Mafioso

From 1962, the funny Italian uncle to The Godfather.

Alberto Lattuada's Mafioso dates from 1962, but this nearly forgotten dark comedy could be the most modern (or at least modernist) movie in town. The sort of man who admonishes a worker for laboring too fast and shaves while polishing his shoes and talking nonstop, Alberto Sordi's character is a wildly successful Sicilian transplant living in Milan—complete with a chic northern wife (Brazilian actress Norma Bengell) and two blond children. Modern times turn feudal once he returns to his home village for a vacation. Wife and kids are swept up in a series of screaming reunions and huge meals. Always voluble, he becomes borderline hysterical, his "northern" persona disintegrating as he abruptly bursts into song upon his return. Lattuada satirizes Sicily as he acknowledges northern prejudices, but the light comedy shifts when, out with his family in a boat, Sordi is summoned to the don by an unseen messenger. Mafioso was seemingly the first Italian movie to portray the modern mafia, and it's a blueprint for The Godfather in sardonic, compressed, anecdotal form. Given the movie's virtual dictionary of mafia euphemisms, it's hard to believe that Mario Puzo hadn't seen Mafioso while writing his novel. J. HOBERMAN

 
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