Monday, September 14, 2009
La Piovra 5
the MhZ Network in the U.S. has just started airing the 5th series of La Piovra (The Octopus), the legendary Mafia series, which evidently had so much impact when first aired in Italy that it had an effect on the prosecution of the Mafia. MhZ actually first aired series 8 and 9 of La Piovra, which were "prequels" to the series as a whole, showing the youth of the series' primary villain, Tano Cariddi, and a post-WWII shift in the Mafia's Sicilian tactics. Series 8 and 9 were operatic and seductive: in spite of a melodramatic plot, the story and cinematography were compelling (and the villain of those two series was played to evil perfection by Luca Zingaretti, better known for a much more sympathetic role as Salvo Montalbano in the TV series made from Andrea Camilleri's novels). When the public TV station began airing the original series, 1-4, we were treated to the best known of the series' heroes, Corrado Cattani, played by Michele Placido with an intensity that today seems quite melodramatic but surely was more effective in the era of its original broadcast. Nevertheless, we were relieved last spring when, at the end of La Piovra season 4, Corrado was definitively killed off (overkill even, one might say, so dramatic was his death). With season 5 we enter a new era, featuring Corrado's last collaborator and lover, Judge Silvia Conti, played by Patricia Millardet, and a new undercover cop, Davide Licata, played in a less cool, rougher style than Placido's Corrado by Vittorio Mezzogiorno. But the heart of the series (since season 3) has been Tano, played with brilliant reticence by Remo Girone. The technical aspects of season 5 are also more compatible with current TV technology, so the image is clearer and brighter. The plot has moved on to a new Mafia hierarchy, with the defection of one don at the end of season 4 and the arrest of several more at the beginning of season 5, and with new corporate "fellow travellers" as well as some carried over from season 4. All in all, an auspicious beginning to the 5-episode, 500 minute series and for the rest of the 10-series saga. MhZ has provided a genuine public service for U.S. viewers, having brought not only La Piovra but also the amazing Finnish series Raid, the current Varg Veum series from Norway, the current Wallander series from Sweden as well as the Wallanders made in Sweden from the original Wallander books, the comprehensive Maigret series from France (starring Bruno Cremer, who is a Swiss villain in La Piovra), both the Martin Beck series from Sweden (from the Sjöwall/Wahlöö novels and from the extension of the characters into new stories), one of the Tatort series from Germany (the one set in Cologne), a couple of series from Australia (Murder Call and Water Rats), Omicidi from Italy, and probably some others that I've forgotten to mention. Too bad their signal has been hard to get, though the situation is now improving with satellite, cable systems, and (it seems) some future Web presence.