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(aka 'Hands Over the City' or 'Main basse sur la ville')

Directed by Francesco Rosi
Italy/France 1963

 

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.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 1963 - Venice Film Festival

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Comparison:

Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

1) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC LEFT

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B'- Blu-ray  RIGHT

 

Box Covers

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 355 - Region 1 - NTSC Masters of Cinema - Spine # 87
Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:40:51  1:41:09.855
Video 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.26 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s  

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 32,201,384,003 bytes

Feature: 29,651,954,880 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate: Blu-ray

Audio Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0)  LPCM Audio Italian 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• Neapolitan Diary (1992), Francesco Rosi's feature-length sequel to Hands over the City
• Video interviews with Rosi, film critic Tullio Kezich, and filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin
• Video discussion with Rosi, co-writer Raffaele La Capria, and film critic Michel Ciment
• Plus: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Stuart Klawams and a 2003 interview with Rosi 

DVD Release Date: October 24th, 2006

Transparent standard Keep Case (disc overlapping)
Chapters: 23

Release Information:
Studio: Masters of Cinema

Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 32,201,384,003 bytes

Feature: 29,651,954,880 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

• Rosi, la Capria, Cement (15:57)

DVD included

Liner Notes Booklet
 

Blu-ray Release Date: March 31st, 2014
Standard Blu-ray case

Chapters 11

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were obtained directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - March 2014 - The Criterion was a great DVD, and this Masters of Cinema edition is a great Blu-ray. The source is pristine and the dual-layered transfer, with max'ed out bitrate, is highly impressive with brilliantly rich contrast supported by pitch black levels. It can export a bit of gloss but also supports fine grain textures. Any softness seems inherent in the print. I thought I had hints of smearing but dismissed it. It shows more information in the 1.85:1 frame on all four sides. This looks sweet on my system in very dark room. Excellent.

Masters of Cinema go authentic utilizing a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps. It sounds clear, intentionally scattered at times, and flat. Italian composer and jazz musician Piero Piccioni (The 10th Victim, The Moment of Truth) did the score which benefits from the uncompressed rendering. Depth is frequently noted as is support for the high-end. Steiger's DUB is still very evident. Thee are optional English subtitles on the Region 'B'-locked Blu-ray disc.

We get the same highly interesting video supplement as found on the Criterion 2006 DVD. Michel Ciment is a French film critic and the editor of the cinema magazine Positif. He conducts a casual 16-minute sit-down discussion with director Francesco Rosi and Italian writer Raffaele La Capria (who is known especially for the three novels which were collected as Tre romanzi di una giornata). It is in Italian with English subtitles. There is a DVD of the feature included in the dual-format release and, I'll assume, there is an extensive liner notes booklet.

I am always struck by the realism of Hands Over the City. The performances are so strong - you fall into the film's energy vortex almost subconsciously. What a draining and brilliantly realized film with the authentic political gridlock. Great to have in 1080P - super choice to bring to Blu-ray by The Masters of Cinema. Strongly recommended!

***

ON THE DVD: 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.  

Gary W. Tooze

 


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Screen Captures

 

1) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B'- Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B'- Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B'- Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B'- Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B'- Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 

 


1) Criterion - Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B'- Blu-ray  BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 


Box Covers

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 355 - Region 1 - NTSC Masters of Cinema - Spine # 87
Region 'B' - Blu-ray




 

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