Marietta, servant of aristocrat Don Cesare, is the bellezza of an Italian town where men gather nightly in the tavern for the 'game of the Law,' selecting one by lot to boss and humiliate the others. Illicit passions abound: the judge's wife pursues Francesco, son of crime boss Matteo, who is after Marietta (so is her brother-in-law); Marietta wants engineer Enrico for a husband, but he claims he's too poor to marry. So she decides to steal herself a dowry! All this may lead to an explosion...and some changes in who dictates 'the law.' Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
The Law exists somewhere in the realm between a Hollywood soap opera and a European art film, with a dash of sexploitation.
This film is all about power--how one gets power, how one can use power (to lay down The Law, or lose power, and how power relates to sex. This film is all about sex. Sometimes, it feels like it's all about Gina Lollobrigida's boobs.
The all-star European cast are all good, especially Lollobrigida and Yves Montand, who has the meatiest role in the film, as a complicated local hoodlum who wants his son to become a lawyer, who wants to be the one to lay down The Law, and who very badly wants Gina Lollobrigida, who doesn't want him in the slightest.
Sometimes, the film approaches high camp, such as a couple of odd and unexpected musical numbers, and when Marcello Mastroianni and Gina Lollobrigida romp in the surf amidst a flock of sheep, or when Gina Lollobrigida is strapped to a table by her mother and a couple of jealous maids and whipped (and with a bowl of hot chilis behind her head that's photographed to look like a halo).
It's a gorgeous film to look at. There's Gina Lollobrigida's boobs. And then there's the quaint, crumbling little backwater Italian fishing village, sumptuously photographed in that deep, saturated mid-century black and white. And there's the sea. It looks straight out of a Fellini film.
Jules Dassin's direction is lively and stylish, and keeps the film eminently enjoyable throughout. He veers effortlessly between the comedic and the sinister and the sexy, often in the same scene.
But, although I found the films very enjoyable to watch, I do have some problems with it. It felt sometimes that Dassin was trying to cram in as much of the material from the novel as possible, even when it didn't best serve the film. There were multiple storylines unfolding, but the film's two-hour running time was not enough to accommodate them in any depth. And so the film meandered back and forth between characters and situations without a great deal of focus. I think Dassin would have done well to trim a couple of the storylines entirely, which weren't fleshed out enough anyway.
Still, though, this was solid entertainment. 8/10
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