Criterion Sunday 286: Divorzio all’italiana (Divorce Italian Style, 1961)

Marcello Mastroianni’s married man, a rakish Sicilian noble fallen on hard times, Baron Fernando, falls for his beautiful teenage cousin Angela (Stefania Sandrelli) and tries to figure out ways he can get out of his marriage, thanks to Italy’s strict laws about divorce. If the premise of this film is rather leering and lascivious, one suspects it was taken much the same way in Italy of 1960; this, after all, is a film that attempts to poke fun at the leering, lascivious ways of older gentlemen like Fernando (his dad, too, is much the same with the family’s maid). Mastroianni is of course excellent in the kind of role he was always a natural fit for, what with his charm and good looks, but that doesn’t excuse his character, who gets increasingly desperate and violent in his plotting to divorce his wife Rosalia (Daniela Rocca, who is also clearly a very beautiful woman and not much older than Sandrelli, even if the filmmakers have given her a unibrow and some unflattering upper lip hair). Ferdinando remains the focus throughout, along with his (at times) cartoonishly silly plans, and neither Angela nor Rosalia feel fully fleshed out as characters, but the film maintains a light and humorous tone to all the goings-on, with some beautiful black-and-white photography of Sicily.


FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Director Pietro Germi; Writers Ennio De Concini, Germi and Alfredo Giannetti (based on the novel Un delitto d’onore “Honour Killing” by Giovanni Arpino); Cinematographers Carlo Di Palma and Leonida Barboni; Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Stefania Sandrelli, Daniela Rocca, Leopoldo Trieste; Length 108 minutes.

Seen at home (DVD), London, Sunday 12 January 2020.

Criterion Sunday 246: I vitelloni (1953)

I gather that the title sort of loosely means “the idle men”, but I like to think of it as “the lads”, because that’s what this film is about, a group of five young men in a small seaside town, who have hopes and aspirations and find them somewhat waylaid in the whirl of life. The film is largely focused on the ladies’ man Fausto (Franco Fabrizi), who despite his early marriage and child finds plenty of time to flirt with other women, though the other four variously come into focus throughout the piece. It’s beautifully shot, with a fantastic sense of framing, as these five men are first seen hanging out with one another, before the framing starts to fracture and they each move into their separate worlds. There are some lovely set-pieces, and a strong sense of a world that’s been left behind, and a nostalgic pull to a certain vision of provincial Italian life (even though this is a film contemporary to when it was made). Perhaps that’s the black-and-white, perhaps it’s just innate in the thematics of the story. But escape from the dreary monotony is an ever-present pull in what is to my mind one of Fellini’s finest films.


FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Director Federico Fellini; Writers Fellini, Tullio Pinelli and Ennio Flaiano; Cinematographers Carlo Carlini, Otello Martelli and Luciano Trasatti; Starring Alberto Sordi, Franco Fabrizi, Franco Interlenghi, Leopoldo Trieste; Length 83 minutes.

Seen at National Library, Wellington, Wednesday 16 June 1999 (and most recently on DVD at home, London, Sunday 21 April 2019).

Criterion Sunday 189: Lo sceicco bianco (The White Sheik, 1952)

Early Fellini is probably the best Fellini, in my opinion, free of the baroque stylisation he would later fall victim to. That said, I find it difficult to imagine this as an Antonioni film (he was one of the writers of the original story, if not the screenplay), because it’s so filled with the extra touches Fellini would throw in, all light and music and movement and mugging for the camera. The lead actor is particularly good (Leopoldo Trieste), the one who plays the hapless husband making excuses for his star-struck wife, and it wasn’t until watching a making-of featurette that I realised this wasn’t a satire on film, but rather a satire on a very specific type of literature in which narratives were photographed for magazines, hence why I was confused about the nature of the shoot. Anyway, it’s all very pleasing and silly really.


FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Director Federico Fellini; Writers Fellini, Tullio Pinelli and Ennio Flaiano; Cinematographer Arturo Gallea; Starring Alberto Sordi, Leopoldo Trieste, Brunella Bovo, Giulietta Masina; Length 83 minutes.

Seen at a friend’s home (DVD), London, Sunday 3 December 2017.