Mafia love story musical shows a different side to Naples

Ammo may be flying but there's always time for a sing-along: in "Love and Bullets," a playful mafia musical premiering at the Venice film festival, the crooks really can croon.

Mafia love story musical shows a different side to Naples
Directors Marco Manetti (L) and Antonio Manetti attend the premiere of the movie "Ammore E Malavita". Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The latest adventure from Italian brothers Marco and Antonio Manetti is an exploration of the power of love to sway even the hardest of hearts – but also a vibrant homage to Italy's southern city Naples.

“Naples is depicted in the news, in films, books and on TV, as an ugly city gripped by crime,” Antonio told AFPTV. “But just taking a stroll through the streets of the centre shows you the city is not that”.

The coastal city at the foot of Mount Vesuvius is the heartland of the ruthless Camorra organized crime group, which was immortalized in the 2008 bestselling book “Gomorrah” by Roberto Saviano and in a popular spin-off television series.

“Lately there has been what I call the 'Gomorrah' effect, in which Naples is portrayed as a dark place. Yes, there's the Camorra, but it's also a city that can make you smile,” Marco said.

The plot opens with the funeral of boss Don Vincenzo (Carlo Buccirosso) – nicknamed the “King of Fish” – whose grieving, bejewelled widow Donna Maria (Claudia Gerini) appears to just be holding it together.

To  the outside world, the boss is “sleeping with the fishes” after being bumped off in a basin of mussels.

But all is not as it seems. A nurse (Serena Rossi) spots Don Vincenzo alive, and the family rushes to silence her.

Will hired gun Ciro (Giampaolo Morelli) pull the trigger once he realizes the nurse is an old flame?

'Italian capital of culture'

“Love is the motor behind everything that happens,” Gerini said. “Donna Maria comes up with this plan to pretend her husband has died so they can leave and start a fresh life together” beyond the mafia.

“There is crime, but it's also a story about a Naples made of feelings, of families, of colours,” she said.

The film, competing for the prized Golden Lion under its Italian title “Ammore e malavita,” may hope to defend Naples but it also revels in laughing at Neapolitans – who are all too quick to cash in on the mafia cliche.

“We joke that while in Paris the symbolic site is the Eiffel Tower, in Rome the Colosseum, in China the Great Wall, in Naples, it's the Sails of Scampia,” a vast, crime-plagued tower block, Antonio said.

“Instead of complaining, the Neapolitans turn it into a business, inventing a tour for American sightseers.

“And we had fun leaving the pickpocketing of one of the tourists a mystery: was it real or was it organized by the tour operator to make the experience even more 'authentic' for the Americans?” he said.

The brothers acknowledge that while Gomorrah cast the city in a certain light, the film and TV series “also did it good, bringing it attention from outside”.

And it is a city they strongly believe deserves to be known for beyond the shootouts: Forget Rome or Milan, “Naples is the Italian capital of culture, it is up there along with New York, Paris, London,” Antonio said.

By Giovanni Grezzi with Ella Ide in Rome

READ ALSO: 'How I fell in love with Naples, a city full of contrasts''How I fell in love with Naples, a city full of contrasts'


French films with English subtitles to watch in November

As days get shorter and temperatures drop, November is a great month to enjoy a warm and comforting moment at the cinema. Here’s a round up of the French movies with English subtitles to see in Paris this month.

Cinema in France
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The cinema group Lost in Frenchlation runs regular screenings of French films in the capital, with English subtitles to help non-native speakers follow the action. The club kicks off every screening with drinks at the cinema’s bar one hour before the movie, so it’s also a fun way to meet people if you’re new to Paris.

These are the events they have coming up in November.

Friday, November 5th

Boîte Noire – What happened on board the Dubai-Paris flight before it crashed in the Alps? In this thriller Matthieu, a young and talented black box analyst played by Pierre Niney (star of Yves Saint-Laurent among other movies) is determined to solve the reason behind this deadly crash, no matter the costs. 

The screening will take place at the Club de l’étoile cinema at 8pm. But you can arrive early for drinks at the bar from 7pm. 

Tickets are €10 full price, €8 for students and all other concessions, and can be reserved here.

Sunday, November 14th

Tralala – In the mood for music? This new delightful French musical brings you into the life of Tralala (played by Mathieu Amalric), a 48 years old, homeless and worn-out street singer, who one day gets mistaken for someone else. Tralala sees an opportunity to get a better life by taking on a new personality. He now has a brother, nephews, ex-girlfriends, and maybe even a daughter. But where is the lie? Where is the truth? And who is he, deep down?

The night will start with drinks from 6pm followed by the screening at 7pm at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema. There is also a two-hour cinema-themed walk where you’ll be taken on a “musicals movie tour” in the heart of Paris, which begins at 4pm.

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here. Tickets for the walking tour cost €20 and must be reserved online here.

Thursday, November 18th

Illusions Perdues – Based on the great novel series by Honoré de Balzac between 1837 and 1843, this historical drama captures the writer Lucien’s life and dilemmas who dreams about a great career of writing and moves to the city to get a job at a newspaper. As a young poet entering the field of journalism, he is constantly challenged by his desire to write dramatic and eye-catching stories for the press. But are they all true?

The evening will kick off with drinks at L’Entrepôt cinema bar at 7pm, followed by the movie screening at 8pm. Tickets are available online here, and cost €8.50 full price; €7 for students and all other concessions.

Sunday, November 21st

Eiffel – Having just finished working on the Statue of Liberty, Gustave Eiffel (played by Romain Duris) is tasked with creating a spectacular monument for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. It’s ultimately his love story with Adrienne Bourgès (Emma Mackey) that will inspire him to come up with the idea for the Eiffel Tower.

After a first screening last month, Lost in Frenchlation is organising a new one at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema, with pre-screening drinks at the cinema bar. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here

Thursday, November 25th

Les Héroïques – Michel is a former junkie and overgrown child who only dreams of motorbikes and of hanging out with his 17-year-old son Léo and his friends. But at 50 years old, he now has to handle the baby he just had with his ex, and try not to make the same mistakes he has done in the past. 

The film will be followed by a Q&A with the director Maxime Roy who will discuss his very first feature. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here.

Full details of Lost in Frenchlation’s events can be found on their website or Facebook page. In France, a health pass is required in order to go to the cinema.