Sunday, April 15, 2007

hands over the city (rosi, 1963)

The worst scene in the film, undoubtedly, is the one that contemplates the corrupt Edoardo Nottola contemplating his arrival at a moral/political crossroads. Rosi cannot contemplate silently: the music (full of bombast) suggests inner turmoil, the camera wanders restlessly, Steiger moves across spaces as if deep in contemplation. What is the subject of the preceding scene? Nottola is given a Big Choice. And the scene that follows? He makes a Big Decision.

As in The Mattei Affair, Rosi's visual flourishes are scarce but extra-vivid by virtue of their scarcity: council members display their open palms and proclaim that they are clean; a crowd of poor Neapolitans are on the cusp of open rebellion in one scene, pacified and dulled in the next. For the most part, however, one is not certain whether Rosi has succeeded in de-dramatizing an exciting tale of corruption and back-room dealing or failed in dramatizing several volumes of city council minutes.

One of the things that made The Great McGinty exciting was that it fessed up to corruption's attractive qualities and saw no reason to wash its hands. Rosi's true hero is the moralist De Vita, who would spend all his imaginative energy telling us that McGinty is corrupt, a scoundrel, and a crook.

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