Beyond the Latin Lover: Marcello Mastroianni, Masculinity, and Italian Cinema

Jacqueline Reich, Author
Jacqueline Reich, Author Indiana University Press $21.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-253-21644-1
Reviewed on: 03/01/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Hardcover - 248 pages - 978-0-253-34351-2
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Among his 40 films, Marcello Mastroianni played a homosexual, a cuckolded husband, a pregnant man and, as he said,""wretches, where sex didn't even enter the picture."" Yet, as demonstrated in this fascinating study of his work, the film icon never shook the Don Giovanni image of his star turn in Fellini's La Dolce Vita. It is the iconography of this virile Italian stereotype, the""Latin lover,"" that Reich puts under scrutiny here, and she provides an entertaining analysis of the evolution, manufacture and commodification of this supposed hypermasculinity. Grounding her observations of the actor's many cinematic identities in an analysis of post-fascist Italy's transformation into an industrialized country, Reich points out that Mastroianni actually spent most of his career sending up the notion of""bella figura"" (or masculine perfection), choosing, rather, to play the part of the""inetto"" (or comic foil). His choice, she argues, reflects Italy's mid-century struggle for economic success and political consensus. A delightful section on Mastroianni's work with leading lady Sophia Loren explains how the voluptuous actress not only playfully antagonized him in La fortuna di esere donna (Lucky to Be a Woman) and Matrimonio all'italiana (Marriage... Italian Style), but, in doing so, redefined Mastroianni's on-screen masculinity by opposing it with a new image of the""unruly woman."" While rather dense and academic, the book offers an engaging examination of how social conditioning informs gender identity. Even more captivating, however, is its insightful look into the dynamic career of one of film's enduring international icons, as both a lover and a loser. 41 photos
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