Alberto Lattuada’s “Mafioso” – 2006 New York Film Festival Review

A major re-discovery of this year’s New York Film Festival is the 1962 dark comedy “Mafioso” from Alberto Lattuada, who is best known in this country as the co-director of Federico Fellini’s first feature, “Variety Lights.” However, this remarkable film, restored by Rialto Pictures and set for release in January 2007, proves that Lattuada was as great a director in his own right, and unjustly overlooked.

“Mafioso” is anchored by Alberto Sordi’s great performance as an officious Fiat factory foreman who returns with his family to his Sicilian hometown, where he finds that he must fulfill the wishes of the local don.

Lattuada skillfully shifts from broad comedy involving his colorful Sicilian clan to noirish suspense. A clear antecedent to “The Godfather” and other films about the mob, “Mafioso” is a great film on its own terms, sharply contrasting the urban sophistication of Milan and the rural values of Sicily. “I was just watching Italy fade away,” Antonio’s wife wistfully remarks on their trip. And indeed, with its distinct dialect, landscape and mores, Sicily seems to be a separate country. However, as this film provocatively shows, the influence of the Sicilian mob is responsible for much of the affluence of the north.