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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 27, No. 3. 1964.

Film Brings Interest And Revulsion

Film Brings Interest And Revulsion

The brilliant handling of Baron Cefalu's marital difficulties and his unusual method of resolving them is not in question, but the underlying morality of Divorzio All'Italiana is.

Don't get me wrong; I am not against comedie noire or even the presentation of anti social or amoral themes in an approving way, but the interest developed in watching Pietro Germi's film brings with it an accompanying revulsion. After all, here is a not particularly bright member of the decayed Sicilian aristocracy, married a dozen years or so to an adoring (if cloying and smothering) wife, who develops a passion for his young cousin and plots to remove the obstacle to his gratification.

Italian law does not contain provision for divorce; the only way of removing the unwanted spouse is to utilise the Court's demonstrated leniency toward the wronged spouse avenging his honour—especially if he stays the guilty partner in flagrante delicto, under strong provocation.

Thus I take Germi's aim to be that of demonstrating the anomaly in a legal system which sets the value of life below divorce in its justification of homicide in the cause of honour (leaving aside the question of whether it really does or not). He has, however, obscured the issue in the particular way he has treated it—any intended social criticism becoming lost in the concentration on the Baron's machinations.

The Baron is unscrupulous in his intention to possess his Angela; there is no hint of Justification in his actions other than infatuation for his cousin and boredom with his wife—he wants something and he is determined to have it.

If this schemer had been treated with a certain amount of charm and a lighter touch (e.g. like the hero of Kind Hearts and Coronets) he would have been more acceptable, though probably no more justified, but I was repelled by his slovenliness calculation and misapplied ingenuity in arranging his manipulations (In a way a back handed compliment to Mastroianni's authoritative performance).

The difficulty of sympathising with him as a person accounts for the inability to become really interested in the issues involved. This detachment means that it is easier to laugh at the way his plans either work precariously or go astray, and at his frantic attempts to regulate their course than to question them

The high level of technical accomplishment (there is an excellent musical sound track as well as above average photography) means that the film is most successful when judged as an exercise in directorial expertise.

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