In Theaters: Monday 17th September 1962
Distributed by: Criterion Collection
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
IMDB: 8.2 / 10
Director: Pietro Germi
Producer: Franco Cristaldi
The story is classic black comedy, as Marcello Mastroianni's Ferninando shuffles through his marriage to the loving -- but smothering (not to mention homely) -- Rosalia (Daniela Rocca). Ferdinando's wandering eye catches sight of Angela, his teenage cousin, whom he desperately desires... but as divorce is forbidden in 1960s Italy, what's he to do? Murder is the obvious answer.
Rather than attempt to get away with it by staging an accident or fake suicide, Ferdinando devises a convoluted plot to trick Rosalia into falling in love with another man, then murdering them both "in a fit of rage," knowing that the courts will allow ultimately such a defense. The bulk of the film concerns his attempts to trick Rosalia into the arms of another suitor, eavesdropping on their progress, and ludicrously planning her murder.
It's a black and silly exercise in hilarity, a very dark and twisted comedy from a director known for a series of dramas (and originally meant as such). But Pietro Germi's handle on the absurdity of Italian morality is more than just a delightful goof, it's a biting satire and indictment of Italian machismo: The notion of Divorce Italian style was extremely real in its era.
Still, for all its comedy and social smashmouthing, Divorce - Italian Style doesn't carry nearly the punch in today's era of Britney Spears overnight annulments and weddings arranged on prime time TV. Mastroianni's hangdog look is timeless, though, and even if you can't quite grok his absurd Rube Goldbergian system to get rid of his problem, you can definitely feel a piece of his pain. If not, the least you can do is laugh along with him.
The Criterion DVD adds a second disc of extras: A documentary about Germi, interviews with the cast, and screen tests of the leading ladies.
Aka Divorzio all'italiana.