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by Elaine Perrone

"Just When He Thought He Was Out, They Pulled Him Back In."
5 stars

As an Italian-American girl from way back, I know full well that a visit to any Italian home, no matter what time of day or night, means being plied with food. Likewise, I’m resigned to the indisputable fact that no self-respecting Italian host or hostess would ever, under any circumstances, take “no” for an answer to such cordiality. For Antonio Badalamenti (Alberto Sordi), traveling with his family from Milan to his hometown in Sicily, where the response to an innocent query about the cause of a citizen’s death is, “Two bullets,” a stroll through the town, reconnecting with old friends after a gargantuan family dinner, brings a whole new level of meaning to the phrase, “An offer he can’t refuse.”

What the rather naïve Antonio doesn’t know is that his joyous homecoming will take a far more ominous turn, destined even before he and his wife and daughters embark on their journey, when his boss at an auto manufacturing plant in Milan, whose own roots are in New Jersey, instructs him to personally deliver an expensive gift to their mutual friend in Cataneo, Sicily, one Don Vincenzo, the village’s patriarch.

Billed as a comedy, Mafioso certainly has its laugh-out-loud moments, starting out as a seemingly lighthearted tale of a family man on a long-overdue holiday with his daughters and Northern Italian wife, Marta (Norma Bengell), a woman of breeding who initially barely tolerates and then becomes a beloved and loving member of the simple Sicilian community. After lulling their audience with this enjoyable, if slight, premise, director Alberto Lattuada and writer Rafael Azcona up the stakes when Don Vincenzo, to whom Antonio owes his job at FIAT, calls in the favor and presses the former (and, inevitably, forever) “piciotto d’onore,” or “boy of honor,” into nefarious service.

Photographed in rich black and white by DP Armando Nannuzzi, and restored to its original beauty by Rialto Pictures, Mafioso is as much a breathtaking travelogue of Sicily as it is a credible and absorbing insight into a way of life that most of us only know from The Godfather and The Sopranos but that, for some, leaves a legacy that is, literally, inescapable. Undeservedly overshadowed by the “greater” films of Fellini, Visconti, and Antonioni during the same period, Mafioso is also notable for its touches to which the creators of The Godfather and The Sopranos owe their debt.

Having traveled though Italy about ten years ago, I also owe a personal debt to Lattuada for a lighthearted touch that carried my mind right back to that trip – giggling more than once as I watched one simple Catanean peasant farmer after another, with rifle in one hand and ice cream cone in the other, happily licking away. Having seen – and savored in – the ubiquitous treat on every step of the journey, I can attest that we Italians loves us some gelato!

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15964&reviewer=376
originally posted: 03/11/07 23:00:48
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User Comments

3/21/07 dmitry Amazing...An incredible mix of social satire and realism 5 stars
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