Archive for Francesco Rosi

8) Napoli -Rosi

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , on March 29, 2022 by dcairns

UNA CERTA IDEA DI NAPOLI is Francesco Rosi’s entry in the 12 REGISTI A 12 CITTA’ series, its ambition reflected in the fact that it has a proper title that’s not just the name of its setting. Rosi, of course, has scored a great city to make a film about. You have to think that Wertmuller and Lizzani drew short straws, though they still found plenty to celebrate.

This of course is Rosi’s return to the city he celebrated and mourned in HANDS OVER THE CITY back in 1963.

Scored with popular Neapolitan songs — as how could it not be? — with attendant phonograph crackle adding atmosphere — Rosi’s film, edited by Ruggero Mastroianni, looks great. Several of the other directors have used helicopters. But his city and his choice of music (O Sole Mio) make them that much more sweeping and impressive.

I tend to like the episodes in this series that eschew voiceover. Though a good VO can be an ornament to a documentary, nobody here has come up with an approach that escapes the curse of the travelogue or tour guide. In the documentaries of Franju or Resnais the narration assumes a powerful, poetic force, and is never a litany of tourist board facts. But Lizzani and Lattuada kind of fall into that trap. Rosi’s film manages to be “informative” with just images and music, and the way they’re juxtaposed. Vesuvius erupts — in paintings and sound effects, and the blast of lava changes the record.

More sonic disruptions are created by Mastroianni’s cutting — a fresh bout of helicopter shots is accompanied by aggressive eggbeater engine noise. Slowly cut into by church bells pealing. Then, Ruggero’s namesake, Ruggero Il Normanno, King of Sicily, appears standing in a niche, and a series of perfectly calibrated shots allows for a succession of kings to swap places with him, while the stone surround seems to stay the same. As a strategy, alternating between flowing movements and static cuts is eye-catching, but the execution here is dazzling. The little parade of statues is so effective, and so different from its surrounding sequences, that Rosi repeats it with new statues in a different location later in the film, so that it becomes a thing. You know, a thing.

The sound is a big part of the success here: when the bells continue over renaissance paintings of the city seen from above as if from Da Vinci’s helicopter, the chimes add to the sense of an aerial elevation. And then we cut to an actual helicopter shot. Hands over the city.

Religious music for shots of churches, but then it continues as we travel down mean streets, imparting an air of tragedy. Lattuada featured extremely narrow streets too, but he TOLD us about them. Freeing the soundtrack up for other material works wonders.

In general this little film is one of the best not so much for the way it creates moods through movement and music and framing, but in the way it BREAKS those moods with abrupt shifts on the soundtrack. Almost Godardian — but it’s very much Godard: Italian Style. So the jolts play in an exciting way, and don’t tend to feel like having a bucket of ice water thrown in your face, which is the sensation I sometimes get from JLG.

A brief modern bit — shots of women walking in the street, a very Italian thing to celebrate (there’s a whole segment of some Italian compendium that’s just watching women jiggle, I recall, and it’s made by someone otherwise respectable — Risi?). Pizzas are prepared. David Lean said of filming in tourist places, you have to include the expected sights, but you have to find fresh ways of presenting them. Here, it’s not so much the shots, it’s the cutting and sound.

Like Olmi, Rosi ends his show in the opera house, but he resists actually having anyone belt out a tune. Though some bits of his film are obvious — the disapproving montage of modern city life occurs elsewhere — his presentation, thanks to Mastroianni’s cutting, keeps defying expectations. Really nice.

Judge Not

Posted in Comics, FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2016 by dcairns


Based on HANDS OVER THE CITY and CADAVERE ECCELLENTI (ILLUSTRIOUS CORPSES), Francesco Rosi might be cinema’s greatest architectural filmmaker.

The Italians have always been good at space and locations — it was they, aided by filmmaker/engineer Segundo de Chomon, who developed the first purpose-built dolly so they could explore gigantic sets in three dimensions. Rosi not only selects stunning environments and frames them elegantly, hi tracking shots make us feel we’re there, awestruck.


The film opens in a catacomb full of mummies, where we meet not-quite mummified Charles Vanel, his face a crumbling McArthur Park cakescape of time’s ravages. Moments later he’s dead, the film’s first prestigious stiff (managing an impressive fall for an 83-year-old). One is inclined to resent the film for offering us Vanel and then snatching him away, but then we get a little more of him in flashback, and stunning environment after stunning environment. Plus a dazzling fashion show of 1970s men’s spectacles. Max Von Sydow’s are particularly alluring.


Someone is killing judges! The conspiracy plot and film stock switches anticipate JFK, and a discussion about the miracle of transubstantiation made me posi-sure that Alan Moore saw this before writing V FOR VENDETTA. Rosi’s copper, just as dour as Moore’s, is played by the great Lino Ventura, who looks like he maybe bought his nose from the same smashed cartilage vendor as Vanel.

Library porn, Rosi style ~


Gene Giannini Lives on his Back

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , on January 29, 2015 by dcairns


Spoiler alert! Rod Steiger as Gene Giannini lives (and dies) on his back in the late Francesco Rosi’s LUCKY LUCIANO.

Over at The Forgotten.