Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Mafia Only Kills In The Summer (orig. La Mafia Solo Uccide d'Estate) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13) (7/10) (7/10)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* (G. Capolino) review* (M. Gandolfi) review* (A. Pettiere) review*

Hollywood Reporter (S. Dalton) review 
I Love Italian Movies (Cheri) review

The Mafia Only Kills In The Summer (orig. La Mafia Solo Uccide d'Estate) [2013] [IMDb] []* (starring, directed and screenplay cowritten by Palermo native Pierfrancesco Diliberto (Pif) [en.wikip] [it.wikip]* [IMDb] []* along with Michele Astori [IMDb]) is a critically acclaimed / award winning and really quite brave Forrest Gump [1994]-like, dramedy about growing-up in Palermo, Sicily during the various Mafia Wars of the 1970s-90s. 

The film won two Donatello di David (Italy's closest equivalent to the Oscars) awards (for best new Director and best "Young David") [Official Site] [en.wikip] [it.wikip]* and a host of nominations as well as several Italian Golden Globe nominations and wins.  The film played recently as part of the 1st Chicago Italian Film Festival organized by the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago and held at the Music Box Theater here on the North Side.

The film tells the story of Arturo (played by Alex Bisconti [IMDb] []* as a child and the director Pif [IMDb] []* himself as a 20-something young adult).  In voice-overs throughout the film, Arturo explains that his entire life FROM CONCEPTION TO THE PRESENT has been tied-up with the Mob:

He explains that he conceivably owes his very existence to the Mob, as while his parents (played in the film by Barbara Tabita [IMDb] []* and Rosario Lisma [IMDb] []*) were making love on their wedding night, Toto Reiina (played in the film by Antonio Alveario [IMDb]), a local Mob boss, engineered his first Hit, eliminating a rival, in a room on the floor below, scaring the daylights-out of his parents and "almost certainly effecting" which of the millions of his father's sperm would that night inseminate his mother's egg, thereby creating him ("Any sperm of any sense would have 'cowered and hid.'  Only the bravest or most clueless one would have continued with his mission" ;-). 

He then explains that his baptism was "probably the shortest one in the history of Polermo."  Arturo's parents' entire families' presence notwithstanding, apparently mobbed-up Friar Giacinto (played by Antonino Bruschetta [IMDb] []*) had to rush through his Baptism to "make it on time" to another Baptism, that of the child of the (presumably quite well) "connected" mayor of Palermo ;-).

Later, when Arturo was 2-3 years old and Fra Giacinto was by Arturo's parents' new apartment to bless it and Arturo's parents expressed their concern that little Arturo still wasn't talking, Fra Giacinto assured them that "NOT talking too much" is "not necessarily a bad thing" ;-).  As he left their apartment (again in a rush ...) little Arturo said his first word.  Pointing at the back of the priest on his way out, with his thumb up and index finger out, he said ... "MA ... FIA ..." (to the shock / surprise of his parents, now rendered speechless themselves ;-).

When Arturo was little growing-up in Palermo, he explains to viewers that the various mafia hits in the city were routinely explained away as "involving women."  That didn't bother him until ... a new girl, Flora (played in the film as a child by Ginevra Antona [IMDb] []* and as a 20-something young-adult by Cristiana Capotondi [IMDb] []*), came to his school.  Then he became concerned.  But the parish priest (again good ole Fra Giacinto) assured him, "Oh don't worry my son, NOBODY in this town gets killed 'because of women.'  They get shot (Fra Giacinto starts getting upset) BECAUSE THEY DO SOMETHING STUPID, BECAUSE THEY TALK TOO MUCH, BECAUSE THEY MAKE SOME SORT OF MISTAKE.  THAT's why they get shot, but CERTAINY NOT 'because of a woman.'" ;-).  Thus Arturo gets permission from the parish priest to fall in love ;-). 

Arturo comes home, and still pondering these feelings that as a ten year old he now has for this new student Flora and asks his father: "Dad, how did you first tell mom that you've fallen in love with her."  "Beh ... I don't know, I think I just kind of told her.  These things come kind of naturally you know.  Now be quiet and watch TV.  Our favorite show is coming on ..."

The show coming on was some kind of a 1970s Italian news magazine show, and the guest that week was the somewhat shifty-looking and certainly NOT particularly charismatic Italian Prime Minister of the time, Giulio Andreotti [en.wikip] [it.wikip]* of the "catch all" (by reputation "eyes rolling" corrupt and possibly /probably even "mobbed up") Italian Christian Democratic Party [en.wikip] [it.wikip]* of the time (Heck, the "alternative" of the time, remember it was the Cold War ..., was the Italian Communist Party [en.wikip] [it.wikip]*...). 

So though all kinds of people were dropping dead because of the Mob back in Sicily, the FIRST QUESTION that he's asked on this television news magazine was the UNBELIEVABLY SOFT-BALL QUESTION: "So Prime Minister, how'd you first propose to your wife?" which he, relieved, proceeded to answer ;-)

Now while almost everybody in Italy was "rolling their eyes" accepting of "the way things were," BUT CERTAINLY NOT looking at Italy's political leadership of the time as even remotely "inspiring," this "swarmy," NOT particularly charismatic Giulio Andreotti [en.wikip] [it.wikip]* becomes something of a HERO to Arturo (for giving him an answer to Arturo's then _very pressing_ 'romantic question' that Arturo's father didn't have the courage to answer).

Well, much then ensues in the film:  And almost every significant moment in Arturo's life gets SOMEHOW interrupted by mafia inspired stragi (hits):  A kindly police officer who recommends to Arturo a pastry to buy his 10 year-old beloved Flora gets knocked-off some months later in the same pastry shop where he made his recommendation to Arturo.  A similarly kindly judge who spots 10-year-old Arturo spying on Flora by her parents' apartment, gets blown-up by a car bomb later at the same spot where he first runs into Arturo.  Even a random "pol" of the quite boring (and often enough, quite corrupt, but again, look at the alternative...) Christian Democratic Party of the time on whose campaign a 20-something Flora becomes a staffer, a pol that NO ONE WOULD ARGUE WAS EVEN REMOTELY INSPIRING (His slogan, that even he didn't seem to say particularly convincingly, was simply: "Europe needs Sicily and Sicily need Europe") eventually gets knocked-off by the Mob, for ... no one honestly had a clue anymore.

But eventually the people of Palermo are shown as having had enough.  And at the end of the film, when (mild spoiler alert...) Arturo and Flora do finally definitively get together and start a family, Arturo tells the audience in a voice over: "Parenthood quickly teaches you two things: First you want to protect your children from the Evil in the world.  But then second, you want to teach your children TO IDENTIFY IT."  And so the close of the film is a several minute homage to the various GOOD HONEST PUBLIC SERVANTS (that police officer, that judge (both ACTUAL PEOPLE) as well as various others) WHO WERE KILLED OVER THE LAST 30 YEARS TRYING TO STAND UP TO THE MOB.
It all makes for one heck of a film, both funny at times and HEART RENDING AT OTHERS.

Good job!  Very good job!

ADDENDA (how to find / play this film):

This film albeit in European PAL format is available with English subtitles for a reasonable price through (

Further, DVD players capable of playing DVDs from various regions (North America, Europe, etc) are no longer particularly expensive (costing perhaps $10 more than a one region DVD player).

Finally, a simple program called DVDFab Passkey Lite (downloadable FOR FREE from allows one to play DVDs from all regions on one's computer's DVD-Rom drive. 

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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