[Originally published in Movietone News 31, April 1974]
Dustin Hoffman is seen without being heard in Pietro Germi’s Alfredo, Alfredo, but the disadvantage is minor, so adroitly does he adapt himself to the characteristic and very photographable behavioral style of the harried Germi male, made iconically vivid and familiar by Marcello Mastroianni in Divorce Italian Style. As there and in subsequent films like Seduced and Abandoned and The Birds, the Bees, and the Italians, Germi employs hectic, sardonic, sometimes slapstick comedy to exemplify the very real agonies that result from the clash of love, sex, and social strictures in his native land. Whereas Divorce Italian Style satirized an existing dilemma, Alfredo celebrates historical progress: something like divorce American style has finally replaced the last resort, upholding the Unwritten Law, and the new picture actually begins with the protagonist in the lawyer’s office preparing to shed his less-than-ideal spouse. Not that divorce is the be-all, end-all, and cure-all in Germi’s scheme of things: he and his hero conclude the film with shaky optimism at best, almost certain that the new marriage being made in the final scene will also prove unworkable.
Stylistically, Alfredo, Alfredo represents nothing new, but the film is the surest-handed Germi picture in many a year, constantly in restless, purposeful motion, expertly shot and cut so forcefully that one rarely has time to realize it: frequently, even within a scene, just a teensy bit seems to have been lost between shots—a device which, far from making the movie seem ill-made, creates lacunae over which the narrative just naturally leaps, our sense of momentum increasing proportionally. The players and characters afford such a robust index to the society Germi is scrutinizing that one never feels anybody or anything has been overcalculated—there’s nothing to do but lean back in one’s chair well out of the rush, and laugh.
Direction: Pietro Germi. Screenplay: Germi, Tonino Guerra, et al. Cinematography: Aiace Parolin. Music: Carlo Rustichelli.
The Players: Dustin Hoffman (dubbed by Ferrucchio Amendola), Stefania Sandrelli, Carla Gravina, Saro Urzi.
Copyright © 1974 Richard T. Jameson