Mambo Italiano by Émile Gaudreault
 a film by Émile Gaudreault
 2003 | 88 mins | Canada
 ›› Mambo Italiano
 stereotypical gays and Italians served coming out style
 available on DVD as part of the Icon Home Entertainment catalogue
 screened as part of the 18th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival 2004
starring: Luke Kirby, Ginette Reno, Paul Sorvino, Mary Walsh, Sophie Lorain, Claudia Ferri, Peter Miller, Pierrette Robitaille, Lou Vani, Tim Post, Michel Perron, Mark Camacho, Tara Nicodemo, Diane Lavallée, Dino Tavarone
Welcome to the world of aspiring scriptwriter Angelo Barberini, only this macho Italiano is more mambo Italiano, given he's in a relationship with his best friend Nino - and nothing wrong with that, I hear you add. Only trouble being that he's Italian and Italian men are not gay you understand - er run that by me again! So these two lovers are just flatmates, happy in the knowledge that their 'special friendship' will never be known outside of their closeted existence in Montreal's Little Italy.

And who can blame them, given the Italian-style wobbler Angelo's parents took when he dared to move out of the family home, leaving his sister Anna rushing to the nearest shrink, only to return a valium-addicted nervous wreck courtesy of having accidentally caught Angelo and Nino in acts that went well beyond the call of duty for mere flatmates. But did she tell anyone - no. Unlike Angelo that is, who has decided that it's time he came straight, as-it-were, with his parents, only for them to promptly inform Nino's mother Lina that her macho policeman son is, how you say, banging their son!

Well not for much longer. Given he promptly drops Angelo in favour of the female charms of Pina Lunetti, thereby confirming his heterosexuality to one and all and inparticular in the direction of his mother and his law-enforcing, law-abiding, albeit homophobic fellow officers. Only is this macho Italiano truly back on the straight and narrow?

Put frankly, there was the making of a great film here, given its central premise poses the question of whether it is better to live your life openly as a gay man in a locality that is not representative of your sexuality OR to forever conceal your true sexual orientation for the benefit of social integration? And yet what could have been remains just that, as the potential here has been cast to the cinematic wind thanks to a series of attempts at sitcom style wisecracks based on stereotypical imagery.

Not that this is to take anything away from the fine double act of Ginette Reno and Paul Sorvino as Angelo's domineering parents Maria and Gino Barberini, but it is to say that this is a film filled with self-loathing, given Luke Kirby as Angelo is neither at ease with his Italian nor sexual background, let alone those of an effeminate nature, all of which prompts the question as to just what image of the gay community does this work project to a largely heterosexual audience?

Yet the irony remains that MAMBO ITALIANO became one of the few gay themed films in recent years to secure a UK nationwide release and so doing, played to mainstream screens from the 1st October 2004. And whilst some folk may well have found the result an hilarious cinematic experience, frankly this is hardly in-your-face gay, having been watered down to the point of projecting zero sexuality, along the way undermining the central message of acceptance and tolerance by an incessant desire for a cheap laugh at the expense of a stereotypical portrait of both the Italian and gay communities. Need more be said?
Copyright 2004 David Hall -
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