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Divorce Italian Style (Criterion Collection)

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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: Black & White, Closed-captioned, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Italian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: eOne Films
  • Release Date: May 3 2005
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • ASIN: B0007M222A
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #27,458 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

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

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. G. Godwin on Sept. 14 2006
Format: DVD
All previous reviews refer to an earlier budget release. This Criterion edition is a superb transfer of Germi's scathingly funny satire; and it comes with a supplementary disk which puts the film in context and provides valuable information about the terrific (and still little known) Germi.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 27 reviews
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
That's it, I want a divorce! March 9 2005
By E. A Solinas - Published on
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. And in keeping with the spoof atmosphere, the romance is overemotional, the fighting is overwrought, and the contrived adultery/murder scheme is absurd. The final scene is the final tragicomic flourish, hinting at future disaster that Ferdinando deserves.

Pietro Germi at first seems to be making an offensive movie, but viewing it with a sense of humor shows that he's poking fun, and making wry social observations. He was also not above plugging Mastroianni's other movies -- one scene has a priest denouncing "La Dolce Vita," followed by crowds rushing to see it. Ferdinando's future brother-in-law ogles the beautiful Anita Eckberg, then hastily tells his fiancee that Eckberg is pretty, but "she has no soul."

The immortal Mastroianni injects just enough humanity into Ferdinando to keep us from loathing him -- in the middle of a midlife crisis, he seems increasingly confused as the movie goes on. Daniela Rocca sits on the fence between being devoted and annoying, while Sandrelli plays a girl who acts like an angel, but definitely isn't.

Thankfully Italian spouses no longer have to bump each other off to get a "divorce," but "Divorce Italian Style" remains a classic black comedy/social satire.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
"Rosalia, are you sick or something?" July 19 2005
By Dymon Enlow - Published on
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)
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Actually Sicilian style Jan. 4 2007
By Dennis Littrell - Published on
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.

But what really makes this one of the great monuments of the Italian cinema is the witty and delightful script by Ennio De Concini (it won an Academy Award in 1962) and the detailed, textured direction by Pietro Germi. The picture that Germi paints of life in a small Sicilian (or southern Italian, for that matter) village is picturesque, much imitated, and indelible. The crowded ornate clutter of the old estate, the sun-drenched streets and the monolithic stone and mason churches haunt our memory. True, the film starts a bit slowly and drags (at least for modern audiences) a bit at times, but don't make the mistake of giving up on this. The latter half of the film is wonderful. And remember, if you had to go to film school, Divorce Italian Style would be on the syllabus.

So see this for Mastroianni of course but also because no film education would be complete without having seen Divorzio all'italiana.

The Criterion Collection DVD includes a second disc with a documentary on Germi's career, an interview with Ennio De Concini, and screen-test footage of Stefania Sandrelli and Daniela Rocca that I just had to see. There is also a booklet with reviews of the film from Stuart Klawans, Andrew Sarris, and Martin Scorsese. Scorsese's review is adoring and nostalgic since he is from Sicily and since the film had made such a lasting impression on him as a 19-year-old. For him the film was not so much a comedy as a true reflection of a life he and his family had known. He writes, "Every detail in Divorce Italian Style is so truthful and right that all Germi had to do was heighten everything a bit to make it funny."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
High-Styled Hijinks! May 19 2005
By Vince Perrin - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Pietro Germi's companion piece to his earlier "Seduced and Abandoned," this comedy comes so close to tragedy it takes your breath away. Only the director's insight into theocracy and Italian mores keeps "Divorce Italian Style" from succumbing to the darkness that lurks inside the material. Although Marcello Mastroianni and Stefania Sandrelli are the big names, in star-making performances, the picture is really held together by Daniela Rocca's tricky and subtle work as the dutiful wife who must be murdered to effect a happy ending. This was very daring stuff in the 1960s, and Criterion's jaunty DVD transfer does it full justice (don't miss the nifty interview supplement). Germi's satirical epilogue will remind you of the one in "All About Eve," it's that good.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Murder, He Thought Jan. 3 2007
By Galina - Published on
Format: DVD
What would you do if you've been married for many years, lost any romantic interest in your less than attractive wife, and fell in love with a beautiful young girl? Divorce, you'd say but there is one thing, you see - in Italy in 1960s there were no divorce. So, once again, what would you do? Made forty five years ago about an old Italian Law that had declared divorce illegal but would give a minimum sentence for killing a cheating spouse, "Divorce, Italian Style" is hilarious, melancholic, biting, clever, and belongs to the best comedies ever. First, Germi was going to make a tragic film and there are many elements of tragedy in "Divorce, Italian Style". After all, two people who are in love and happy together will be killed because of the strict and unforgiving traditions that made their way into the laws of the country. Pietro Germi directed a movie that is saturated with the merciless boredom, suffocating heat and humidity of a small Sicilian town where seemingly nothing ever happens and where Baron Fete Gefalu leads the life of not so quiet desperation with his wife or 13 years, Rosalia who had bored him to death. To make the things worse, his 16 years old angelic cousin Angela (one look at 16 years old Stefania Sandrelli in her early role and you can forgive or at least understand Fete) just returned from the nun school and he is desperately in love with her. As we know, love moves the sun and the planets and it made Fete's mind invent the plan on how to get rid of Rosalia which was deliciously simple and deadly funny. What Fete did was unspeakable but HOW Marcello Mastroianni played it was one of the greatest comedic performances I've ever seen. To watch his face when he was imagining all sorts of creepy accidents to Rosalia and to hear him narrating the movie was Delight from the opening scene to the incredible and brilliant in its irony final.