28 JUNE 1963, Page 15



By ISABEL QUIGLY Divorce Italian Style (`A' cer- tificate; subtitled version, Curzon; dubbed version, Carlton.)

THROUGH fiction and the cine- ma the enormities of Sicilian life are gradually seeping through to the rest of us; and comedy, rather than tragedy, seems the better medium for much of it—in particular for the Sicilian notion of 'honour,' or the remarkably complicated position of practically everyone vis-a-vis spouse, child or parent, for whose behaviour he needs to feel personally responsible, and whose misdeed can only be wiped out by the murder of the misdoer. Laughable little penalties and even jollier amnesties get the murderer out of gaol in two shakes; and it is on this pretty assumption that Pietro Germi's Divorzio all'Italiana bases its story.

A Sicilian nobleman of ancient but decrepit stock, with an appalling wife and an appealing cousin of sixteen, realises that the only way he can rid himself of the first is by getting her to cuckold -him, after which, amid the cheers of the populace, he can happily shoot her and (when the brief formality of honourable imprisonment is over) with all the pomp of a white church wedding marry the second. This he does; and we leave him on a sunny deck kissing his bikinied bride while she puts out a cautious toe to caress the toes of the boatman.

Germi's film makes brilliant dark-grey comedy (since 1 have forsworn the word 'black' and any- way, for all its bitter taste, it has moments of genuine good humour) of many aspects of Sicilian life outside the strictly sexual, honour- able or murderous, and has a magnificently surprising performance from Marcella Mastroi-• anni, who, abandoning his familiarly un-Latin appearance, has grown a downcast-looking moustache and a melancholy air to match it, sleeked his bouncy hair into a horrible japanned block (in one sequence he even wears a hair-net to keep it so), and acquired a very faint tic on one side of his mouth that assaults him in moments of excitement. Germi swoops between the farcical and the almost diaphanously subtle and from broad, nudging, rather repetitive clowning to moments of exquisite visual exact- ness: he has made a very funny film indeed.