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Mafioso (The Criterion Collection)
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2008
This movie is a brilliant, consistently ironic and finally grim comedy, and as such far sadder than tragedy. Rather than showing us an imperfect man attempting to rise to the occasion when it's sadly too late, this film shows him instead too easily falling to it.

A northern Italian auto factory foreman, the marvelous Alberto Sordi first appears standing before rows of wonderfully photographed clanging machines, performing dully repetitive tasks. Eagerly, he demands his workers obey his directions for a robot like speed of their own - i.e. man as boss dehumanizing man as underling. Soon taking a vacation to the South, Sicily, to introduce his family to his "roots," the Sordi character is asked by his own northern boss to deliver an objet d'art to the Mafia leader down there. This delegated task creates a meaningful link between the seemingly opposite "economically booming" North and the impoverished South, one which the film never loses sight of. Weak humanity is easily corruptible into the pawns of superiors, North or South. In the movement of the film, we are taken then not so much from an urbane, civilized North to a rural, primitive South as a much shorter distance - out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The director of this film, Alberto Lattuada, stated that he habitually looked through the lens of the camera and was essentially the author of every shot. One can easily believe him. The story-telling images of mouth-watering but excessive amounts of food (fried eggplant, swordfish,and octopus-ink flavored pasta) being pressed upon Sordi and his family in Sicily are unforgettable, as are the mind-boggling images of the unique skyscrapers of New York when the impressionable Sordi is transported there late in the film for yet another delegated task, this time southern variety.

I'd argue against the notion that the movie neatly splits into a tragic mode after a comic beginning. Instead, it reveals from the outset that men in the North are considered as dispensible tools for obedience to bosses of industry, just as later and with disturbing consistency, they are shown to be to bosses of the Mafia in Sicily. Underneath the grinning mask of the comedy, there is from the very beginning a solemn mask as well.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Italian actor Alberto Sordi stars in this brilliant, mordant comedy about a jovial Sicilian engineer who returns to his hometown (with his new family in tow) and exults in the simple country pleasures of rural Sicily. Meanwhile, Nino's blonde, glamorous Northern Italian wife is utterly horrified: her husband's hometown is seen as a parade of the broadest ethnic stereotypes, all the disparaging images that Northerners hold against Southern Italians: that they are swarthy, crude, loutish, loud, hot-tempered, and completely mired in the criminal culture of the Mafia.

For the first half of the film, Nino appears an utter innocent, happily embracing all his childhood kith and kin, speaking glowingly of charity of the local Mafia Don, cheerfully accepting all the absurd explanations of why half the town seems to be either dead or in jail. But slowly, the truth of Nino's past emerges, and we realize that this dumb country cluck is a little more savvy that he lets on... About the same time, the film does an equal about-face, shifting from a broad farce into a chilling Mob movie. It's a fascinating film; also a nice glimpse into Italy in the early 1960s, a forward-looking, industrialized nation with deep ties to its old past. Definitely worth checking out. (Joe Sixpack, Slipcue film reviews)
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2008
I saw this film on the big screen and it was quite an experience. I went in thinking it was going to be some boring 1960's black and white film.

How wrong can you be?

This movie is absolutely hilarious. It's lighthearted and funny for most of the movie and the lead character really drives the story. He wants his wife and two daughters, his modern Italian family in Milan, to see his hometown in Sicily -- his "roots."

The lead character remembers his beloved Sicily as an idyllic countryside with good people, good food, and good times. However, now that he is a grown man, upon his arrival, certain parties are interested in what he can do for them. The events that follow are what make for very good movie watching. You just never know where its going to go.

This movie is in Italian, so it has subtitles. Don't let that discourage you from watching this. The expressions on the people's faces are all you need.

You'll never look at The Godfather or any mob movie the same way again.

Brilliantly directed and acted - amongst the top tier of films ever created.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
i finally got to see this film recently and enjoyed it from start to finish. the Humor at first was a trip and then the film got real dark and serious.the Main character was coming back home and he wanted to still be down with his roots and he was being tested. his wife represented the new world he had undertaken and his family and old running buddies didn't know if he had changed or if he was still down. he was working a auto plant and they wanted to see if the big city life had changed him from his past ways. this film was the one that got the Godfather and other classics off and running. Giada De laurentis of the Food Channel who has a show called Everyday Italian,well her Grandfather Dino De Laurentis Produced this film.this is a must see film.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2013
Mafioso is a prime example of the commedia all'italiana as a complex film blurring the lines between comedy and drama. For the most part, it is entertaining though the climax is rather slow and brings the film to a sputtering end rather than a truly satisfying conclusion.

It is the story of Nino Badalamenti, a Sicilian technician working and living in northern Italy with his family. He is a man fully in control of himself and his surroundings, dictating everything from his colleagues to his own family, calling the shots for their family vacation to his native Italy.

This is where the movie finds its strengths; as someone of Sicilian ancestry, I can appreciate the stereotypes and differences between Sicilian and northern Italians, and Mafioso plays these up to very funny effect. The Sicilians are coarse, hairy, loud, and over-the-top foils to the suave and sophisticated northerners. (I find this even funnier as it is from an Italian perspective; most non-Italian films view all Italians as the same, and it's great to find a movie that actually recognizes that there is diversity within this country.)

The comic-tragic elements come from the main narrative though, of Nino's struggles with his own identity as a Sicilian (and of course the inevitable mafia-stereotype that comes along with that) and getting back into the circles of crime he was involved with as a youth. This pulls him back into committing a terrible crime, which the end of the film implies will affect him to the rest of his days.

Mafioso is certainly a good movie, entertaining and thought-provoking; the sequence surrounding Nino's crime, though, is told too slowly in my opinion and doesn't contribute much to the greater conflict of identity politics, which is conveyed much more strongly for the rest of the film.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2008
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film

Mafioso is a film about the Sicilian mafia which being made in Sicily (and partly in the US) by Italians, is a sure sign of authenticity. It was one of the earliest films about the mafia and is a classic having both Italian and Sicilian dialogue.

The film is about a family man and factory worker in Sicily who is asked to do a favor for the mafia.

Anything else I say could be construed as a spoiler so I will leave it at that

The special features include an archival interview with the film's director, Alberto Lattuada, and new interviews with his wife and son. Also included are the original Italian trailer and the US rerelease trailer. Finally is a set of caricatures promoting the film.

This is an excellent look at the mafia and can't be much more authentic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2012
Every professional review I've looked up on this film after watching it has described it exclusively as being "about the Mafia." But this film is no more exclusively about the Mafia than THE GODFATHER I & II were. After all, unless you've got your eyes closed it's awfully hard to miss the symbolism in Godfather II when Michael Corleone attends a party with other mobsters and the heads of US corporations in which they cut up a cake in the shape of Cuba and divide the pieces among themselves. The corporate mindset and the mindset of the mob dovetail quite nicely in the GODFATHER films.

So, too, one should note that the protagonist's "mission" in MAFIOSO originates at the Fiat factory in Milan, NOT when he arrives in Sicily. The extensive factory scenes with which the film begins are not there simply to show off that the director knows Chaplin's MODERN TIMES--though every reviewer felt compelled to show off that HE knew Chaplin's MODERN TIMES. Rather the automated dehumanized nature of the protagonist's job, the "precision" of which he is so proud, and his cringing subordination to authority are all established in the scenes in the Fiat factory. These very traits--that have won him advancement in the mechanized North--will be the same that make him so extremely "useful" in Sicily. After all, the differences between the way the protagonist acts with his boss up north and the "Don" down south are purely cultural: he may not throw himself upon the hand of his boss up north to kiss it (as he does with the Don), but only because other forms of cringing obedience are expected up north. All of which he is more than happy to embody.

The interesting thing about this film for me is not the blatant differences between North & South--so blatant as to be "tiresome" to some reviewers. Rather I'd say that the exaggeration of these apparent differences is intentional to better set off the thread of obedience that connects the protagonist's relationship to Power and Authority in both the North and South.

In both the North and the South, the protagonist, who loves his family, is aware of how much he has to lose by coming up short in his obedience, in his "precision." In both the North and South, he feels that he must fit himself into the operations of a larger inevitable force--the machinery of the factory, the plot in Sicily in which he is explicitly told that "everything is already moving forward, it's basically already accomplished, you just need to do a certain stupid little thing." In both North and South he is a cog.

By the end of this film I found myself wondering if it was his childhood around the Mafia that prepared him to be such an exemplary and unquestioning middle-management lackey up North, or whether it was his training in Northern-style management that prepared him so perfectly to do what he found himself required to do in Sicily. Beneath the obvious differences, it is this consistent strand of unquestioning obedience to Authority--required to survive in both the industrial North and the "primitive" South--that makes this movie still so very interesting and I'd even say relevant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Sold on its original Italian release in 1962 as a dramatic expose and in its 2006 US release as a laugh-a-minute comedy, Alberto Lattuada's Mafioso is neither - rather it's an occasionally dark dramatic comedy that doesn't trivialize the way the Mafia have helped hold Sicily in the 19th century for easy laughs. Indeed, considering how much of the film is a gently observed culture clash comedy as auto worker Alberto Sordi takes the wife and kids to his Sicilian hometown for the first time that at times threatens to become M. Sordi's Holiday, it's surprising how morally bleak the ending is when a small favor leads to big trouble. Along the way there aren't many big laughs, more gentle smiles of recognition, and Sordi resists the temptation to overstate to keep his character a recognisable human being rather than a crude stereotype even as he reverts back from the model modern Milanese to the proudly subservient Sicilian piciotto he thought he'd left behind. The film's also subtle and perceptive in its treatment of the Mafia. Though some details - such as the despised owner of the local estate the Mafiosi `manage' for her (the original source of the Mafia's power in Sicily was running estates for absentee Northern landowners) - could be lost on the less informed viewers, it does demonstrate the way it worked on a feudal system of obligation and unspoken threats, be it the threat of ostracism from the community or an inquiry about the health of your family.

Working from a screenplay by as disparate talents as comedy writers Age and Scarpelli (Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli), shockmeister Marco Ferreri and his occasional collaborator Rafael Azcona (La Grande Bouffe), Lattuada has a great eye both for the shop floor scenes in Milan that bookend the film and the Sicilian locations, playing the comedy straight and the drama occasionally dryly comic, with Piero Piccioni providing a driving score that often leaves you wondering if the film is a comedy or a drama. In truth it's both, and if it's not the masterpiece that US critics claimed when it screened 2006 New York Film Festival, it's still a worthwhile rediscovery with a surprisingly sobering ending that doesn't cop out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2012
In the first place, it is apparent within the first couple of minutes of this movie that it's not a comedy.

That's not a criticism -- not all movies are comedies. But there are no jokes, laughs, yuks, or hilarious scenes in this movie. It's interesting and amusing, but not outright funny.

It's kind of a "slice of life" movie, to me; it is scenes of one ordinary guy and his family, going about their business until dark and sinister elements impose on them. I like the movie's whole tone and atmosphere -- a kind of down-to-earth, sober tone so different from the outlandish Hollywood "swinging 60's" vibe.

The story is interesting, and the people are interesting. All in all, an enjoyable, interesting movie for adult (NOT meaning "dirty") tastes, well worth a watch, or two, or more.

ONE THING ALMOST SPOILED the movie for me: the subtitles are very hard to read. The font is rather small (and red). And the "stroke width" is wide, so a letter becomes almost a solid block of color, hard to distinguish as a letter. I spent too much time concentrating on making out what the subtitles said.

But maybe your eyes are better and younger than mine. In that case, you will enjoy this movie and not be distracted.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2013
This artfully shot film shows how the Sicilian mob corrupted honest men and women to do their dirty work back in the post-war era. Great performance by Alberto Soldi.
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