are in good stead, though; the mono track is certainly sufficiently clean.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. gallery of caricatures (see below)
  2. accompanying booklet
  3. color bars
Extras Review: Just a few choice extras, focusing on the film's director. A 1996 Italian television profile (16m:34s) of Lattuada, from a documentary series called Ritratti d'autore (Portraits of Artists), gives us a fine portrait of the man, with his stories, cigars, screenplays and props all in abundance. (Lattuada died in 2005.) The movie found a new audience when it was screened at the 2006 New York Film Festival, and on hand for the festivities was the director's widow, Carla Del Peggio—in an interview (8m:12s) from the festival, she discusses meeting her husband, the making of the film, and also her father, actor Ugo Attanasio. Her son, Alessandro Lattuada, discusses fond memories of his father in an interview (7m:36s) of his own, and particularly goofy on the disc is a gallery of caricatures of many of the film's characters, created by artist Keiko Kimura, for the movie's 2007 theatrical re-release. (One trailer is from the original theatrical run, the other from this re-release.) And the accompanying booklet features an essay on the film by Philip Lopate, and the text of a 1982 interview with the director, conducted by Claudio Camerini.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

A peculiar mixture of genres, with elements of the travelogue, the family comedy and the mob movie, it's not a wholly satisfying film, but its unevenness actually accounts for much of its charm.


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