Mafioso is many things, but a good movie ain’t one of ‘em. This is clear from the carousel-of-industry montage that plays under the opening credits; it lays the groundwork for the narrative’s myriad shifts in tone, but, like the film proper, it makes its points early and then just keeps hammering away. Alberto Sordi (whose last name, legend has it, was hilariously mangled by his one-time co-star Bette Davis) comes on like Bellissima-era Magnani, a bastion of bug-eyed energy, as family man Antonio “Nino” Badalamenti, who takes his wife Marta (Norma Bengell) and their two young daughters Cinzia (Cinzia Bruno) and Caterina (Katiusca Piretti) back to the Sicilian old country for an extended visit. Nino’s something of a local celebrity for having made it big on the mainland and much culture-clash dramedy ensues, though never of a particularly insightful sort (to consider, as some do, Mafioso‘s quirky EYE-talian mannequins and their window-dressed underclass trappings to be the height of authenticity is, to these eyes, an egregious overstatement). The observational humor works up to a point. Past that we’re left twiddling our thumbs until Nino, after several masterful manipulations by the local don (Ugo Attanasio), reveals his inner gangsta and takes an unscheduled (and undesired) journey to… I can’t say where. In what must be the stupidest don’t-reveal-the-twist publicity since Miramax’s post-Crying Game porker The Advocate, Rialto Pictures has asked that I observe absolute omerta as to the particulars of Mafioso‘s climax. Let’s just say that this underwhelming third act’s only real point of interest is Sordi’s cross-cultural run-in with a drunken member of the Cassavetes underground.
You wouldn't know from the incredibly robust audio that the 46-year-old Mafioso comes charging at us with only a monaural track in its holster. The image is almost as clear: Combing artifacts hug the rails outside Antonio "Nino" Badalamenti's auto factory, and though flecks and lines are evident in spots, these flaws are never distracting.
From a 1996 episode of Ritratti d'autore, Alberto Lattuada discusses peeing on the floor and the bisexuality of beauty. Host Daniele Luchetti doesn't seem very impressed by the Variety Lights script Lattuada shows him, which probably says more about the gap between ancient and modern philosophical modes of filmmaking than the vacuous comment Luchetti caps the program with. Filling out the extras: an interview with Lattuada's wife, actress Carla Del Poggio, conducted by an unseen Kent Jones, and a second with the director's son, Alessandro Lattuada; trailers for the original Italian release and the 2007 U.S. re-release; a gallery of promotional caricatures by artist Keiko Kimura; and a booklet containing essays by Phillip Lopate and Roberto Chiesi and a 1982 interview with Lattuada.
An alternately grim and amusing parable, but give me Cassavettes instead.