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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

LE MANI SULLA CITTA / HANDS OVER THE CITY (1963)


A major find. This prize-winning effort from Francesco Rosi (Venice Golden Bear) never got the Stateside attention/distribution it deserved. Even with Rod Steiger (who’s very good) in a leading role, it must have seemed too tied to the intrigues of Naples politics to work outside Italy. Steiger plays a city councilman & real estate entrepreneur who uses his political connections to avoid the red-tape purgatory that would customarily stall his massive land deals & deny him building permits. But with elections on tap and the government in a tight three-way split (Right, Center, Left), anything could tip the political scales. Like, maybe, a massive building collapse next-to/caused-by some current unregulated construction? The collapse is brilliantly, terrifyingly staged by Rosi, who is totally in his element here. Look how naturally he particularizes his non-professional players (and their motives) so you’re never confused about who’s screwing whom, even during the fast-shifting political allegiances & gamesmanship of the third act. And while the Italian Communists get the best lines in this post-Il Boom storyline, the situations are less biased than you might expect. The film is a near masterpiece.

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