La Loi (The Law). 1959. Italy/France. Directed by Jules Dassin. Courtesy Oscilloscope Pictures/Photofest. © Oscilloscope Pictures

In a Southern Italian fishing village, the locals settle into a tavern to play La Passatella, a drinking game dating back to ancient Roman times, in which the consumption of too much wine leads to the bullying and humiliation of one unlucky participant. The natives all know how to play, but Enrico Tosso (Marcello Mastroianni) a handsome engineer from the north who's in town to study the effect of the marshes on the village water supply, fails to find the humor in the game. Meanwhile the earthy, gorgeous Marietta (Gina Lollobrigida) is reluctantly in service to the town boss, Pierre Braseur, but she'd rather cook and clean for Tosso. The ensemble cast keenly illustrates the social hierarchy of the small town, a pecking order that Tosso is eager to eradicate.

Director Jules Dassin (1911–2008) was born in Connecticut but spent the majority of his career working in Europe. In 1951 he was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee but refused to testify. He departed for France in 1953 and remained in Europe to complete his myriad film projects, including Rififi (1955) and Never on Sunday (1960), for which he was nominated for a Best Director Oscar.

If you’re stuck in New York this summer, take a virtual trip to Italy with this wily film—in the enviable company of Gina Lollobrigida and Marcello Mastroianni.

Organized by Anne Morra, Associate Curator, Department of Film.

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