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    The Godmother

    The Sicilian melodrama "Angela" rehashes old mafia-movie formulas but is notable for the debut of Donatella Finocchiaro as the woman behind the famiglia.


    It seems logical that Roberta Torre's mafia docudrama, "Angela" should recall Marco Amenta's documentary "One Girl Against the Mafia." In both films, a Mafia princess winds up ratting out the family. The problem is that "Angela" also brings to mind HBO's "The Sopranos" — but this time, it's not the Godfather's tale we're being told, it's the Godmother's.

    Written and directed by: Roberta Torre.
    Cast: Donatella Finocchiaro, Andrea Di Stefano, Mario Pupella.
    New Directors / New Films 2003
  • Angela
  • Bus 174
  • Camp
  • The Embalmer
  • The Guys
  • Hukkle

  • The Missing Gun
  • Mondays in the Sun
  • Raising Victor Vargas
  • Wild Berries
  • Respiro

  • Festival site
  • In her incandescent film debut, stage actress Donatella Finocchiaro — a cross between the buxom glamour of Sophia Loren and the earthy passion of Anna Magnani — plays the eponymous real-life Angela. A smoldering star who can fill both the screen and her form-fitting outfits with equal ease, Finocchiaro's nuanced performance is one high point of this by-now all-too-familiar tale.

    Another is Daniele Cipri's handheld camera work revealing a crumbling urban Palermo, where even the wealthy live and work in relative slums. It's the '80s and the police are finally making inroads into the Mafia drug trade.

    One target is the shoe store owned by Angela's older husband, Saro (Mario Pupella), a mafia don who uses the retail business as a front for his drug sales. The shoes are stuffed with cocaine baggies and then delivered by Angela to various dealers around town. Saro and Angela live very well, thank you, but although she's an integral part of the business, in their macho mafia world, she's not included in meetings or decision-making. So she becomes as adept at spying on Saro & Co. as the cops are at spying on their criminal activities.

    Angela is smart and she really loves Saro, two traits that will lead directly to her downfall, even as they drag the film into melodrama. Masino (Andrea de Stefano), a handsome young mafioso with a penchant for his bosses' women, comes to work for Saro. To her credit, Angela rebukes his initial advances, but Saro keeps pushing them together. As the police get closer, Angela even tries to get Saro to quit and leave Palermo. "Maybe a trip to the cousins in New York," she suggests, but Saro hasn't got time.

    Angela's torment in trying to avoid an affair, coupled with her palpable sense of unconsummated longing, evokes momentary memories of Wong Kar-Wai's gorgeous "In the Mood for Love." But the subtleties of that film are nowhere to be seen in "Angela." When the die is finally cast and their affair begins, everything that can go wrong does. Masino awakens and unleashes Angela's buried passion and together they follow a doomed path to arrest, prison and beyond. Angela sacrifices everything for love and is punished as much for her extramarital activities as for her criminal acts. By the time of her prison mug shot, Finocchiaro's transformation from Loren to Magnani is complete, her heavily outlined eyes now smudged into two deep hollow bruises. Cue the music (which unfortunately, Torre does).

    "Angela" is Torre's third reality-based film and while she is to be commended for attempting to marry true stories to a narrative format, it's really her discovery of Finocchiaro that makes "Angela" worth watching.

    APRIL 5, 2003

    Reader comments on Angela:

  • Angela (Independent film)   from Jeff K, Jun 10, 2003
  • Re: Angela (Independent film)   from Rob M, Dec 9, 2003
  • Angela by Roberta Torre   from Lorenzo Bonosi, Oct 2, 2003

  • Post a comment on "Angela"