The Mafia Kills Only In Summer, a sweet and melancholy comedy from Italy, was originally released in 2013 but it didn’t make it over to the U.S. until March of this year.
Watching the film, as an American, I was happy to get the chance to see it but, at the same time, I could understand why it took it a while to get over here. The Mafia Kills Only In Summer is about Italian (more specifically Sicilian) history and a lot of the humor comes at the expense of an Italian politician named Giulio Andreotti, an infamous figure in Italy but someone who is almost totally unknown here in the States. (In the picture above, the film’s protagonist is pretending to be Andreotti for a costume party. If you want to learn more about Andreotti, I suggest tracking down another Italian film, Il Divo.) That said, though the film may specifically be about the history of the Mafia in Palermo, it also tells a universal story of love and courage. And though the film’s humor is often very dark, there’s a very real sweetness at the center of it. This is a film that can be appreciated by everyone.
The film tells the story of Arturo, who is played by Alex Bisconti as a bambino and by director Pierfrancesco Diliberto as an adulto. The film starts with his conception, which is portrayed via CGI. (As Arturo explains it, all but one of his father’s sperm was scared off by the sound of a nearby mafia murder. Only one sperm was brave enough to stay to fertilize the egg and that sperm was him. As such, Arturo owes his very existence to the Mafia.) Growing up in Palermo, Arturo is constantly surrounded by mafia violence and a good deal of the film’s humor comes from the absurd lengths that all the adults go to deny both the reality of the violence around them and the obvious corruption of the local government.
Every violent mafia murder is dismissed, by the locals, as being the result of a dispute over a woman. (“Women kill more men than heart attacks,” one local resident says while discussing the assassination of a journalist.) Soon, Arturo is terrified of falling in love but fall in love he does. He spends most of his boyhood sweetly but unsuccessfully pursuing Flora (Ginerva Antona as a bambina, Christiana Capotondi as an adulta). His pursuit is observed and commented upon by a kindly judge who is eventually blown up a car bomb. Fearful of Palermo’s violence, Flora’s father sends her to Switzerland. Years later, as an adult, she returns to Palermo and works for a political ally of Andreotti’s, Salvatore Lima. When she happens to run into the now adult Arturo, she gets him a job with the campaign. Arturo has a second chance to win Flora’s love but, as always, his attempts are complicated by the violent realities of Palermo.
The Mafia Kills Only In Summer is a sweetly romantic and unexpectedly poignant film. It’s currently available on Netflix and I highly recommend it.