The director of Fists in the Pocket, China is Near, Vincere, The Eyes the Mouth, Sleeping Beauty and a half dozen more has come to this.
The Traitor is a two and a half hour trek through the life of Tommaso Buscetta, a man who, under pressure, gave up his Mafia associates and put a heap of them in jail. Bellocchio meticulously takes us through the process of Buscetta’s fear of exposure, his self-exile to Brazil, his exposure, the threats made to force his hand to give up his Mafia associates and the seemingly endless judicial process whereby he put criminal associated after criminal associate into jail.
The Mafia, thanks to the drug trade, survives though that doesn’t seem to be Bellocchio’s point.
Interesting that Bellocchio should tread in the steps of Francesco Rosi and many other film-makers in exposing the criminal enterprise that is twisted and insinuated into every element of Italian politics and society. Mafias, however, exist in every country, driven and sustained by the criminalisation of the drug trade, pornography, sex trafficking and just about anything else that is illegal but desired by many. But maybe only in Italy, possibly Russia, have the criminal oligarchs taken over the mainstream of society, buying politicians and other pillars of society to make themselves and their criminal behaviour totally exempt from any oversight, sanction or punishment.
Bellocchio’s movie just tells us of one episode even if it does attach to itself the story of the evil Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti who for decades served Italy’s Christian Democrats, the Papacy and the Mafia so well. Rosi did it in a more interesting way twice. First with the untold story of the bandit Salvatore Giuliano in the film of that name, second in his adaptation of Leonardo Sciascia’s “Cadaveri Eccelenti” filmed as Exquisite Corpses. Matteo Garrone also did it with far more energy and excitement in Gomorrah. It makes you wonder why the director of those remarkable films cited in the first paragraph wanted to go down such a well-trodden path and make this movie.