Jealousy, Italian Style is a dark rom-com about a love triangle that leads to tragedy.
With films a full half-century old, and in a different language, there’s always a worry that the comedy may not translate, but with Jealousy, Italian Style the humour is based on the timeless and universal subjects of love, rejection, and despair. Even in 2022, it’s a good laugh.
The film starts with Oreste being brought in handcuffs to the scene of his crime, and asked to explain what happened. In the presence of his lawyer and a judge, he starts to re-enact the fight, while Adelaide, the lassie at the centre of the triangle, narrates how things came to this end.
While the film starts out quite light, with Adelaide and Oreste falling in love at first sight, and doing all the stereotypical romantic stuff, like chasing each other along a beach, there’s still a dark slant, with Oreste complaining that the beach is mochet, and helping Adelaide scrape something off her shoe. That bleak comedy dials up slowly as the film gets darker and darker, with it being a running joke throughout the movie that, there being so many skirmishes in Adelaide’s lovelife, she is repeatedly taken to the hospital by ambulance, until everyone there knows her on a first name basis.
The film’s structure also provides a lot of humour, because the linear story is effectively a long flashback, and characters will occasionally break the fourth wall to address the judge and make comments on their actions. The cast are excellent, with great timing and the exact expression to make the joke land. Marcello Mastroianni who plays Oreste is especially to be commended as he manages to make sympathetic a middle-aged married man who leaves his wife and kids to run after a girl half his age, and even hold that sympathy as he gets increasingly violent.
Both Adelaide’s lovers are politically engaged leftists, Oreste is a communist, Nello is an anarchist. She first meets Oreste at a communist carnival, and he sees their first meeting as the beginning of a new and happy life, full of optimism. When she leaves him for Nello, and then briefly for a wealthy lover in an attempt to forget both of them, Oriste searches for meaning from the speakers at a Marxist rally. This ideology which was supposed to change the world, and change him, has left him without answers to the most ageless and important of questions.
An utterly black comedy about the ruination of love, and its utter destruction of those it consumes.