Mafioso

A wonderful Italian film called “Mafioso,” which came out in 1962, tells the story of Antonio Badalamente, a Sicilian living in Milan who decides to return home with his family to his hometown in Sicily.  Antonio, played by Alberto Sordi, works in a Fiat factory and never takes a vacation.  But when the day comes for his train journey to Sicily, the owner of the factory gives him a wrapped present to give to the reining godfather of his town.  Antonio, oblivious of the significance of the wrapped gift, eventually gets caught up in a shocking plan that changes his life forever.

Alberto Sordi, as Antonio, takes a trip to Sicily in "Mafioso."

Alberto Sordi, as Antonio, takes a trip to Sicily in “Mafioso.”

The main theme of the film concerns the differences between Antonio’s northern Italian family and the odd country characters and members of his own family that he meets in Sicily. Antonio takes his apprehensive and blonde wife Marta (Norma Bengell) along with him, along with his two kids.  With good-natured affection, Antonio prods his family to rush and speaks wistfully about the first sight of Sicily that they’ll see after leaving the “Boot (Italy)” on the ferry. Antonio’s ebullience makes us look forward to the adventure too.

In the opening scene, director Alberto Lattuada gives us a tour of the auto factory and emphasizes Antonio’s gift for efficient management.  Then comes the frenzied packing by the family, the rush to catch the train, and the embarkation of the ferry from a port that seems like the edge of civilization by the time the movie ends.  In contrast, Sicily is a land of donkey carts, rustic food, and a village that knows little about modern social conventions other than to pay homage to the local mafia leader, Don Vincenzo (Ugo Attanasio), and honor church traditions.  The people in the village know the punishment for disobeying the rules of Don Vincenzo and his henchmen.

The sophisticated Marta gets into trouble with Antonio’s family.  His mother won’t talk to her and his father finds her weak-willed and fragile.  Eventually, Marta gains their trust by performing a beauty makeover for Antonio’s unfortunate sister Rosalia, who sports a moustache and waits patiently to marry a local playboy who’s in no hurry for matrimony.  But the ending makes it clear that obligations to the Mafia must always be considered when returning home to Sicily.  Although his family eventually learns to enjoy the rustic nature of their holiday, Antonio’s very different experience proves that old ties can never be completely forgotten, especially in Sicily when there are power struggles to settle.

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