Films

Mambo Italiano

UK release date: Mar 26 2008


cast list

Luke Kirby
Paul Sorvino
Ginette Reno
Claudia Ferri

directed by
mile Gaudreault
In 1992 film fans were delighted by an unheralded, low-budget film called Strictly Ballroom, a garish, lurid fantasy that announced the advent of a major talent in Baz Luhrmann, who has since gone on to major success with Romeo And Juliet and Moulin Rouge. Mambo Italiano is a similarly colourful fable, and may mark an equally exciting arrival.

Like Strictly Ballroom, Mambo Italiano features a parochial community threatened by new ideas; in this case, a small Italian community in Canada. Angelo (Luke Kirby) is the son of Italian immigrants, who cling to their traditions like a life raft. They are devastated when Angelo decides to move out, and mortified when he breaks the news that he and his roommate Nino (Peter Miller), a handsome policeman, are lovers.

In a similar way to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Mambo Italiano revels in the friction between immigrant communities and the societies they inhabit. Like that fine film, it also has a sure comic touch, dealing comfortably with stereotypes without being predictable. When Angelo and Nino’s parents meet to discuss their relationship, the conversation quickly descends into a macho argument over whose son is the dominant partner. Later on, Angelo’s father (Paul Sorvino) takes a paternal pride in his son’s sexuality, declaring: “Nobody’s gayer than my son!”

The plot is intricate and surprising, with a third act which cleverly confounds our expectations. The cast make the most of some excellent dialogue, particularly Sorvino, who delivers a surprisingly moving turn. The film is shot in bright primary colours and pastels, to give a wonderfully bright, tacky feel, and the story moves with fluidity and pace.

What I found particularly charming was the film’s warmth and liberalism. Some of the characters are quite monstrous, such as Angelo’s neurotic pill-popping sister (Claudia Ferri), or the brassy,avaricious Pina (Sophie Lorain). In another film these characters might have been simply unpleasant, but the writers take such care to justify theiridiosyncrasies that we are able to empathise with them, even when Pina declares, “I am so sexy, if I went down to the gay district, within 15 minutes there would be no gay district!”

It’s the human touches like this that distinguish Mambo Italiano as a romantic comedy with a twist, and make director mile Gaudreault a major talent to watch in the next few years.



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