Alberto Lattuada - Mafioso (1962)
Alberto Lattuada did something quite different when directing “Mafioso” (1962). By the title of this film, one may think it is full of action, suspense, and crime, but contrary to popular belief, this film is full of hidden humor. It may sound like an oxymoron, but in this dark comedy Lattuada does a one of a kind job of addressing this taboo subject (in 1962). He exposes the darkness of the mafia, capturing everything from the responsibilities to the perks, all he while incorporating humor and comic relief. “Nino” Badalamenti is a hardworking and meticulous FIAT factory supervisor living in Milan. After years of ignoring his vacation time, and having just earned his yearly bonus, he decides to take his wife, Marta and his two daughters, Cinzia and Caterina, to his hometown Calamo, Sicily. Being a proper, civilized Milanese, Marta isn’t very thrilled to be “watching Italy fade away” as they approach the island on the ferry.
Stereotypes and Humor
Stereotypes are used often within this film. They depict the true rivalry between mainland Italians and islander Italians. Nino later explains that although he may live in Milan, he is “still a Sicilian”. This goes to show the audience that both sides feel the same separation from one another. Once they arrive in his hometown, Nino and his girls, whom prior to this trip have never met his mother and father, are warmly welcomed in the streets amongst a huge crowd of family. Inside Nino’s parents home and examined for the first time, Marta and the children are given odd looks. All three of them have blonde hair, fair skin and are dressed in well-kept clothing, unlike the rest of Nino’s dark haired, dark skinned and rural family members. After introductions, it’s clear that Marta feels out of place. She doesn’t realize that the urban norms she is accustomed to, such as smoking after meals or the way she speaks and carries herself, are not accepted in such a small Sicilian town where people follow old customs. After a hefty meal and post lunch entertainment by Nino, he decides it’s time to go see the Godfather, Don Vincenzo. Before leaving Milano for vacation, Nino’s boss, Dr. Zanchi, asks him to personally deliver a “very valuable gift” to the Don, on his behalf. Marta doesn’t like the idea of being around the Mafia, but Nino explains that when he was a boy he was involved with them, but it merely meant having to be a messenger boy. But now, it seems that Don Vincenzo has a “task”, and it’s apparent that he is highly considering calling upon Nino to accomplish it. During this time, Nino’s father and him are considering some land investments, although after the unusual rainfall, the landlord is now asking for much more money due to the fact that the land now has a “water supply”. A few days later after squabbling over the price of the land, Nino is called to Don Vincenzo’s room to realize that the landlord is also there and willing to give him the land for the original price. Now Nino is in undeniable debt to Don Vincenzo, and vows to repay him in any way that he can. In time, Nino will return this “friendly favor”, when his time comes to show his love, gratitude, and loyalty to the Godfather.
Marta and Sicilian Mores: Mafioso’s Light Side
While this is going on between the men, Marta is trying her best to be optimistic and fit in with her in-laws. She realizes that Rosalia, Nino’s sister, has an unfortunate overgrowth of hair on her body and has therefore developed a complex. Recently engaged to an unemployed lowlife, she’s not even allowed at the beach with her fiancé due to the fact that he feels embarrassed by her. Marta decides to take matters into her own hands and transforms Rosalia from hairy and self-conscious, into a flawless and smooth skinned woman. After revealing Rosalia’s beauty to Nino’s parents, they come to accept her and realize she truly is a good woman. Now that everything seems to be running smoothly amongst everyone, a twist arises. While in town, Nino is invited to go on a trip with his old pals. He explains that he won’t be able to attend due to the fact that he promised his wife that they would leave a few days earlier to visit her parents before returning to Milano. Once Marta hears about this hunting trip though, she changes her mind and tells Nino to go and have fun, now that she fits in with the family she isn’t having such a bad time. Nino is thrilled to go, and now even Don Liborio wants to join! At this point, the audience can somewhat sense that something just doesn’t fit. Don Liborio is being much too kind, and apparently Nino is being much too naïve. This equation just doesn’t seem to add up to happy endings. As the suspicions rise amongst the audience and the story continues to darken, Lattuada does a nice job of incorporating comedic relief.
Nino and the Mafia: the Dark Side
After few hours of sleep, Nino is awakened at two in the morning by his father who serves him a coffee, hands him his gun, and wishes him good luck with a firm hug and kiss on the cheek. He’s a little bit confused by his father’s affection, but pays no attention to why that is and leaves to meet the others. After feeling followed, Nino turns around and realizes that Don Liborio has been trailing him. He takes him to a secret area where Don Vincenzo is waiting for him inside of a car.He asks Nino if he remembers the promise he made to him, and if he was ready to do him a favor. Nino accepts, although according to the Godfather, he can say no to the task if he wants to (which we know is obviously false). He is told he will be going on a “long and short trip”, and that he has to just deliver a letter. He isn’t told where is going exactly, but after a long trip in uncomfortable positions, Nino arrives in New York to realize that he had been fooled. His job is
to kill a man that has been a traitor to them. It will be simple and quick. This is the reason, in fact, that they choose Nino to do this favor for the Godfather. His aim and preciseness make him the perfect candidate.
Same Clothes, Different Film
After successfully accomplishing his assignment by killing the man, we see him return safely to Calamo, with his hands full of game he supposedly caught while hunting. Visibly perturbed, he gets into bed with his wife, near his two children, and cries himself to sleep. The film ends in the same manner it began, with him walking through the factory, supervising the workers. Although he may be wearing the same uniform, adhering to the same responsibilities he’s always had, it’s inevitable that his life is now changed and will never go back to the way it was before. He is Nino Badalamenti, hardworking husband, father and Mafioso, per sempre.