The Traitor – Family business

Portrait of the first Cosa Nostra’s repentant, Tommaso Bruscettaco, Marcho Bellocchio’s movie give to Pierfrancesco Favino (Romenzo Criminal, Suburra) a complex Mafioso part as he likes. Interview

By Franck Lebraly

Reading time 3 min.

Il Traditore


Who could have thought the mafia – more precisely Sicilian Cosa Nostra – would be unsettled in its land by its own head. When Toto Riina, Corleone’s clan chief decides to impinge on Palerme’s quarters in the early 80’s, he starts an unprecedented war, setting fire to Sicilia. A violent murderous wave marking the organization’s fall.

Buscetta captivates as much as he spooks us,
chameleon, phoenix, he is the devil and the savior.

When the godfather Tommaso Buscetta, disagreeing with Riina, exiles himself to Brazil to get a new life, his Sicilian family gets wiped out under La Belvia’s order. But family is sacred, that is what we feel from the beginning of the movie, reminiscing The Godfather (Coppola, 1972) like during Saint Rita (Major Sicilian religious feast) where Mafioso dance and hug, kissing the virgin while keeping their guns on their hearts. A family picture where members are presented under an old camera’s clash, except for Riina, rare in pictures.
Extradited from Brazil, Buscetta decides to meet with Judge Falcone and betray his oath to the Cosa Nostra. A huge trial opens, judging 475 people. A court is even built for the occasion, with adjacent cells. All Italia is watching the event on tv like a show where Buscetta, against Riina, buries the myth of the mafia.

The film follows the chronology, and apart from the one-string narration, because we would have loved to jump in time, we don’t forget the local direction, far from Hollywood, from Scorcese and Coppola. Buscetta captivates as much as he spooks us, chameleon, phoenix, he is the devil and the savior. Used to a fatuous life, he steps down to a life in the US protected by the FBI, father cooking while his wife earns the only wage. Whit his never-ending travels to Sicilia as a key witness, he becomes the traitor, the man to kill, his name must be erased, his relatives murdered, his lineage extinct.  During the discussions, like a Sicilian comedia dell’arte, the accused are puppets, acting as they can in the name of a scorned honor.

Officially selected in Cannes 2019, everything is documented and Bellocchio wisely took time to prepare his comeback, 3 years after his last film. A sober direction leaving us thoughtful as a passive audience watching the bestial truth. The film’s only default might be its blur border between cinema and reality. Since Riina’s death in 2017, documentaries, tv-shows and movies about the Cosa Nostra are flourishing, on Arte (Corleone, le Parrain des Parrains), Netflix (Our Godfather, about Buscetta), in theaters or in Venise’s mostra (La Mafia non é Più Quella di una Volta), maybe the omerta is being removed.

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