(aka 'Hands Over the City' or 'Main basse sur la ville')
Rod Steiger is ferocious as a scheming land developer in Francesco Rosi's Hands over the City, a blistering work of social realism and the winner of the 1963 Venice Film Festival Golden Lion. This expose of the politically driven real-estate speculation that has devastated Naples's civilian landscape moves breathlessly from a cataclysmic building collapse to the backroom negotiations of civic leaders vying for power in a city council election, laying bare the inner workings of corruption with passion and outrage.
Rosi on property development rackets and political maneuvering in the Naples city council is every bit as tough and forthright as Rosi on Sicily (Salvatore Giuliano) and on oil diplomacy (The Mattei Affair). His film follows the irresistible rise of the speculator Nottola (Steiger, excellently cast) as he channels the public building programme on to his own land, shrugs off the collapse of a slum tenement in an area that needs redevelopment, and cold-bloodedly shifts the balance of power in the council to his own advantage. It's not only totally convincing as an analysis of civic corruption, but also one of the very few left wing movies that one can imagine actually reaching the mass audience it's aimed at.
Theatrical Release: September 1963 - Venice Film Festival
DVD Review: Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC
|DVD Box Cover||
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|Distribution||Criterion Collection - Spine # 355 - Region 1 - NTSC|
Average Bitrate: 8.26 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0)|
Diary (1992), Francesco Rosi's feature-length sequel to Hands over
Although I think this anamorphic and progressive transfer may be slightly weaker than Criterion's usual exemplary standard, it looks very acceptable. It reminds me of a HomeVision transfer - which is really not saying anything bad at all. Black levels are quite rich, and detail acceptable - rather than stellar. At around 1:15:00 I saw some jiggling of the image (I differentiated this from contrast flickering, which was not present), but have no idea whether this was part of the films theatrical release - it seems plausible but it only last a minute so it not overly distracting.
Subtitles have a couple of noticeable gaps in them. I'll assume nothing important was imparted in regards to the plot development - it was usually when multiple people were talking - no translation was on the screen at all. Original audio was clear and consistent - Steiger was obviously dubbed and it shows, but he is rarely seen talking head-on - many times he is speaking rapidly while in motion (walking, turning etc.)
There is a 2nd disc of supplements - firstly a 13 1/2 minute video interview with director Rosi where he talks about his approach to filmmaking and the production of his fourth film - Hands Over the City. This is followed by a 5 minute interview with film critic Tullio Kezich where he gives an overview of Rosi's work. Next - another video spot (almost 16 minutes) with film critic Michel Ciment interviewing Rosi and co-writer Raffaele La Capria about their collaboration concerns for their native city of Naples. Next segment - filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin (Tout va Bien, Letter to Jane) takes a critical look Hands Over The City - this new video is just over 10 minutes long.
In 1992 Francesco Rosi, his loyal cinematographer, Pasqualino De Santis, plus a two person documentary crew make a feature-length sequel to Hands over the City. It is 1:29:00 and is called Neapolitan Diary. I've only watched about 1/3 so far - where it seemed to focus on the rampant construction and urban sprawl of Naples which has created a vein of youth oriented criminals (street urchins pushing and using drugs). It is interspersed with some of the beauty of the city that Rosi remembers, plus the modern trapping - traffic jams etc.
Lastly there is a 32-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film critic Stuart Klawams called 'Confidential Reports: The Investigative Thrillers of Francesco Rosi' - and a 15-page 2003 interview with the director.
Overall, this is another example of how complete a DVD package can become. Every detail, many minute, are explored and it lacks nothing aside from a commentary. The film is entertaining but gets a little bogged down in the bureaucratic minutia (as its intent), but its subtle conclusion is a memorable one. Fans of Italian cinema will want this DVD in their possession.