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“La donna è mobile”

la padrinaThe tenth wedding anniversary of Donna Costanza (Alfonsi) in New Jersey is rudely interrupted when her husband is gunned down during the party. For he was a Mafia boss who, it appears, had crossed the wrong person. Before dying, he whispers to his wife, “Giarratana from Palermo,” apparently fingering the man behind the hit. Seeking revenge, Madam Costanza flies to Sicily, and meets up with a loyal family employee, soliciting his help to plan the death of the local boss fingered by her husband’s last words. But things are considerably more murky than they seem, as Costanza has wandered into the middle of some shenanigans involving a corrupt local official, a police investigation and an arms deal, which are all leaving a trail of corpses in their wake. And someone wants Donna to join the dead bodies, first trying to blow up her plane, then sabotaging the brakes on her car. When a supposedly blind man guns down her contact in the street, it’s getting too warm for comfort.

I can see where this is aiming, coming out the year after The Godfather, and aiming to add an extra layer of Italian authenticity – while, of course, keeping a canny eye on the American market. However, by trying to cram everything into little more than 90 minutes, the net result is more confusing mess than epic drama, and particularly in the middle third, poor Donna is left little more than a minor supporting actress in her own movie. Things are not helped by a soundtrack and costumes which appear not so much stuck in the seventies, as repeatedly nail-gunned to the floor of the decade. Things get a bit more interesting when Donna finally meets the man responsible – he actually pays her a visit, doesn’t deny his role in proceedings, calmly explains he was basically doing what was best for business, and then invites her to join him, as the only way to keep the Costanza name at the top of the food chain. It’s a neat twist, further muddying the lines between organized crime and (semi-)legitimate business which have been blurred by the movie, almost since she arrived in Sicily.

So, will Donna take a pragmatic approach and bury the hatchet for the sake of her family’s future? Or will she follow through with vengeance on behalf of her husband? It’s somewhat diverting, while the ending is both decisive, and offers a nice commentary on life in 70’s Sicily, where Death apparently was an everyday occurrence. But getting there involves sitting through an awful lot of mobsters sitting around doing mob things, and Vari is definitely not Coppola.

Dir: Giuseppe Vari.
Star: Lidia Alfonsi, Venantino Venantini, Mario Danieli, Orchidea de Santis
a.k.a. La Padrina

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