The bleak comic stylings of Pietro Germi fell off the international circuit after the marriage off/marriage on wars of DIVORCE ITALIAN STYLE/’61 and SEDUCED AND ABANDONED/’64. But he kept at it in Italy and got a Stateside reprieve for this later look at the institution by hiring Dustin Hoffman (at his commercial peak between Peckinpah’s controversial STRAW DOGS/’71 and PAPILLON/’73 with Steve McQueen) as leading man. And it’s no stunt casting, Germi finds a useful runt-of-the-litter/common man appeal in Hoffman for this tale of an Italian schlemiel who lucks into the girl of his dreams (Stefania Sandrelli) only to find out that wedded bliss can turn into a trap once ego-booting constant attention becomes emasculating possession. Having a mistress on the side (Carla Gravina) helps, but with the belated change in Italian divorce laws, Dustin may simply be exchanging his current miserable marriage for a new one. Hoffman’s character narrates the film to great effect and the broad (make that very broad) playing clicks into place under Germi’s phenomenal technical control. (So good, he even coaxes out laughs with under-cranked action, a gag that almost never works.) What Germi can’t quite get away from is that he’s been down this road before; and to better effect. But the film grows on you and holds enough sparks and enough big laughs to get away with it’s slightly stale qualities.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: A couple of DVD issues. The generally fine MYA/Belmondo disc while not restored is sourced from a good print in Academy Ratio (4x3). Presumably shot with an ‘open gauge,’ the film would have been cropped by the projectionist into a WideScreen format between 1.6 & 1.85:1. So watch 'as is,' squared off, or self-crop by zooming up one notch. Just don’t use the enhanced 16x9 setting which stretches the image for an anamorphic fill. Also: the DVD offers Italian or English, but no subtitles. But since only the English track uses Hoffman’s voice, it’s probably the best choice even for all you multilinguals.