Hands over the City – Francesco Rosi (1963)

“In the 1960s, serious Italian cinema led by Fellini, Antonioni and Visconti moved decisively from neorealism into a new phase of more formal and personal movies with a wider social focus. Alongside them was Francesco Rosi, a former lawyer and one-time assistant to Visconti and Antonioni, who made an immediate impression with his film Salvatore Giuliano. A sort of Marxist Citizen Kane, it used the career of the eponymous bandit to anatomise Sicilian society and the role of the Mafia. It was the beginning of a series of political dramas about crime, corruption and exploitation in Italy that occupied Rosi for the next decade. The next one, Le mani sulla città (Hands over the City), took him back to his native Naples and a collaboration with an old friend, Raffaele La Capria. Most films in this series (Salvatore Giuliano, The Mattei Affair, Lucky Luciano, Christ Stopped at Eboli) centre on real-life characters. Hands over the City has a harsh, documentary look, but involves the conflict between two representative figures, both fictitious: the ruthless property developer Edoardo Nottola (Rod Steiger, whom Rosi had admired in Richard Wilson’s Al Capone) and the outspoken communist Neapolitan senator De Vita (played by Carlo Fermariello, a real-life local politician, whose vital presence had impressed Rosi while he was researching the picture). Both are excellent. The two men go head to head during a fudged inquiry into the collapse of a building under construction (for which Nottola’s son is partly responsible) and an election in which Nottola’s role in municipal corruption is a key issue. Rosi’s art lies in his ability to draw us into heated debates in the legislative chamber, committee meetings and devious backstage political confrontations and make us understand and care about the outcome without resorting either to melodrama or oversimplification. Hands over the City (the title is both a metaphor for corruption and a realistic account of the dramatic role of body language) won the Golden Lion at Venice. Like Salvatore Giuliano (as well as Fellini’s and Antonioni’s La Notte) it is stunningly photographed by one of the great black-and-white cinematographers, Gianni Di Venanzo.”
Guardian: Hands over the City DVD review – Philip French on Francesco Rosi’s Neapolitan political drama
Scott Reviews Francesco Rosi’s Hands Over the City
W – Hands over the City
YouTube: Hands over the City 1:40:40

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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