The Traitor, from Italian director Marco Bellocchio, is long and, with its digital camera, has a garish look. Flashes of light washes out its characters, like the titular character, middle level mafioso Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino). Subtitles and inter titles also flash numbers, and it takes a while to determine what they mean. We eventually realize that those numbers indicate the bullets they use in the Mafia War during the 1980s. And those unconventional choices eventually pay off, showing us the ugliness of a world that Buscetta eventually leaves. Using a carrot and stick method, the Italian government eventually convinces him to defect from his bosses. The person using these methods to him is Giovanni Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi), who eventually becomes his friend.
The Traitor is consistently challenging and therefore great, but Bellocchio’s at his best during the trial scenes. Part of Buscetta’s defection is his involvement as a star witness to put his former bosses on trial. Bellocchio immerses us in those proceedings, where mafiosi like Pippo Calo (Fabrizio Ferracane) loudly intimidate those at court. He then presents that volume and contrasts it with a performance from Favino that emulates class and dignity. Favino could already act in three languages before those trial sequences but those scenes show his talent. TIFF is a long festival and I imagine that I will watch something much better than The Traitor. But it will take a lot of work to top the spectacle of Tommaso Buscetta defeating his enemies.
For more information go to https://www.tiff.net/events/the-traitor.