The Sweet and the Bitter



Venice International Film Festival

VENICE, Italy -- Andrea Porporati's "The Sweet and the Bitter" is a curiously hybrid story about a young man caught up in the organized crime of Sicily that combines ugly murders with robberies out of "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight."

It presents an amoral view of Saro Scordia (Luigi Lo Cascio), who enters the world of mobsters even though his hoodlum father is killed while in prison. The lead character is also the narrator as the film sees Saro grow from teenaged petty criminal to all-out thug.

Lo Cascio is good in the role but the film leaves a nasty taste as it appears to sympathize with the character's unregenerate self-pity when events inevitably conspire against him. Screened in competition at the Venice International Film Festival, boxoffice prospects do not appear great outside of Italy.

Saro is the kind of gullible delinquent who mistakes fear for respect, so that when the local mafia don Gaetano Butera (Tony Gambino) offers him work, he goes for it. Butera's son Mimmo (Gaetano Bruno) is his best friend and together they graduate from strong-arm stuff to actually killing someone, although Saro is better at it than the don's son.

Meanwhile, Saro has fallen in love with a good woman named Ada (Donatella Finocchiaro) who knows she shouldn't go out with a hoodlum but cannot resist. When she finally dumps him for another man named Massirenti (Fabrizio Gifuni), Saro beats him to a pulp. He respects him, however, because while Massirenti doesn't fight back, he doesn't back down.

There are the expected mafia-movie scenes of grizzled men in collarless shirts stirring pasta sauce and muttering about honor. At the ceremony in which Saro and Mimmo enter into the underworld society, however, the senior dons deliberately cause insult to Don Gaetano, and to Saro.

It doesn't bode well, as it turns out these people aren't to be trusted. They may, in fact, have had something to do with the death of Saro's father. Disillusioned by his Cosa Nostra experience, the young man decides to head north in search of Ada and some witness protection. He even gets help from Massirenti, who is now a judge, but as we know these things rarely end well.

Medusa, Sciarlo

Director: Andrea Porporati
Writers: Andrea Porporati, Annio Gioacchino Stasi
Producer: Francesco Tornatore
Director of photography: Alessandro Pesci
Music: Ezio Bosso
Costume designer: Mary Montalto
Editor: Simona Paggi

Saro Scordia: Luigi Lo Cascio
Ada: Donatella Finocchiaro
Gaetano Butera: Tony Gambino
Mimmo Butera: Gaetano Bruno
Saro at 14: Gioacchino Cappelli
Antonia: Ornella Giusto
Lady in wig: Emanuela Muni
Saro's father: Vincenzo Amato
Vicari: Renato Carpentieri
Stefano Massirenti: Fabrizio Gifuni

No MPAA rating, running time 98 minutes