as part of Classics Night
Problem: cigarette planted in holder, facial tic regularly kicking in, hair slicked back, his mustache as rounded off as a society lady’s eyebrows, his eyelids perpetually at half mast, down at the heels baron Marcello Mastroianni, fed up with plump, fuzzy-lipped wife Daniela Rocca, has eyes only for his passionate teenage cousin Stefania Sandrelli, smoldering away just across the courtyard. Solution: while divorce is an embarrassing impossibility in Sicilian society, and outright murder gets you twenty to life, crimes of “honor” garner a three-to-seven slap on the wrist and admiration from your peers.
So obviously it’s time to invite Rocca’s old flame Leopoldo Trieste in for a little fresco touch up, and who knows what else — even as Mastoianni gets out the concealed microphones and tape recorder, Germi’s hilarious satire of Sicilian moors was a smash around the world, cementing Mastroianni’s stardom by highlighting his comedic prowess after the impact of Fellinian angst. All the more ironic is that Mastrioanni was not on the original eleven-name wish list to play the baron; the first private showing, to film people like Visconti and Francesco Rosi, didn't get a single laugh; and the story was originally conceived as intense drama – which sometimes is not really so far from farce.
DIVORCE, ITALIAN STYLE won the Best Comedy award at Cannes, and an Oscar for the Original Screenplay by Germi and the legendary writing team “Age-Scarpelli” (THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY; SEDUCED AND ABANDONED; MAFIOSO; etc., etc.), plus two other nominations, for Germi’s directing and Mastrioanni’s acting. The film presents a rousing score by Carlo Rustichelli and his orchestra, mixing traditional instruments with modern themes. Cinematographer Carlo di Palma, who worked with Michelangelo Antonioni on several films, including BLOW UP, as well as on nearly half of Woody Allen's films, led the cinematography along with Leonida Barboni.
(Excerpted from Film Forum)
NR, 108 min. Italian with subtitles.
"This is one of the funniest pictures the Italians have sent along." – New York Times
"Years ahead of its time." – Salon.com
"It remains a terrific entertainment, a European corollary to Preston Sturges." – Chicago Review