The title of this week’s Friday Night Film Series “The Mafia Kills Only in Summer,” caught my eye when I first heard it. The 2013 Italian film showcases semi-autobiographical aspects of Pierfrancesco Diliberto’s life, also known as “Pif.” Diliberto not only wrote and directed the movie, he also narrates and stars as the protagonist, Arturo, as an adult. While there are elements of comedy, drama and romance throughout, the film was awarded as the “best comedy film” at the 27th European Film Awards.
The story is set primarily in 1970’s Palermo, Sicily, when Arturo (played by Alex Bisconti) is a child, although we do see a large span of Arturo’s life, from a baby to an adult. It starts off with his conception, which coincides with a Mafia-related murder. As he grows older. Cosa Nostra rises as well, and its existence can no longer be denied by the city. Meanwhile, Arturo falls in love with his classmate Flora (Cristiana Capotondi) and tries to win her over, with the help of his hero, Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. He strives to become a journalist (partly to impress Flora) and meets famous political figures along the way, all of whom are later assassinated by mobsters for their
For the most part, the tone is rather light-hearted, even when it breaches dark territory. For instance, we see humorous glimpses of the mobsters: they decide to kill one woman’s father, so that she is no longer a child of divorced parents and a fellow mobster can then marry her. Another example is when the head of the Mafia struggles with technology, pressing the “sun” button of his remote control when he is too hot, which only exacerbates the heat, and vice versa when he is too cold. Arturo’s fascination and worship of Giulio Andreotti also serves as a source of humor several times throughout the movie’s course. It is also symbolic of Arturo’s innocence, as he and the audience both begin to recognize the prime minister’s ties with Cosa Nostra. The film hits most of its marks with its black comedy, although there were times when I wondered whether the English-translation worked to our detriment; it also would have helped to have a basic knowledge of Italy’s political history.
The ending was the weakest part of the film. One of the film’s main focuses is Arturo’s impending romance with Flora, as children and later as adults, when they work together for a campaign. Flora makes it clear that she is uninterested in him when Arturo mistakes a work session for a date–yet, at the film’s end, when there are multiple murders and masses of people are trying to attend funerals, the two embrace, kiss and eventually raise a family together. It felt rushed and unrealistic. As an audience member I felt cheated, especially because the film seemed to diminish the importance of their relationship when there was so much build-up before.
While “The Mafia Kills Only in Summer” had problems, it undoubtedly has good intentions. Arturo’s tribute to the martyrs he met who tried to stand up to the Mafia is touching and significant, and a nice way to close the film. In general, Arturo is also a very likeable character, both as an ambitious, innocent child with a crush and later as an awkward, relatable adult looking for a job. I’m not quite sure it deserves the title of “best comedy,” but Diliberto does a good job mixing several genres, and I think his film is worth a watch, at least to find out where the title comes from.