Directed by Pif
Starring Pif, Cristiana Capotondi
The Mafia have always effected Arto’s (Pif) life, even at his very conception (as a gun battle below his parents’ honeymoon suite allows one sperm to triumph while the others flee for cover). Growing up in Palermo during the ‘70s, ‘80s and 90s, Arto starts to notice some strange differences about his town. If the Mafia is all just an exaggeration by the press (as every adult insists it is), then it seems very odd that crusading detectives die in shoot outs with pastries, or that a judge’s car trouble involves TNT. As Arto grows up two things start to become more important to him. The first is his long time love for his classmate Flora (Cristiana Capotondi), the second is uncovering the truth about what is going on around him.
Writer, director and satirist Pif brings us a black comedy with a message. There is no doubt The Mafia Kills Only In Summer is a very curious film. There is a naivety about the first half of the film, following the young Arto’s quest to get Flora to notice him, as life in Palermo continues around him. There is a humour about that is at times almost childish, at others bitterly black. Then about halfway through things begin to change and this becomes a remarkably different film, closely examining the history and the sacrifice of the anti-Mafia crusaders. It is as if that early part of the film mimics Arto’s childlike innocence and confusion of the subject, even as he notices the differences in Sicily (for example, that only the more diligent police get shot in “disputes over a woman”). As these blinkers are slowly removed from Arto’s eyes and his understanding grows, the film becomes more engaged with the historical aspects of this attempt to stamp out the Cosa Nostra’s dominance.
An ambitious concept, but does it work? Not entirely. The bolting on of this quirky personal story (complete with romantic subplot) to this important part of Italian history produces a somewhat confusing chimera. The personal aspect just isn’t strong enough, with the love story suddenly finding a predictable solution and some of the comedy falling a little flat. Ultimately, though, it is the other arc, the history of this political and social shift against the Mafia, that is the more powerfully fascinating and really what the movie is about.
This run down of decades of criminal, political and social history is fairly dense. Atro’s Forrest Gump-like trip through these times would definitely be aided by a familiarity with this history, but Pif provides enough information for the average filmgoer to work their way through it without getting too lost. The pay-off for this is significant, made all the more moving by the inclusion of images of the real-life victims, hammering home the genuine cost of this time.
Despite its flaws, a brave and affecting work.
The Mafia Kills Only In Summer screens at Somerville, UWA from Monday, March 23, until Sunday, March 29, and ECU Joondalup Pines from Tuesday, March 31, until Sunday, April 5, as part of Lotterywest Festival Films. For tickets and session times, go to perthfestival.com.au.