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The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Saturday, January 15, 2000
Divorce-Italian Style
Pietro Germi Italy, 1961

(Divorzio all'Italiana). Ferdinando Cefalú is a model member of Sicily's good-for-nothing aristocracy: lazy and impossibly vain, he seems to spend most of his time skulking around his ancestors' decrepit villa in pajamas, eyebrows smugly arched, mouth pulled into a perpetual pout under a fussy mustache. ("I really am an intriguing type," he muses before the mirror.) Only an actor of Mastroianni's talents could make such a character simultaneously so reprehensible and so absurdly, irresistibly funny. Cefalú's problem: he's disgusted with his wife's overbearing affections and smitten by a nymphet cousin. Divorce in Sicily is unthinkable, but the law is lenient in matters of honor; if Mrs. Cefalú were to take a lover, who could blame her husband for murder? This gleefully nasty farce skewers every stratum of Sicilian society: busybody matrons; plodding Mafiosi; self-serving clergymen who denounce La Dolce Vita as "lascivious art"; and all the upstanding citizens who sprint straight from church to the movie theater.-Juliet Clark

• Written by Ennio De Concini, Alfredo Giannetti, Germi. Photographed by Leonida Barboni. With Marcello Mastroianni, Daniela Rocca, Stefania Sandrelli, Leopoldo Trieste. (108 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)