Hands Over the City (1963)

Hands Over the City (Le mani sulla città)
Directed by Francesco Rosi
Written by Francesco Rosi, Raffaele La Capria, Enzo Provenzale and Enzo Forcella
1963/Italy
Galatea Film
First viewing/Netflix rental

“In the present case it is a little inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible to any public office of trust or profit in the Republic. But I do not repine, for I am a subject of it only by force of arms.” ― H.L. Mencken

Francesco Rosi makes a powerful and maddeningly relevant drama about the collusion between city government, in this case that of Naples, and real estate developers.

Italy is rebuilding after the devastation of WWII and the money has begun to flow in Naples.  City Council member Edoardo Nottola (Rod Steiger) is in private life a major developer.  As the film starts, an old building collapses next to a new building his firm is putting up.  People die and the opposition Socialists squawk so loudly that a token investigation is begun.  It is election season and the press must be satisfied.  Although the investigation uncovers many irregularities, it seems obvious from the start that nothing will be done.

However, there is enough controversy that the ruling Rightists feel compelled to ditch Nottola.  He fights back.

This is a compelling story and stunningly shot.  The shenanigans and shouting in the Naples City Council almost make the U.S. Congress look good.  Rod Steiger gives an outstanding performance though it was odd hearing him speak in a voice not his.  I found the music grating but some people like it a lot.  Recommended if you are in the mood to be outraged.

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