Monday 19 February 2024

Divorce Italian Style [1961]

 Divorce Italian Style – Pietro Germi’s magnificent first foray into comedy and a pioneering work in the “commedia all’italiana” or “Italian-style comedy” sub-genre, which derived its name from this very film – reminded me of such films from that decade as Buñuel’s Viridiana, Imamura’s The Pornographers and Herz’s The Cremator in how gallows humour, outré characterizations and a narrative seeped in grotesquerie can be audaciously employed for lashing satires on social mores, political happenings and human behaviour, and contain a moral core too. Its oily anti-hero, “Fefè” (Marcello Mastroianni), is a sleezy, lecherous and murderous louche, whose placid demeanour, facial twitches, Brilliantine-soaked hair and dapper suit amusingly informed his decadent aristocracy and machismo, and in turn the pervasive atmosphere of hypocrisy, male chauvinism and bad behaviour in provincial Italy. A smug and vacuous nobleman burdened by debts, living in a dilapidated house in a Sicilian town, he hatches an elaborate scheme to murder his overly fawning and clinging wife Rosalia (Daniela Rocca) – by luring her into the arms of her former flame, which will therefore earn him a lighter punishment as the patriarchal law, whose overt religiosity forbids divorce, would view it as a justifiable redressal of one’s honour – in order to satisfy his raging lust for his nubile, enticing and young cousin Angela (Stefania Sandrelli). The film was raucous, hilarious, unapologetically offensive, glorious filled with ironies and exaggerations, and cutting in its lampooning; idiosyncratically shot to amplify the farcical tone and sticky atmosphere; boasted of a fabulous comedic turn by Mastriano, who was courageously cast against type; and sly meta-commentary through references to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita where Mastriano, in a dramatically different persona, is seen seduced by Anita Ekberg.

Director: Pietro Germi

Genre: Comedy/Black Comedy/Social Satire/Marital Satire/Crime

Language: Italian

Country: Italy

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