The Law

The Law (1960) was directed by Hollywood exile Jules Dassin and based on a novel about the primitive power relations of a southern Italian fishing village. Despite the location, there’s not a trace of neorealism. Set in a sunbaked Catfish Row, The Law is a movie of cartoon-like mass formations, singing urchins, and operatic outbursts. It opens with the town’s midday torpor broken by top-billed Gina Lollobrigida’s siren song as she lovingly polishes a pair of boots belonging to her master. Everyone is transfixed by her cleavage, but La Lollo has eyes only for Marcello Mastroianni, the progressive young agronomist arrived from the north to drain the malarial swamp—they have the best looks and the least chemistry of any couple I’ve seen onscreen this year. A sleazily mustached Yves Montand plays the town gangster, with Dassin’s wife, Melina Mercouri, unhappily married to the local judge, making (very scary) eyes at Montand’s college-age son. Dassin can barely control this hambone cast—creating an entertaining subtext in a movie that, taking its title from the local drinking game, is all about who is best able to exercise their will on whom. Call for showtimes. (NR) J. HOBERMAN

Aug. 13-19, 2010

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