Divorce - Italian Style

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In Theaters: Monday 17th September 1962

Distributed by: Criterion Collection


Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 17

IMDB: 8.2 / 10

Cast & Crew


Starring: as Ferdinando Cefalù, as Rosalia Cefalù, as Angela, as Carmelo Patanè, as Don Gaetano Cefalù

Divorce - Italian Style Movie Review

What do Freud, Last Year at Marienbad, Through a Glass Darkly, and That Touch of Mink have in common? No, they're not all films you've never seen, they all lost the Best Original Screenplay Oscar to Divorce - Italian Style in 1963.

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.


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vschwager's picture


As usual, foreign reviewers of Italian movies miss the point. The beauty of this particular movies lies with its baroque screenplay, extremely well suite to the convoluted architectural style of the Sicilian city of Catania. Also baroque is the method devised by baron Mimi to get rid of his smothering wife (a former Miss Italy pageant). Unfortunately most of the beauty of the movies lies also in the language being used which is lost to non Italian speakers. The movie itself is a parade of extraordinary characters: the defence lawyer engaged by Baron Cefalu' is the quintessential "Azzeccagarbugli" - the scene at the trial is a masterpiece of the ironic and comic potential of italian court houses, the crowd in the trail are captivated by the barrister's speech-even though most of them have no idea what the hell he is talking about. Some memorable scenes include the church sermon, the baron cynical murder math, the baron's daydreaming about the ways he would like to see his wife die.The movie, however, packs a much more serious message, which is the discrimination against women, the hipocrisy of the Church, the backward ways sicilians had to live and the slow pace of progress, a legal system obsolete and unfair towards women. It makes a very serious statment against the church and the goverment. The church in Italy has never given any substantial contribution towards improving social relations, it has fought against the right to vote and the right to an education. Divorzio all'Italiana takles a very serious issue by using the only weapon most of the people at the time had: la commedia dell'arte.

8 years 11 months ago
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Divorce - Italian Style Rating

" Excellent "