MAFIA INC. movie review

MAFIA INC
Film Movement
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Daniel Grou
Writer: André Cédilot, Sylvain Guy, André Noël  Mafia Inc: The Long, Bloody Reign of Canada’s Sicilian Clan by journalists André Cédilot and André Noël,
Cast: Sergio Castellitto, Marc-André Grondin, Gilbert Sicotte, Mylèlen Mackay, Donny Falsetti
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 2/7/21
Opens: January 29, 2021

Mafia Inc Large Poster

Names of countries and provinces are flying here as though the actors are playing a game of geography. Lugano, Switzerland, Italy, Sicily, Lichtenstein, Venezuela, Quebec, Canada, Montreal, Cayman Islands. All of these areas (even Venezuela in better times) accommodate people who want to launder money, to hide deposits from the authorities. It’s a wonder that mafia members ever get caught, but Daniel Grou’s “Mafia Inc” shows what many of us in the audience know. Fallings out within gangster families in addition to wars between rival gangs lead to actions, reactions, and these guys don’t fool around. They get revenge when somebody squeals to the cops, when others are found to wear wires to lessen their sentences, and in the case of this movie, when one commits a crime so horrible that even his fellow members ostracize him.

The Quebecois director Daniel Grou, whose “Miraculum” is an ensemble work about people exploring their passions, deals now with people at least equally passionate, though a subplot around a controversial romance is thrown in to complicate a story that, like “Miraculum” is an ensemble piece. There are many characters with so many conflicting emotions and desires that a second showing may be needed to assemble the puzzle.

The two principals are Frank Paternò (Sergio Castellitto), the godfather of an ethnically Italian clan living in Montreal, and Vince Gamache (Marc-André Grondin), a young member committed to violent actions meant not only to earn great sums of money (by hiding drugs inside corpses with removed organs and smuggling them through customers), but also to impress Frank. The film is based on a true story uncovered by Canada’s Woodward and Bernstein-like journalists André Cédilot and André Noël. The action takes place in Montreal in 1994 with flashbacks to 1980 to show the lives of upcoming mafioso Vince.

The godfather is played by a smartly-dressed, articulate, person who you might think is the CEO of Italian airlines and whose idea of making money is not by Bonnie-and-Clyde bank heists but by getting involved in a proposed bridge between Sicily and Italian mainland. You would not be surprised to see that the smooth-talker is proud of his anticipated construction as he frequently refers to his roots in the “motherland.” What will eventually take down the scheme is that Frank’s son Giaco (Donny Falsetti) is the man he wants as his successor, and ambitions of rival Vince, who is the son of a tailor (Gilbert Sicotte) known for custom-dressing the Paternò clan.

These are not a pleasant ensemble of people but Vince, a firebrand on his way up, believes more than the others that the end justifies the means. His is the idea of crashing a school bus in Venezuela sacrificing children to pick up bodies to transport drugs through customs. The romance between Giaco’s brother Pat (Michaela Ricci) and Vince’s sister Sofie (Mylène) adds complexity to the story, which features large groups of people in ornate houses and reception halls, a concrete sign of the millions sent by the families to banks around the world.

As in “The Godfather,” which is probably the best known classic film on the subject atop a slew of others like “Once Upon a Time in America,” (an almost four-hour look at a Jewish prohibition gangster coming to terms with his life), “Eastern Promises” (a Russian crime family), and “Scarface” (a Cuban immigrant in Miami takes over a drug cartel). If we are to believe the two journalists who covered the Quebec-based mob, their story involves everything you expect in an action drama, including the blowing up a custom men’s wear shop with a pipe bomb, shootouts that make “High Noon” appear like a child’s game of tiddle-de-winks, dancing by ornately dressed couples in the most gaudy reception rooms, and the like.

What is different here is that the gangsters easily adapt their perfectly accented speech among Quebec French, English and Italian. The film also shows what’s left of the mafioso humanity: they may cry when family members wind up dead and they are sentimental about budding romances among the clan. “Sicko,” one of Michael Moore’s documentaries, purports to show how civilized Canada is when compared to the U.S. Some of us here in America have fantasies that the Canadians, with their seeming cooperation among political parties and normal prime ministers, must be an idyllic place to live. “Mafia Inc” however points out the flaws within the boundaries of our neighbors to the north and does a more than adequate job albeit with some confusion.

In French (or should we say “French”), Italian, and English with English subtitles where necessary.

134 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

THE GODDESS OF FORTUNE – movie review

THE GODDESS OF FORTUNE (La dea fortuna)
Breaking Glass Pictures
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Ferzan Ozpetek
Writer: Ferzan Ozpetek, Silvia Ranfagni, Gianni Romoli
Cast: Stefano Accorsi, Edoardo Leo, Jasmine Trinca, Sara Ciocco, Edoardo Brandi, Barbara Alberti, Serra Yilmaz
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 11/18/20
Opens: November 17, 2020

The Goddess of Fortune

The slings and arrows of a gay relationship turn out to be not at all different from the same discords in straight couples. Two gay men with different backgrounds, Alessandro (Edoardo Leo), a muscular plumber, and Arturo (Stefano Accorsi), an academic translator, are on the verge of spliting. Being Italian, they are of course part of a large family, a group that knows how to celebrate, eating and drinking as though life were a European banquet. Like many comedies that begin with high spirits, “The Goddess of Fortune” will gradually and heartbreakingly face crises, affecting not only the two whose passions have long diminished, but two children, Martina (Sara Ciocca) and Sandro (Edoardo Brandi), as well.

Film Review: THE GODDESS OF FORTUNE [LA DEA FORTUNA] (directed by Ferzan  Özpetek)

The dramedy is the work of Ferzan Ozpetek, whose “Naples in Veils” treats the existence of Adriana, whose life changes from a sudden love and a violent crime. In this current picture, Ozpetek hones in on Alessandro, furious that his partner has been involved with another boyfriend for two years, which gives the plumber enough reason to break up then and there. But family situations turn up to alter their heartbreaking plans, giving both a reason to stay together in caring for the children as well as they cared for and loved Annamaria (Jasmine Trinca). The warm and friendly Annamaria’s children are by different men. When she, burdened with migraines, gets a painful diagnosis from the hospital requiring a sensitive operation, she leaves the eleven-year-old girl and the nine-year-old boy (played superbly, by the way), with the men whom they love.

You will probably guess where the story is headed, given its predictable conclusion when the two middle-aged men, being too busy to take care of the young ones, put them up with a bitch of a grandmother (Barbara Alberti), a baroness with a huge chateau near Rome whose attitude toward gay men is the least of her problems. The principal one is the way she has treated her own daughter, and now follows suit with her two grandchildren. (That chateau, all of which is inhabited by only the grandmother and her loyal servant, was filmed near Palermo at the Seventeenth Century Villa Valguarnera.)

The picture includes good food, of course, even on the cheap ferry that takes the children and the two men from Sicily to the North. But the pleasures that Italians take seriously are threatened throughout most of the final segments of the movie by conflicts of the two men, one of whom gives Alessando the guilt trip “I could have been a professor,” while Alessandro knows how to make a mockery of his partner’s Trumpian whining.

“The Goddess of Fortune,” whose message is to closely stare at a partner, then close your eyes. You will remember him or her forever. In the same way, the film covers the emotions from joy to tragedy smoothly, making this almost a holiday movie given the happy and credible ending.

114 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+

ALONE WITH HER DREAMS – movie review

Alone With Her Dreams (Picciridda – Con i piedi nella sabia)
Corinth Films
Reviewed by Harvey Karten for BigAppleReviews.net
Director: Paolo Licata
Screenwriters: Ugo Chiti, Catena Fiorello, Paolo Licata
Cast: Lucia Sardo, Marta Castiglia , Ileana Rigano, Katia Greco, Claudio Collova, Lorendana Marino, Tania Bambaci, Frederica Sarno
Release Date: October 30, 2020

Many couples with failed marriages avoid separating and divorcing until their children are eighteen years old, able to take care of themselves and old enough to be cushioned against the loss of their moms and dads. Even more concerning, though, is the psychological harm that comes when both parents leave a child, in the case of “Alone With Her Dreams” going from a seacoast town near Messina to somewhere in France to find jobs. During the 1960s, when hell might freeze over before a Sicilian is given employment in Rome or, for that matter, anywhere in Northern Italy, the mother and father of eleven-year-old Lucia (Marta Castigilia) try to sooth their traumatized little girl (known as “little one” by her family) as they board a boat that will take them by train across the border. They took just one of their brood with them, unable to take care of both, leaving Lucia in the hands of her grandmother, Nonna Maria (Lucia Sardo).

As the film progresses, we in the audience might feel angry with Maria, a widow who regularly insists that she would prefer being alone, and who appears to take out her frustrations on her charge—spanking her with a wooden spoon when she comes home late and depriving her of the kind of love a small child should expect of at least someone in the family.

Later, though, we understand why the older woman has been harsh with Lucia, but not until she comes back in the current year, a 41-year-old woman (Federica Sarno), finally hearing the truth of a story that had been a lie promulgated by her uncle, Zio Saro (Claudia Collovà). For his part uncle Saro tells his niece the fake reason that her grandmother refuses to speak to her own sister, Zia Franca (Loredana Marino).

Without question this is a coming-of-age story but rises above the glut of such dramas by Lorenzo Adorisio’s photography on a seacoast area of Sicily that might be sought out by tourists seeking a peaceful vacation away from the treasures of Rome, but an area marked by the poverty of its inhabitants.

As we see daily life of the residents of a small village—fruit and vegetable stands with food that Italians can never get wrong, gossip by the folks which means that everything and then some is everybody’s business, near-curses put on people within families, one of which becomes resolved toward the conclusion of the story—we can empathize with Lucia easily enough, but most of all we can lift our censorious attitude toward granny when you realize that she has Lucia’s long-term interests at heart.

This is Paolo Licata’s freshman offering as director, a person who may have a difficult time carving out a future story as tender and yet as unsentimental as this one, its two principals bonding as though they were parts of an actual family.

In Italian with English subtitles.

95 minutes. © Harvey Karten

Story – A-
Acting – A-
Technical – A
Overall – A-

THE TRAITOR – movie review

THE TRAITOR
Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Marco Bellocchio
Screenwriters: Marco Bellochio, Ludovica Rampoldi, Valia Santela, Francesco Piccolo
Cast: Pierfrancesco Favino, Luigi Lo Cascio, Fausto Russo Alesi, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Fabrizio Ferracane, Nicola Calì
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 5/8/20
Opens: May 12, 2020

What is most impressive about “The Traitor” is that this film perhaps more than any other presents the true story of the Cosa Nostra. Marco Bellochio, whose “Sweet Dreams” focuses on a child whose idyllic childhood is crushed by the death of his mother, paints on a broader canvas in directing and co-writing “The Traitor.” “Il Traditore,” the original Italian name of his current offering, hones in on one person, Tommasco Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), who is responsible more than any other informant for destroying the Cosa Nostra in Sicily, not because he is a saint but because he did not approve of the mob’s increasingly violent manner. For him, cigarette smuggling appears sufficient enough, but when the organization moves into heroin pushing and members of his own family are targeted by cold blooded bosses like Pippo Calò (Fabrizio Ferracane) and Totò Riina (Nicola Calì), Buscetta turns informer.

All names are actual in this biopic of the title traitor, including that of Judge Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi), who took Buscetta’s testimony and, like others on the side of the law, treated the informer well. Buscetta’s testimony brought other would-be informers out of the woodwork to turn state’s evidence in a trial that lasted 1986-1992. As you might expect, since Bellocchio and his co-writers Ludovica Rampoldi, Valia Santela and Francesco Piccolo are dealing with biography, the movie is not as commercial as “The Godfather Part I,” meaning that there are no horse’s heads under the bedcovers and only a minimum of gunplay and explosions.

The hostility between the old mafia (which includes Buscetta) and the Corleone faction led by Totò Riina is almost as intense as that between our current Democratic and Republican Parties, but unlike our own political chaos, the Italians find a way to call a truce. Meanwhile Buscetta moves with his family to Rio, but the plot thickens when he learns that his boys, now in their twenties, are missing.

Truces do not last long. When warfare continues between the two mafia organizations, Buscetta, still in Rio, is arrested by a Swat team of the Italian army, who are then unable to coax a confession out of him even when they dangle his third wife from a chopper. Instead he is extradited to Italy to face Judge Falcone and is treated like a rock star, perceived as the kingpin not to push drugs but to rat on the Cosa Nostra. When the big shots are arrested, they are put behind a cage in a large Italian courtroom, which houses the defendants in a cage, all of whom taunt the traitor particularly with what the Sicilians consider the ultimate insult, “cuckold.” Ultimately Buscetta rats out a prominent Italian politician, and he is given witness protection in the U.S. where he must look over his shoulder even when shopping for food.

The acting all around is appropriately scary, the audience probably feeling the paranoia during the closing scenes when Buscetta notes that he doesn’t give a crap any more if he is taken out by the remnants of the Italian mafia. Great use of operatic music when appropriate, and at two and one-half hours the picture never loses its puls ating momentum.

150 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+