Hands Over the City

"Very Good"

Hands Over the City Review


Anyone who's seen In the Heat of the Night knows all about Rod Steiger's way with inflections. Playing a small-town sheriff and foil to Sidney Poitier's polished, Philadelphia outsider, Steiger wrings meaning from his lines - hesitation, resentment, guarded admiration - that appear much more in the actor's instincts than in the script. He was a patient, controlled actor, and he took his time with his speech when needed, letting the viewer watch his thinking as he distilled the desired connotations from even the simplest of declarative sentences. In Heat of the Night, he could issue an unqualified warning to his big-city colleague by simply speaking his name. "Virgil..."

That's not to say that Steiger couldn't impart meaning in other ways, and it's a testimony to his abilities that, overdubbed in Italian in Francesco Rosi's 1963 political melodrama Hands over the City, he suffers no noticeable decline in emotive power. (Steiger appeared in films shot in French, German, and Magyar as well.) Playing a ruthless Neapolitan land developer named Edoardo Notolla, Steiger loses the inflection but gains an impressive physicality: He matches the most authentically Italian cast members for gestural speech and his attack-dog demeanor tells you that you oppose him at your own physical and political risk.

Opposing Notolla, in Hands over the City, means standing between him and a generous financial windfall that will come to those who own a swath of land, presently slated to remain undeveloped and fallow, should the city's counselors choose to disregard the current zoning plan and redirect development there. Notolla himself is an elected counselor, a centrist, and the implementation of his scheme requires that alliances be forged with the right. Allying himself with the left is impossible due to a recent building collapse in a residential neighborhood that claimed two lives and gravely injured a child, and that likely took place through the negligence of Notolla himself. The left, headed by councilman Da Vita (Carlo Fermariello), is in fact launching an inquiry into this collapse with the stated aim of finding Notolla responsible, and with elections right around the corner, everything, for the players involved, hangs in the balance.

Such is the substance of Hands over the City, a bracingly muckraking piece of filmmaking that followed on the heels of director Rosi's similarly political Salvatore Giuliano. Rosi ends his picture with the disclaimer that the film is based only on hypothetical events, but his impassioned tone belies that proviso: clearly the city of Naples suffered from the meddling of profiteers very like Notolla following the war (the city historically endures economic hardships, with an estimated 20 percent of working-age males unemployed to this day) and Rosi, as was his wont, used film to confront them head-on. Abetted by Steiger and by Piero Piccioni's wonky, tortured-jazz score, he gets the job done.

This being a film whose dramatic structure is supported by the formation of political alliances and the unmasking of damning, but largely technical, detail, a portion of the audience is liable to find Hands over the City too "talky" - think All the President's Men. But for those who are willing to focus - and can keep up with the subtitles - the experience is compelling indeed. (A likely added disadvantage, for American viewers, is the downbeat ending.) Hands over the City dramatizes ferociously a very specific act of exploitation, but the universality of its message is built-in: Capitalism, Rosi says, invariably produces a class that preys on the underprivileged for its own material gain, the final irony being that, in the case of the world's Notollas, the underprivileged reelects them and are exploited again.

The Criterion Collection has released a two-disc edition of Hands over the City; they deserve our admiration not only for making a beautiful transfer of the film available (and soaring views of Naples and shots of chic, Italian interiors merit the remastering) but for making it available at all. Criterion is nothing if not canny as regards their release schedule; the director clearly had an agenda, but you have to wonder if, in an election year, Criterion didn't have something they wished to let us in on as well.

Extras include Rosi's 1992 sequel Neapolitan Diary and a wealth of interviews and discussion.

Aka Le Mani sulla città .



Hands Over the City

Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 9th October 1963

Distributed by: Criterion Collection

Production compaines: Galatea Film

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Francesco Rosi

Producer: Lionello Santi

Starring: as Edoardo Nottola, Salvo Randone as Professor De Angelis, as Maglione, Marcello Cannavale as Friend of Nottola, Dante Di Pinto as President of Inquiry Committee, Alberto Conocchia as Friend of Nottola, Carlo Fermariello as De Vita, Terenzio Cordova as Prosecutor, Gaetano Grimaldi Filioli as Friend of Nottola, Angelo D'Alessandro as Balsamo, Vincenzo Metafora as Mayor, Dany París as Dany, Alberto Amato as City Councillor (uncredited), Ennio Antonelli as Man in angry mob in Town Council (uncredited), Renzo Farinelli as Jounalist (uncredited), Pasquale Martino as Head of the archive (uncredited), Mario Perelli as Head of the technical office (uncredited), Franco Rigamonte as City Councillor (uncredited), Renato Terra as Jounalist (uncredited)

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.