Critic Reviews for Law
A movie of cartoon-like mass formations, singing urchins, and operatic outbursts.
Few things renew one's faith in the moving image more than an unbridled Gina Lollobrigida cavorting in the Adriatic Sea with a flock of sheep.
'The result, of course, is not one good shot in two hours of film,' Godard wrote, somewhat unjustly. There is at least one good shot near the beginning.
It's Lollobrigida who owns the film. Her sex appeal and power cannot be underestimated,
A rare hybrid well worth a film lover's time, "The Law" (1959) is a black-and-white, French-language film with a Sicilian seaside setting, a stellar, largely Italian cast and a distinct, nonindigenous Tennessee Williams flavor.
Audience Reviews for Law
La Legge (The Law) (Jules Dassin, 1960) Jules Dassin made a number of films which are now considered among the best ever shot—Rififi, Never on Sunday, Topkapi, etc. The Law is not one of them—it's more low-rent soap opera/rural Peyton Place ripoff than it is classic cinema—but it's stupidly enjoyable and contains Gina Lollobrigida wearing a number of tight outfits. Put those two things together and is it worth killing an hour and a half with? Of course it is. Lollobrigida plays Marietta, a small-time thief (it is never stated, but implied once or twice, she's also a hooker) in a small, impoverished seaside town in Italy. Half the town is in love with her, including her boss Don Cesare (Children of Paradise's Pierre Brasseur), a bedridden old lech who's actually the power behind the town, and the local crime boss (The Wages of Fear's Yves Montand) AND his brother (Violent Summer's Raf Mattioli), the public faces of the power behind the town, but Marietta only has eyes for Enrico (La Dolce Vita's Marcello Mastroianni). Problem is that Enrico is too poor to get married and Marietta is too poor to have a dowry. So she decides to use her skills to rectify that situation... The name of the film comes from a drinking game the town's men play every night, something so bleak and hope-crushing that it may as well have come out of a Béla Tarr movie. The men gather at the local tavern to play The Law. They draw lots; the winner is selected as boss, and may treat the others as his lackeys for the rest of the night. (One must be careful not to go overboard, for the chances you won't be in the box the next night are pretty slim.) While it's mostly set decoration here—one assumes it plays more prominence in the book, which I haven't read—it certainly sets the proper tone for this noirish romance. I mean, look back at that synopsis and see if you can count the number of things that could possibly go wrong here. (Or just say “all of them” and you're in the right ballpark.) Ultimately, that's the problem with The Law; Dassin sets the scene and then does everything with it as predictably as he can. The comparison in the first paragraph to Peyton Place, the movie version of which was released three years previous to this, is not casual. Still, it's a soap-opera good time with a lot of very pretty people doing very unpretty things, and it was made during the golden age of cinema by one of said golden age's favorite sons, so what have you got to lose? ** ½
The release notes state that the role of Marietta (Lollobrigida) was greatly expanded at the producer's request. The spitfire, Lollbrigida, dominates this film, so it's hard to imagine her role diminished.
"The Law" starts with one of the citizens of a small fishing village in Italy wondering why a bird does not fly far away when it has the chance. Since it only makes it as far as the window of Lucrezia(Melina Mercouri), we know it is no idiot. Nearby, the prisoners in the jail can hear Marietta(Gina Lollobrigida) sing. Her family works for Don Cesare(Pierre Brasseur) while she tries to escapes the old man's attentions and refuses to be a servant, even to Enrico(Marcello Mastroianni), the new agronomist in town who she is interested in eventual marriage with. In the meantime, she occupies her time with getting the kids to steal a police motorbike(geez, they work quickly) which Matteo Brigante(Yves Montand) disapproves of. Directed by Jules Dassin, "The Law" is a delightfully wicked dissection of the power structure of a small town, framed by a sadistic drinking game, while still maintaining sympathy for most of the characters. Since leaving may not be an option, what's the best one can do if one stays? The movie is also helped by the charms of Gina Lollobrigida who...I just lost my train of thought. Where was I? Now, I remember. The question is who is really in charge? The police? The criminals? Or the landowner? Regardless, progress is on the way in the person of the agronomist who is about to change the way things have been done for centuries, starting with the draining of the marshes to prevent malaria, which Don Cesare opposes because he quite likes them the way they are. And then there are the women who while technically under the thumbs of the men, seek to run their own lives and create their own rules.
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