Palazzo Di Cozzo (2021)

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It’s hard not to like this unashamed hagiography of furniture salesman and Melbourne icon, Franco Cozzo.

Anyone who grew up in Melbourne from the 70s on will remember Franco Cozzo’s ads on morning and late night TV. For ‘skips’ like myself, it was a rare opportunity to hear Greek and Italian spoken on television and I could parrot his catchphrases without having any idea what he was saying – “megalo, megalo, megalo!” and “Se i migliori mobili volete comprare, oggi, domani, sempre, da Franco Cozzo dovete andare. Dove? a Brunswick and a Footascray. Comprate da Franco Cozzo.”

Madeleine Martiniello takes a gentle approach to this exploration of Franco’s history, his legacy in Australia and where he is now. We get a sense of a hard life left behind in Italy and his success in Australia being partly because of his charisma and ability to make a sale but also because of a canny understanding of how to appeal to new migrants. He was able to ride on the boom of migrants from Europe as they established themselves in a new country, appealing to their loyalty to their home country and their love of opulence.

We get to see inside some of the homes of his best customers and they range from working class migrants like Franco to contemporary fashion designers. When we see the Di Natale children clearing out the home of their parents, it is an emotional moment as they recognise what buying Cozzo furniture would have meant to them – they find a receipt from the 70s that represented five times the cost of a car. We also get to see a vulnerable Franco, now in his 80s, brought easily to tears when talking about his love for his children and for his mama.

What is most poignant about this film, though, is seeing a man holding on hard to the legacy of his youth, unable to let go. He recognises that he didn’t notice that the market was changing, that his customers no longer wanted what he was selling. He has floors stocked with millions of dollars worth of furniture – when asked by Martiniello why he purchased it all, he admits that it was because he used to sell so much. The world shifted but Franco – who had a hit song written about him – couldn’t shift with it.

Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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