Monday, March 3, 2008

Le Mani sulla citta'- Hands over the city-review

Francesco Rosi is a highly-regarded old-timer known for his movies of social and political interest. Here is one, Le mani sulla citta' (loosely translated as "hands over the city" for some reason) that I decided to watch due to the (unfortunately) timely nature of the subject matter: political/economic corruption in Naples and its human and environmental consequences.

The movie was made in 1963, and curiously, my family and I went to live in Naples in that very year. We were lucky to be in the Vomero area on the hills, but even then I was aware that there was something very, very wrong with the city. I remember telling my parents as we left in their Peugeot 404, winding through the streets, that I hoped never to return.

The little Eggplant was on to something. In forty-five years, the basic mechanisms behind the city haven't changed one whit, as shown by the film. Our own Rod Steiger (in photo) portrays a corrupt local developer who, despite the recent tragic collapse of one of his buildings, continues to wheel and deal and pull the strings of city government to get his amoral way. An excellent illustration of the way Naples is; the way Italy is. A key not only to understanding the much-maligned capital of the South, but the entire country, including that epitome of conflict of interest, Berlusconi himself.

Not an easy movie, but essential if you want to get Italy. Prepare to be amused by Steiger's Neapolitan gestures.

Here is a scene toward the beginning when Steiger/Nottola explains the 5000% profit margin to be had from developing one square meter (in Italian only).