Friday, August 8, 2014

Satire Conquers Tragedy

In an interview with Cineuropa, Pierfrancesco Diliberto, or “Pif”, was asked, “Is laughing at the mafia feasible?” to which he responded “You can laugh at everything. The important thing is for satire not to offend tragedy”. “The Mafia Only Kills in Summer” is a successful interpretation of this production concept. As a satire that pokes fun at the mafia while respecting the tragedy, Pif needed to create a storyline that both procured laughs and tugged at heartstrings. And so, we meet Luca, an aspiring journalist that is hopelessly in love Flora, a girl from his primary school days. While the love story that entails is entertaining, it is the relationships that Luca builds with giving men that drive the satire to its uproarious success.
The first man in his life and the first man we are introduced to is his father. The narrator begins his life story with his conception paralleling a mafia raid, forcing us to recognize the mafia’s presence in his life. This leads up to the first thing he is given: rest. When Luca fears that the mafia will find him and do whatever his imagination believes they could do to him, his father tells him not to worry because the mafia only kills in the summer. Luca believes his father, and he finally sleeps with his mind at rest, at peace.

However, when Luca seeks insight on love and women, his father falls short. And so, he turns to the television to see the prime minister’s eyes looking directly at him, telling him about how he proposed to his wife in a cemetery. The romantic that he is, the boy is determined to take the pretty new girl in his class to the cemetery. More than a matchmaker, the prime minister gives Luca a hero. Luca idolizes the prime minister to such an extent that he dresses as him for Halloween and fills a scrapbook with his photographs. In a city where any man can be corrupt, Luca finds hope in his hero, the only influential man that he never actually meets.

One morning, on the way to school with his father and brother, Luca enters a pastry shop to find a man, the inspector, reading a newspaper. This draws his attention because the front page has the prime minister’s face splayed across it with a riveting headline. Once he notices, the inspector excuses his pastry-filled mustache and offers the boy a pastry of his own. This generosity inspires Luca to leave a surprise pastry on Flora’s desk every day for some time. The boy is beginning to learn to give from these men that give to him.

When the pastries backfire, Luca results to stalking his love. From the inconspicuous hiding spot behind a car across the street, he waits to catch a glimpse of her standing in her window of leaving her home. When the judge notices his curious position and demeanor, he introduces himself to give a piece of advice. The judge becomes fond of the boy’s progress with Flora as when he sees his sidewalk chalk love note, he swells with pride.

When there is a school contest to win the rights to a column in a local newspaper, the aspiring journalist in Luca causes him to be ambitious in what he writes. Set on interviewing the chief, he sneaks past security and finds his way to the chief’s office. After taking the proffered candy, he launches into an interview with the chief off of the basis of a quote from prime minister. Amused, the chief complies and gives Luca the interview that wins him the contest.

Along with the interview, Luca needs extra help writing the article, which he finds from a man he had originally thought was in the mafia. A journalist leasing his grandfather’s old apartment, this man not affiliated with mafia is intrigued by the young boy’s enthusiasm for politics and journalism. He helps the boy on his winning article as well as the other pieces that he won the opportunity to write.

From loving father to famous politician, prominent official to struggling journalist, there are a handful of influential men in Luca’s life. Setting his moral compass, their giving nature fostered the father and journalist that Luca becomes at the conclusion of the film. As three of them fall victim to the spree of mafia killings, we experience the tragedy on an emotional level as Luca barely meets them before their deaths. Here, Pif respects and makes homage to the fallen, but their participation in the influencing of a young boy to a grown man, that is what allows this satire to conquer the tragedy, to conquer to mafia.

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