Marcello Mastroianni in a tight spot in "Macaroni"

“Macaroni” — a 1985 film starring Jack Lemmon and Marcello Mastroianni — is an offbeat story set in always-interesting Naples. Lemmon plays Robert Traven, a careworn airline official who visits Naples for a business meeting after being absent since he served there with the U.S. military during World War II. Traven has no sooner flopped, exhausted, in his hotel room when he is disturbed by a visit from Antonio Jasoniello, who claims that not only were he and Traven acquainted during the war but that Traven had a romance with Jasoniello’s sister. Traven rudely denies ever having known Jasoniello or the sister, even when Jasoniello produces a snapshot of the Yankee soldier and the bella ragazza.

 After chasing Jasoniello away, Traven has second thoughts and seeks the man out, purportedly to apologize and to return the snapshot. He finds Jasoniello working in the refrigerated archives of the Bank of Naples, and what he may have intended to be a perfunctory visit turns into an increasingly complicated relationship with the whole Jasoniello clan — including Jasoniello’s son, a would-be rock musician who is a little reckless about how he tries to jump start his career.

Traven is puzzled by the fact that he is recognized and called by name by a succession of strangers in Jasoniello’s neighborhood. Jasoniello shrugs this off, but Traven eventually learns that his celebrity status was deliberately concocted and maintained for four decades by Jasoniello himself. Therein lies a touching and hilarious story.

“Macaroni” (I can’t account for that title) has a talented and almost entirely Italian cast. Mastroianni himself, of course, was the quintessential Italian film actor, though the combination of his heavy accent and the less-than-ideal sound quality on this DVD made him at times difficult to understand. Pairing him with Lemmon was a wise decision, and the movie is entertaining and uplifting.