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Giuliano Gemma rises to capo in Palermo and falls

7/10
Author: msroz from United States
21 February 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The movie "Corleone" is based freely on a book by O. Barrese titled "I complici, gli anni dell'antimafia", which means "The Accomplices, the Anti-Mafia Years". Corleone is a town in the province of Palermo in Sicily that has been the birthplace of quite a few Mafia bosses. This movie has no connection with "The Godfather".

Giuliano Gemma plays a Sicilian peasant of little means who rises to become the capo di capi in Palermo and then falls. He is Don Vito Gargano. The man who lifts him is played by Francisco Rabal, and he is Don Giusto Provenzano. Claudia Cardinale has a role, not very large, as Gemma's wife.

In a brawl, the hot-headed Gemma overdoes it and commits manslaughter. Rabal places him in his debt by seeing to it that the death is deemed accidental. To pay the debt, Gemma is forced to kill a close friend who is organizing the peasants against the landowners and the politicians and mafia in league with them. The time is about 1947-1950 when Salvatore Giuliano was active. He was killed in 1950. From then on, Gemma fatefully follows his path and aims to replace Rabal.

There are some scenes in which Gemma showed an intensity I had not seen before in his characters. Rabal too showed this. The direction added to this by the lighting. We saw men whose complexion darkened with fury, their eyes glowing and flashing with dark rage.

The movie shows the right-wing connections between landowners, government and mafia, and their opposition to the left-wing, more red, poor workers and some of the peasants.

Gemma becomes a foreman for a baron landowner, gathers men around him and becomes a capo. He gets his men into critical positions like a member of the parliament, a banker and an accountant. Then his corruption is through big government housing projects, over-charging and kickbacks. When he has trouble financing, he kidnaps family members of wealthy families. Rabal is rightfully suspicious of Gemma's independence and hidden plans. The picture realistically goes through how Gemma manages to overcome Rabal's suspicions.

A good deal of the story is framed as long flashbacks from a trial of Gemma. Then we come to the present and the rest of the story.

The tone of the picture is serious, sometimes even somber. There is no comic relief to speak of. Gemma's joys are mostly in winning, becoming #1, and in figuring out ways to outwit others. He is delighted to have a son, but even that is not for the boy's sake but for family and continuation of family. He is ill with tuberculosis, although not bedridden or mortally ill, for part of the movie, another depressing aspect that pops up at odd times.

"Corleone" is an above-average gangster story with noir overtones, marked by a serious intensity and carried by excellent performances by its leads.

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0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

An authentic mafia tale.

Author: GUENOT PHILIPPE (philippe.guenot@dbmail.com) from France
19 September 2010

That's exactly the kind of movie I love in the Italian thriller. Powerful, realistic and a thousand times better than the action packed but empty other spaghetti features with bloody sequences and so gratuitous violence. Films that are actually inspired from US movies such as DIRTY HARRY, BULLIT, THE GODFATHER; copycats, no more.

Italy is the country of mafia and corruption everywhere in the society, even in the politics. So, the film makers from there have no need to copy the US products, US schemes. They can do pretty good work with their own "culture". Film makers such as Pasquale Squietieri and Damiano Damiani have perfectly understood this. The pictures they describe are believable, authentic, even if they are shown in a minimal way, with no artificial and superficial means.

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