After his earlier Divorce Italian Style (1961), Pietro Germi has another knockabout satirical comedy about Italian customs — or, rather, that should be specifically Sicilian codes of honour. Stefania Sandrelli once again plays a beautiful teenage girl, Agnese, being chased by a man, Peppino (Aldo Puglisi, playing the fiancé of her older sister), though this time once he’s had his way — and made her pregnant — he tries to abandon her, which occasions all the ensuing humour. Naturally there’s plenty of dark material too, given that his repeatedly stated reasons for not wanting to marry her are that she’s “a tramp” (even though it’s his actions which occasioned his own low estimation of her), but there’s no stopping the Agnese’s father, the family’s patriarch (Saro Urzì), from trying to save his family’s honour. This involves local law enforcement, judges, violence, loud arguments staged for the benefit of the gossiping public, and other machinations to ensure that she is supported and the rest of his daughters can be married off too. Sandrelli for her part is largely a meek and unsmiling woman at the edge of the frame, imagined in various ways by the men around her, with little of her own agency, because this is a film about the very macho traditions of the community. The police chief himself is given to covering up the island of Sicily with his hand, so sick is he of thinking about it. There’s lots of boisterous humour, but also a fair streak of bullying and misogyny exposed thereby, that makes this a very Italian film, I think.
- There’s a 7-minute interview with Sandrelli from 2002 in which she discusses making the film and working with Germi, as well as a short extract of her screen test (which she provides some commentary for).
- Alongside Sandrelli’s interview is a similar length one with Lando Buzzanca, who played her brother in the film.
FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Director Pietro Germi; Writers Germi, Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli and Luciano Vincenzoni; Cinematographer Aiace Parolin; Starring Stefania Sandrelli, Saro Urzì, Aldo Puglisi, Lando Buzzanca; Length 117 minutes.
Seen at home (DVD), London, Monday 31 August 2020.