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Divorce Italian Style (The Criterion Collection)

32 customer reviews

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(Apr 26, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Baron Ferdinando Cefalù (Marcello Mastroianni) longs to marry his nubile cousin Angela, but one obstacle stands in his way: his fatuous and fawning wife, Rosalia. His solution? Since divorce is illegal, he will devise a scenario wherein he can catch his spouse in the arms of another and murder her to save his honor-a lesser offense. Criterion is proud to present director Pietro Germi's hilarious and cutting satire of Italy's hypocritical judicial system and male-dominated culture, winner of the 1962 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, in a two-disc DVD edition that also features a documentary on the director, new interviews with the actors and screenwriter, screen-test footage, and more.

Divorce Italian Style is a comedy milestone--a brilliant, biting satire that was originally conceived as a drama; directed with nonstop inventiveness by a filmmaker who had never done comedy; and featuring an actor who, though not even among the first dozen players considered, cemented his international stardom with this performance. The movie also marked a breakthrough for foreign film in America, winning popular as well art-house success, Academy Award nominations for director Pietro Germi and star Marcello Mastroianni, and--the first of only a few foreign-language films to do so--the Oscar itself for Original Screenplay.

On the sun-blasted island of Sicily, Baron Ferdinand "Fefè" Cefalù (Mastroianni) breaks out of his heat- and boredom-induced stupor long enough to be smitten with mad passion for his 16-year-old cousin Angela (Stefania Sandrelli). But he's married--to Rosalia (Daniela Rocca), she of the unfortunate mustache--and the Italian Penal Code gives him no way out... except, of course, for catching his wife in adultery and availing himself of the patriarchal license to commit a "crime of honor." So Fefè searches for a way to fling Rosalia into the arms of another man.

Mastroianni's Fefè is an indelible masterpiece, visually and behaviorally: a portrait in painterly chiaroscuro, with brilliantined hair, eternally drooping eyelids, a cigarette holder angled in perpetual salute, and a manic, conspiratorial slouch, like Groucho Marx on painkillers. Germi's direction hustles the film along with bold, mobile camerawork, stream-of-consciousness lurches into fantasy and flashback, Fefè's feverish voiceover commentary, and a wonderfully propulsive music score by the late Carlo Rustichelli. --Richard T. Jameson

Special Features

  • Pietro Germi: The Man with the Cigar in His Mouth, a 39-minute documentary by critic and filmmaker Mario Sesti
  • Delighting in Contrasts, a new 30-minute interview featuring Stefania Sandrelli, Lando Buzzanca, and Mario Sesti
  • Rare screen-test footage of actresses Daniela Roca and Stefania Sandrelli
  • A new essay by film critic Stuart Klawans

Product Details

  • Actors: Marcello Mastroianni, Daniela Rocca, Stefania Sandrelli, Leopoldo Trieste, Odoardo Spadaro
  • Directors: Pietro Germi
  • Writers: Pietro Germi, Agenore Incrocci, Alfredo Giannetti, Ennio De Concini
  • Producers: Franco Cristaldi
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: April 26, 2005
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007M222A
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,377 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Divorce Italian Style (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 9, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Just so you know, divorce is now permitted in Italy. But in 1962, the only way you could get a divorce was by... well, "Divorce Italian Style," a ka bumping off your adulterous spouse. This delightfully warped black comedy focuses on that very idea -- a disgruntled husband who goes to absurd lengths to get a "divorce."

Ferdinando Cefalú (Marcello Mastroianni) is a middle-aged Sicialian noble who is displeased with his life, and his adoring wife Rosalia (Daniela Rocca). In true midlife-crisis fashion, he falls for his angelic-looking cousin Angela (Stefania Sandrelli), but he can't get a divorce. Divorce isn't allowed in Italy at this time, so Ferdinando is left stewing over his problems, fantasizing about murdering Rosalia.

But then he hears about an odd law: if an adulterous spouse is caught in flagrante, then the wronged spouse can kill the adulterer and get off with a light prison sentence. So Ferdinando starts desperately searching for a potential lover for Rosalia, but she remains faithful. Then he locates an ex-boyfriend of hers, hoping to rekindle the old flame. But nothing goes quite according to plan...

Yes, it's a bit sick. But in such a funny way that it really doesn't offend. At a certain point it becomes less about Ferdinando trying to murder his wife, as it is an increasingly overwrought attempt to get her to commit adultery. Not to mention a spoof on traditional views on "family honor," where it is more shocking to NOT kill your adulterous spouse than it is to do so.

Ferdinando carefully straddles the line between being slime and being a funny character -- his surreal murder fantasies are hilarious, such as when he shoves Rosalia into a vat of soap.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Dymon Enlow on July 19, 2005
Format: DVD
I've never even heard of this movie before, I only rented it cause I'm on a noble quest (just like a knight!) to see every Criterion DVD. And I'm glad I did cause this movie is hilarious! I loved it. I'd even buy a copy if I wasn't flat broke.

Aristocrat Fefe cannot stand his wife. Loud, annoying, crazy facial hair she grates on his nerves all day then wants to cuddle, etc all night. Yuck! Lucky for him though there is a 16-year-old hottie next door that is in love with him. Yes!

Now all he has to do is get rid of his wife, but since divorce is illegal he's just gonna have to kill her, but that means prison unless! Unless he catches her in the arms of another man then he'll get less than 3 years! But who would ever want to be with his wife?

Flawlessly directed with an almost psychotic intensity I think I grinned like an idiot the entire movie. And the performance! Everybody was great, but Marcello Mastroianni was absolutely brilliant. I'd laugh even when he was just standing around thinking.

Double feature this with THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH.



Ferdinando Cefalu - Marcello Mastroianni (LA DOLCE VITA, 8 1/2)

Rosalina Cefalu - Daniela Rocca (THE SUCKER, BEHOLD A PALE HORSE)

Angela - Stefania Sandrelli (1900, THE CONFORMIST)
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Guido E. Scipione on August 15, 2000
Format: DVD
What a waste. This is a hilarious movie, but the DVD transfer reminds me of a bad print at a second-run theater. This is the second DVD I have purchased from Hen's Tooth Video (the other being Peckinpah's Cross of Iron) and it will be the last. The transfer has not been augmented in any way for DVD. The scratches on the print are very distracting and there are no special features to make up for it. I look forward to the day when another company issues this worthy title in a manner that takes advantage of the DVD format and is appreciative of its customers.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 2001
Format: DVD
How on earth did Hen's Tooth get hold of the rights to this classic Italian film? They obviously have no right to produce DVDs, since they obviously don't have the right equipment for a good transfer from film (most of their efforts look like transfers from defective videos). If you have any respect for the film, never buy this DVD.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 4, 2007
Format: DVD
Divorzio all'italiana is a richly textured satire of Sicilian macho Catholic life styles starring one of Italy's greatest actors, Marcello Mastroianni. He is a bit Chaplinesque in this tongue in cheek exploration of how to dump your wife and marry your 16-year-old cousin. His wide-eyed, dead pan expressions combined with vulnerability and suave, leading-man good looks made him the heart-throb of women for decades. He plays a bored baron stuck with a baroness (played fatuously by Daniela Rocca) that he cannot abide. It should be noted that today it IS possible to get a divorce in Italy, but at the time it was very difficult, perhaps easier to get an annulment, and so we have the premise of the plot.

Stefania Sandrelli, who became one of the great ladies of the Italian cinema, plays the cousin. She was only 15 when the film was shot but could easily pass for, say, 18. She is sensual, sweet and a bit naughty. In the final scene, famous for its fitting irony, the last thing we see are her feet. I won't tell you more, but the movie is almost worth seeing just for that final scene.

Rocca's Rosalia on the other hand is more syrupy than sweet and would qualify as clinging. She could smother a lumberjack, and although it is not polite to comment unfavorably on a lady's looks, I must note that she seemed to be having a bad facial hair day, everyday. Her impersonation of a country baroness nonetheless was unforgettable. I also liked 16-year-old Margherita Girelli as Sisini, the maid. Her coquettish ways helped to lend a French bedroom farce flavor to the film.
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