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L'Italien (2010)

 -  Comedy | Drama  -  14 July 2010 (France)
5.8
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Ratings: 5.8/10 from 883 users  
Reviews: 4 user | 17 critic

Life smiles at Dino Fabrizzi,a cool forty-two-year old Italian. Not only is he the most successful salesman at The Maserati dealership in Nice but he has had a steady (and hot) relationship... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Mourad Ben Saoud, alias Dino Fabrizzi
Valérie Benguigui ...
Hélène
Roland Giraud ...
Charles
Philippe Lefebvre ...
Cyril Landrin
...
Jacques (as Guillaume Gallienne de la Comédie Française)
Sid Ahmed Agoumi ...
Mohamed Ben Saoud
Farida Ouchani ...
Rachida Ben Saoud
Saphia Azzeddine ...
Amel Ben Saoud
Tarek Boudali ...
Karim
Nathalie Levy-Lang ...
Nadège
Karim Belkhadra ...
Abdel
Alain Doutey ...
André
Arielle Sémenoff ...
Marie-Paule
Guy Lecluyse ...
M. Maizière
Raphaële Germser ...
Geneviève
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Storyline

Life smiles at Dino Fabrizzi,a cool forty-two-year old Italian. Not only is he the most successful salesman at The Maserati dealership in Nice but he has had a steady (and hot) relationship with Hélène,his girlfriend, who is beginning to contemplate marriage. To crown it all he is nearly certain to land a senior position at the dealership. But there is a tiny wee problem. The funny Italian is not Italian at all! His real name is Mourad and he is actually of Algerian origin. So, when to please his father (who does not know his son pretends to be Italian), he promises him to celebrate Ramadan he is bound to get into serious trouble... Written by Guy Bellinger

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Comedy | Drama

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Release Date:

14 July 2010 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Fasten auf Italienisch  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

The book Kad Merad reads to get knowledge about Islam is 'L'Islam pour les nuls', written by Malcolm Clark and adapted by Malek Chebel (2008). See more »

Soundtracks

My Wonderful Bambina
Written by Nicola Arigliano
(1960)
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User Reviews

 
A nice effort to reconcile some Arabs with their roots and traditions ...
30 July 2013 | by (France) – See all my reviews

Dino Fabrizzi (Kad Merad) has every reason to be happy: he's charismatic, he's a successful salesman for Mazeratti a fitting car company for his Italian background, he's valued by his boss and admired by his family. Everything is fine except for one detail: it all relies on a lie. Dino's real identity is Mourad Bensaoud, he was born in Algeria and fools his parents by pretending to work in Italy, only his sister (Saphia Azzedine) reluctantly keeps the secret.

Beyond the premise of a great comedy of errors, "The Italian", directed by Kad's all-time partner Olivier Baroux, raises an issue I can't ignore myself, being from the same ethnic background than Mourad. By the way, it's interesting that Kad is the shortened version of Kaddour, a typical Arabic first-name, that the aspiring comedian chose the cooler sounding 'Kad' highlight Arabs' averseness to be type-casted, which is exactly what encouraged Mourad to become Dino. Dino is a self-reflexion on Kad and vice versa.

This choice is revealing of an attitude that unfortunately became too common within the Arabs, probably the most self-loathing of all the ethnic groups, whether it's because of the notoriously insecure suburbs or all this negative mythology regarding the scarf or terrorism, the fact is that Arabs and Muslims are the most openly disregarded of all the ethnic groups, to the point it finally spilled over their self-esteem. However, I should specify that, by Arabs, I insist more on North-African people.

Being from the same Mediterranean background than Southern-Europeans, North Africans use their mixed heritage as alibis for some distance from their Arabic roots. Having green or blue eyes in an Arab family is like a blessing, mixed marriages became extremely commons and most Arabs don't mind giving European names to their children (I have two cases in my own family). Even today in Morocco, some first names became popular, for their glamorous consonance, such as Maria, Ines or Rayan (which sounds exactly like Ryan). And to tell you how a 'disgrace' it is to be an Arab, just tell a Berberian that he's an Arab and you'll get the point from his or her reaction.

For the trivia, Berberian were the first people in North Africa, along with some Phoenician tribes and Jews, they were later Islamised by Arabs coming from the Arabic peninsula and the North African identity was made of this double background, the Moors. Speaking of them, remember the scene in "True Romance" when the Mafioso played by Walken is told that he has African genes; Hopper was turned into Swiss Cheese right after. Now, go tell, an Arab that he looks like an Italian, he won't give you the kiss of death. This unconscious self-loathing symptom might surprise, well, I'll give you the ultimate example.

I lived a few years in France, and sometimes pretended to be Italian and like in the film, I picked the name Dino, which I still use to sign my drawings. And the film's Dino lives the dilemma to the core, not ashamed of his background, but knowing too well how difficult it is to be part of society with all the issues that undermine the perceptions of Arabs. The film is still a comedy, and as if it was aware that the subject was serious, tries to handle it with a lightness that works most of the time.

It works when it contradicts Mourad's own prejudices; his boss had a genuine fondness on him and didn't seem like the type to care about racial issues. The same goes with his girlfriend, who doesn't leave you with the certitude that she would leave him if she knew he was an Arab. And even Mourad's friends encourage him to reveal the truth. The problem is that for the sake of a realistic approach to Mourad's problem, there's not much left for 'understanding his problem' and not gags, which is worse. I also have a problem with the Ramadan set-up, maybe the film's biggest flaw although it's certainly paved by good intentions.

The depiction of Islamic faith was too simplistic. Mourad's father is victim of a heart attack and cannot fast during Ramadan, he then asks his son to accomplish it, in his name, which religiously speaking is nonsense. Then, Mourad buys "Islam for Dummies" asks an Imam about some issues, and learns that he can't have forbidden sexual relationships during Ramadan. These parts didn't work because I felt that the screenwriter had no clue about Islam whatsoever, and reduce it to a series of rituals without giving much substance to Islam, except for claiming that it's as normal as the other religions, as if it was driven by the same defensive mechanisms than Arabs in general.

I don't think anyone of Mourad's background would be that ignorant about religion, no one who'd say that the 'Prophet is watching you' and no one, not even an atheist would insult the prophet like the sister did, it wasn't blasphemy, it was gratuitous insulting. The wisecracking and cynical sister annoyed me all through the film, and I couldn't get past this quote. The film redeems itself however, getting to the expected conclusion, we know that Dino will not be able to hide his fast all the month, we know that his identity will unveil some hidden racism and we know that every person that counts in his life will tell him, that it didn't matter.

I guess, despite all the flaws I mentioned, I still like the film for being the first to tackle such a hot, and even if not everything is true to life, the premise is. It still has a fair share of gags; especially a hilarious analysis of an appetizing Italian pastry Mourad couldn't eat. The film needed a few moments like this but got lost sometimes, victim of some attempts to make everything too explicit at the risk of being too preachy.


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