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DIVORCE–ITALIAN STYLE (Divorzio all’italiana) (director/writer: Pietro Germi; screenwriter: story by Ennio De Concini/Ennio De Concini; cinematographers: Leonida Barboni/Carlo Di Palma; editor: Roberto Cinquini; music: Carlo Rustichelli; cast: Marcello Mastroianni (Ferdinando Cefalù), Daniela Rocca (Rosalia Cefalù), Stefania Sandrelli (Angela), Leopoldo Trieste (Carmelo Patane), Odoardo Spadaro (Don Gaetano), Angela Cardile (Agnese), Margherita Girelli (Sisina), Odoardo Spadaro (Don Gaetano), ; Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Franco Cristaldi; The Criterion Collection; 1961-Italy-in Italian with English subtitles)
“Wickedly funny black comedy satirizes Italy’s antiquated institutions.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director Pietro Germi’s (“Sedotta e Abbandonata”) wickedly funny black comedy satirizes Italy’s antiquated institutions and its unfair patriarchal society. It’s cowritten by Ennio De Concini, whose story it’s based on. It’s in the same light as Kind Hearts and Coronets.

Marcello Mastroianni stars as Baron Don Ferdinando Cefalù, who is suffering from loss of family wealth due to his squandering alcoholic father (Odoardo Spadaro) and undergoing a midlife crisis. The Baron feels put upon by his unattractive (she’s mustached) nagging wife Rosalia (Daniela Rocca, suicidal girlfriend of the director), who craves constant attention, sex and love. Since he still considers himself a desirable catch, he schemes to dump his wife in favor of his beautiful pure teenage cousin Angela (Stefania Sandrelli). The problem is you can’t divorce in Sicily, but there’s a loophole in the law that says you can murder your wife and get away with it if you catch her in the act with another man.

The Baron brings painter Carmelo Patanè (Leopoldo Trieste), the former boyfriend of his wife who is now married with three children, into his palace home to restore a fresco. Their renewal sparks a passion, and the gleeful Baron contrives to leave them alone while he tape records their conversations from another room. On a night the Baron expects to catch them in bed, they fool him by running off together. This brings great shame on the Baron and his family, and through a local gangster he tracks down his wife and lover. But before he can shoot his wife, Carmelo’s abandoned wife murders her husband to avenge her disgrace. The judge gives him a light sentence and when released the Baron marries Angela, whose old-fashioned father died of a heart attack when he read by mistake a love letter she wrote the Baron. While on a yacht for their honeymoon, the vain Baron is unaware his wife is playing footsies with the handsome young sailor at the helm.

The film was a box office smash and received much critical acclaim (Mastroianni got an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, which was the first time in Academy Award history that the lead in a foreign language film received such an honor).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”