S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r
(aka 'The Law' or 'La legge')
Directed by Jules Dassin
Italy / France
SYNOPSIS: Pigeons and vagabonds populate the town square of the seedy Italian fishing village of Porto Manacore perched above the Adriatic. Overlooking the common folk’s proceedings from his baroque apartment on high is the town’s wheelchair-bound patriarch Don Cesare, played with a magisterial aplomb by titanic Gallic thespian Pierre Brasseur (and anticipating Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone). Lusted after by the men of the town, his gorgeous housekeeper, Marietta Gina Lollobrigida), is also the resident whipping girl, tormented by the Don’s other female caretakers. But the voluptuous Marietta fancies a new man in town: the sharp but broke Milanese engineer Enrico Tosso (Marcello Mastroianni) who is hired to drain the surrounding marshland, protecting the town from malaria. Marietta concocts a daring scheme to marry Enrico, while elsewhere in town, the lovelorn Lucrezia (Melina Mercouri) attempts to break free of her chaste marriage by playing cougar to Raf Mattioli as the son of the local crime boss, Matteo Brigante (Yves Montand). The devilish and disapproving Brigante, who is also one of Marietta’s lustful admirers, commands the room at a local tavern where the townspeople engage in “The Law,” a vicious drinking game. This cruel distraction allows for only one person at a time to call the shots, determining who has to drink, and when Brigante has the floor he is not likely to give it up, serving as a microcosm of the power plays at work in the town, most notably in making a victim of Don Cesare’s dutiful manservant, Tonio, played by the underappreciated Italian character actor Paolo Stoppa.
The Law (previously released in the US as Where the Hot Wind Blows) stars Gina Lollobrigida, Marcello Mastroianni, Yves Montand, Melina Mercouri, and Pierre Brasseur. Lollobrigida plays Marietta, the gorgeous housekeeper to Don Cesare (Brasseur), the patriarch of a small Mediterranean coastal town. Lusted after by many men, including Francesco (Montand), the son of a local crime boss, Marietta has her own desires, consisting of the poor Enrico (Mastroianni). Determined to secure the dowry that will enable her to marry Enrico, Marietta connives the men of the town by turning the tables on them using their own vicious drinking game which they call "The Law." Haden Guest, Director of the Harvard Film Archive called the film "a totally underrated and underappreciated gem."
A Northern Italian engineer (Mastroianni) arrives to stop a
malaria outbreak in a small village but is thwarted by Southern
inhospitality—and courted by the town beauty, Marietta (Lollobrigida). He’s also
taught a local drinking game called “The Law,” in which one man—namely,
the region’s top hood (Montand)—assumes absolute power over others. “There are
those who are in charge,” the gangster tells a conquest, “and those who submit.”
Theatrical Release: January 20th, 1959
DVD Review: Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC
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|Distribution||Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC|
Average Bitrate: 7.39 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||French (Dolby Digital 2.0)|
• Commentary by critic David Fear
• Lectures Pour Tous (1957 - 12:38)
• L'Ůltima Osteria (2010 - 40:48)
• Original Theatrical trailer (3:01)
Oscilloscope Laboratories are becoming a favorite new DVD producer with releases like Kent MacKenzie' The Exiles (with Milestone), Sebastián Silva's intimate The Maid, Michael Gondry's personal The Thorn in the Heart, the Danish mystery/thriller Terribly Happy, the 1977 documentary Word is Out and, most recently - Bradley Rust Gray's restrained The Exploding Girl. But many cinephiles may regard this, Jules Dassin's The Law, as Oscilloscope's very best DVD package - giving availability to a clandestine film by a highly respected director.
The dual-layered, progressive transfer is very strong - obviously coming from an excellent, restored, source. It's a shade thick and heavy but extremely clean, and may have some form of digital clean-up, beyond an advertised film restoration. It is devoid of, even, frame-specific speckles. The image is smooth and a shade glossy but there is no digital noise and close-ups can export some impressive detail. Contrast is appealing - maybe a little muddy but - consistent throughout. This looks excellent - not appearing, very much, like a 50-year old film.
Audio is clean in the French language, at times, it seems, awkwardly dubbed from a few actor's speaking Italian, but without disruptive flaws like excessive hiss or noticeable pops. There are optional English subtitles in a smallish font (see below) and the cardboard package is similar to Oscilloscope's other releases (see above). BTW, the menus are very impressive!
Disc one features the 2-hour film which includes an optional commentary, described as 'informative and irreverent' in the menu. It's by critic David Fear, editor of Time Out - recorded in May 2010. There is a second, single-layered disc that has some highly relevant vintage material including a 5.5-minute alternate ending called Mariette`s Revenge - the title explaining the plot alternation from the original story. Cinepanorama is a 13.5-minute excerpt from the French Television program of the same name from 1958 -filmed on the set of The Law - shot in Carpino, Italy on the coast of the Adriatic. The programme features director Jules Dassin, Gina Lollobrigida, Melina Mercouri and Yves Montand giving a minute or two to the camera. Like all the video supplements there are optional English subtitles. Lectures Pour Tous is another vintage French TV show and we get a dozen minutes with the author of the highly acclaimed book La Loi, Roger Vailland - published in 1957. He discusses his novel that inspired Dassin's film. L'Ůltima Osteria is a 40-minute mini-film by Alfredo De Giuseppe that documents the ritual drinking game "The Law" that has lived on for generations in Southern Italy. There is an original theatrical trailer and in the handsome eco-friendly cardboard multi-fold-out case there is a two page essay by John Francis Lane.
Criterion seemed to have had a strangle-hold on definitive DVD editions of Jules Dassin films - herded possessively into their vast stable containing Rififi and other strong Noirs; Night and the City, Thieves' Highway, The Naked City and the brilliant Brute Force. The Law doesn't really fit into the same category as it is unfortunately less focused but has some great scenes. Gina Lollobrigida plays the most interesting character - the devilish and desirable Marietta while Montand's scarred Matteo Brigante gets some aura-establishing, machismo screen time. This is enjoyable... but not quite a masterpiece - still, fans of the director may wish to indulge if only for the style and star cast. Oscilloscope's package isn't cheap but has Criterion-level supplements - purchase with extreme confidence.