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The Criterion Collection presents
Seduced and Abandoned (1964)

"I'll never reveal the shameful secret of how I gave in to lust."
- Agnese (Stefania Sandrelli)

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: September 14, 2006

Stars: Stefania Sandrelli, Saro Urzi, Aldo Puglisi, Paola Biggio
Director: Pietro Germi

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:58m:05s
Release Date: August 29, 2006
UPC: 715515019026
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-A-A- B-

DVD Review

Neorealism was glorious, but it was all too often humorless—and then along came Pietro Germi. He fired a shot across the bow of Italian social hypocrisy with Divorce Italian Style, and with this movie brought a whole new series of targets into the crosshairs. Nothing is sacred in Germi's universe, and he'd be the first to say that nothing should be. And even the most devout are likely to come away from a movie like this chuckling and thinking that he's right.

This is the tale of the house of Ascalone, of their sins, and of the sins done unto them. Chubby Matilde (Paola Biggio) is head over heels for her fiancé, Peppino (Aldo Puglisi), but as his intended takes just another bite of pastry and grabs a catnap, he cannot keep his mitts off of Matilde's younger sister Agnese (Stefania Sandrelli), a fetching young thing not yet 16. Agnese doesn't put up much of a battle, and Peppino has his way with her, but this is a world without secrets, and soon enough the jig's up on their tryst overlooking the piazza.

What ensues is an effort by the family to get Peppino to do the right thing without bringing public humiliation to the family, and out to protect the reputation of the Ascalones first and foremost is the patriarch, Matilde and Agnese's father, Don Vincenzo. Peppino must break it off with one of his daughters and marry another, and the jilted Matilde is to be none the wiser about the liaison between her boyfriend and her sister, so a new and suitable suitor for her must be found. As played in broad comic style by Saro Urzi, Vincenzo is an imperious, lecherous old fool, weeping for the demise of his daughter's morals as he's out leering at the new talent in town at the local bordello. Germi is marvelous at finding the slapstick, the absurd in the everyday, and no one is immune from his barbs—the butts of jokes here are the stupid people in bourgeois positions of authority, be they doctors, lawyers, judges, priests or cops. (And even in this company of fools, the aristocracy is treated with particular derision.) He's merciless, but he's also always funny, with an appreciation that we're driven by our basest instincts—sex, food, drink, revenge—no matter what the authorities tell us. He's got the broad comic vision of a postwar Mediterranean Aristophanes.

Urzi is the titanic comic force at the center of the piece, but there are great smaller performances as well, especially from Leopoldo Trieste as a suicidal, bankrupt baron with dental hygiene issues roped into being Matilde's new suitor, and from Lando Buzzanca, as Don Vincenzo's ineffectual, panicky son, unwisely enlisted to be the agent of vengeance against the smarmily hypocritical Peppino. Nobody is spared, especially as the film moves toward its necessary final comic confrontation—and as with many comedies, this is one of inversion, a world of women on top, and for all his bluster, Don Vincenzo is undone by the females in his family. (As you might imagine, the binary virgin/whore notion of female sexuality and femininity comes out of this one in tatters.) Germi is cutting, but not wicked—he makes fun of these people, but he clearly sort of loves them, too, and has the same affection for Sicily, where the movie takes place, and his style is more akin to commedia dell'arte or soap opera than to epic or tragedy. You can also see the huge debt that so many films owe to this one—the most obvious instance is Moonstruck, which seems impossible without these forebears from the old country. It's a tasty little brew, and it's got more than its share of kick.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A sharp and stellar transfer, with only occasional discolorations and imperfections that seem to be from the source print. But even in black and white, the Sicilian sunshine dollops the landscape gloriously.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Clean and mellifluous, with the deliberately gaudy score shown off to especially good advantage.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. accompanying booklet
Extras Review: Two of the film's credited screenwriters, Luciano Vincenzoni and Furio Scarpelli, are joined by scholar Mario Sesti in Commedia all'Italiana: Germi Style (25m:38s), a 2006 appreciation of the director and the form, the Italian social comedy, that he invented. This also provides intriguing brief glimpses at his influences and his working methods, along with a career overview. And in 2002 interviews, two of the principal actors reflect on their happy memories of the shoot. Stefania Sandrelli (06m:26s) talks about the earlier, glory days of the Italian movie business; Lando Buzzanca (06m:43s) recalls Germi shooting as much of the movie as possible in screen tests. You can even see one of them, as Sandrelli's test (01m:52s) is included here as well. The accompanying booklet features an appreciation of the director by Italian film critic Irene Bignardi. Finally, a special word of praise to the artist who provided the cartoon images of the film's characters for the disc's menus and cover, perfectly capturing the spirit of the feature. Salut!

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Public hypocrisies are always worth puncturing, and no one does so much better than Pietro Germi. But he's no misanthrope, so his movie is stinging without being unpleasant, and it looks sharp and delectable here.


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