I love Italian cinema. Regardless of era, genre, budget or premise, it never fails to transport to another dimension through which I can bask in the sumptuous settings, beautiful score and luscious language.
Last night I caught a masterpiece that I have wanted to watch for a while and found it to be one of the best I have seen so far.
Divorzio all’italiana by Pietro Germi (1961) follows the ill-fated endeavours of Baron Ferdinando Cefalú (Marcello Mastroianni) to cast off his enamoured wife, Rosalia (Daniela Rocca), in favour of his young cousin, Angela (Stefania Sandrelli).
Since divorce is illegal, he ponders the means by which he can dispose of his wife with minimal punity.
At last, having sighted a clause in the Codice Civile which cites besmirched honor as a plausible motive for murder, Fefé sets about arranging a web in which to snare his long-suffering wife.
By turns amusing and surreal, the film soon settles into an enchantingly naughty misadventure.
Marcello Mastroianni is simply sublime in his role of the aristocratic cornuto – the scheming and plotting, facial ticks and feigns, all merging to make the perfect anti-hero.
Daniela Rocca was my favourite character by far, with her portrayal of the Baroness Rosalia [above] being hirsutely quaint and pitiful in equal measure.
Stefania Sandrelli belies her fifteen years of age to become a veritable minx who captures the heart of her lusty uncle and sets in motion a catalog of events that reveal the flaws in the male-chauvinist culture of Sicily.
The question of honor is addressed throughout, with an interesting spin infused through the prevalence of female-executed honor killings on errant husbands.
It’s worth noting the not-so-subtle nod to Mastroianni half-way through the film, when the entire village clamours into the cinema to watch the risque La Dolce Vita.
The movie, by Federico Fellini, proved a springboard for Mastroianni in 1960, in which he played a disillusioned and self-loathing tabloid columnist who spends his days and nights exploring Rome’s high society.
Divorzio is a wonderful take on the gender/honor debate, with the end providing an well-deserved twist that proves the metaphorical grass is not always greener on the other side.