Back in the '60s, postwar Italian cinema flooded American art houses with masterpieces by the greats: Rosselini, Visconti, De Sica, Fellini, and Antonioni. Meanwhile, in Italy, moviegoers favored less heady fare, such as the popular comedies by mainstream directors: Mario Monicelli's Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), Pietro Germi's Divorce, Italian Style (1961), Alberto Lattuada's Mafioso (1962), newly restored here for DVD release. Lattuada, like the others, was no auteur; he helmed workmanlike films over a long career with no consistent style or theme, much to the chagrin of trendy critics of the time, who venerated personal visions. But that didn't prevent Lattuada from creating a number of excellent films, most especially this early and unusual view of the Sicilian Mafia. Italy's well-known funnyman Alberto Sordi plays a vain and self-satisfied technocrat in Milan's industrial North. Eight years away from his roots in rural Sicily, he's acquired a beautiful blonde wife and two adorable daughters, all of whom are about to meet his family back home for the first time. Bathed in nostalgia, the trip to Sicily shifts smartly from the opening factory montage, seducing viewers with the languid camera work. But things soon turn strange and violent, as the proud and successful company man, a comic figure throughout most of the film, is obliged to repay a long-ago favor to the local don. And Lattuada's lens discovers yet another landscape, a bright urban scene that covers some very dark doings. This brilliantly paced piece, with its visual surprises and perfect performances, proves that even a crowd-pleasing director can make a genuine work of art. -

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.


What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.