Pif is probably trying to convey more messages in his film The Mafia Only Kills in Summer, but the most obvious one in its first two acts is that children learn a lot of things from the media. This can be a dice roll. That’s especially true during the late 20th century in Sicily, where the Cosa Nostra was at war with the government. The child in the centre of this film, Arturo (Alex Bisconti), probably has access to gangster films in television. But thankfully, what he sees instead in this fictional version of Sicily are government officials in news shows talking about how to defeat the Cosa Nostra. The child casting is great here since they look like real kids as opposed to actors.
Anyway, these officials do that and still have time to keep the love alive with their wives. In other words, the film’s first two acts is about young Arturo trying to navigate a world. And his world has judges like Chinnici (Enzo Salomone) and mafioso and pretty girls like Flora Guarneri (Ginevra Antona) It’s funny how Arturo confides on his crush on Flora with Chinnici because it was a time when children trust adults who don’t deserve that trust. This is true even for the good guys who use their knowledge for their own motives. The film’s use of these supporting characters are also interesting. It shows how the adults recognize that kids deserve to be kids instead of forcing them to grow up.
Aside from its character decisions, The Mafia often uses archive footage, and it makes smooth transitions so that it looks like Arturo and the other characters are in those archive scenes. As viewers expect from a crime film, it has its share of funerals. It shows those attending the funerals as blurry, impressionistic shapes crowding the coffins carrying Chinnici whom the mafia assassinate. Which brings to the second message here, a basic one that hits hard anyway. That, in Pif’s valid perspective, the people care more about Chinnici than they do about the mafioso. The film almost falls apart during its third act depicting the adult Arturo (Pif) though.
Arturo’s consumption of the media and volatile childhood makes his pursue journalism as a young adult, but only finds work as a piano player to a talk show host, Jamiperr (Maurizio Marchetti). And the word ‘young’ is the source of the specific problems in this act. A few supporting characters use that word to his face to describe him. And then the camera cuts from those other character to him. He looks like a forty year old who dyed his hair black because he thinks it makes him look twenty. Nonetheless, it strikes the right set of tones that viewers expect in a crime film that’s also a puppy love comedy.
Mafia especially knows what tone to strike to remind us this fictional Palermo is as dangerous as the real one was. And sure, the iconography is pretty basic, like motorcycles coming up on Arturo and Jampierr’s car. But scenes like that show how characters asses each other as threats. Arturo’s crush grows up as he does. Cristiana Capotondi plays that love interest. There’s something typical about her heel turn from cold PR agent to someone who actual political agency. But her filmography and performance suggests that this is much of a passion project for her as much as it is Pif’s.
Catch The Mafia Only Kills In Summer on OVID today.