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Francesco Rosi's Le mani sulla città pre-opening film of the 70th Venice Film Festival

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the film will screen on August 27th at the Arena of Campo San Polo in Venice
07 | 12 | 2013

new copy restored for this world premiere screening

The traditional Pre-opening event of the Venice International Film Festival of the Biennale di Venezia, which is held in the historic city centre, will take place on August 27th in the Arena of Campo S. Polo. Francesco Rosi's masterpiece, Le mani sulla città (Hands over the city, 1963), the film that won the Golden Lion award 50 years ago, will be screened in a version digitally restored for the occasion by the Cineteca nazionale di Roma, and presented as a world premiere screening.
This pre-opening event of the 70th Venice Film Festival is organized in collaboration with the Comune di Venezia – Circuito Cinema Comunale. The 70th Venice International Film Festival will take place on the Lido di Venezia from August 28th to September 7th 2013, directed by Alberto Barbera and organized by the Biennale di Venezia, chaired by Paolo Baratta.
Le mani sulla città by Francesco Rosi (Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Film Festival 2012) is a fundamental work in the history of Italian cinema, a film exposé of the relationship between politics and economic power in the city of Naples, devastated by building speculation. A masterful performance by Rod Steiger, the film is a sweeping fresco with great visual impact, with the memorable black and white photography of Gianni Di Venanzo, the subtleties of which may once again be appreciated on the silver screen.
In the film, the collapse of a building highlights the wheelings and dealings of the shrewd real-estate developer Edoardo Nottola (Rod Steiger), who wants to manipulate the city master plan to his own ends. Nottola aspires to become a city councillor, but the collapse of the apartment building compromises his reputation. He thus abandons the right-wing party for which he was to be a candidate, switches to the centre party and is elected. Despite the protests of the opposition, Nottola becomes the city councilman for Building Control and has free rein to open new construction sites.
A caption warns: “The characters and events are fictitious, but the reality they express is authentic”. With his semi-documentary technique, Francesco Rosi is careful to be precise in exposing the facts and in presenting contrasting ideas and political positions, although his own unmistakable judgment is clearly expressed. In the film the balance between reality and fiction, characteristic of Rosi’s work, achieves perfection in the plausibility of the performances, by both a great Hollywood actor like Rod Steiger in the leading role, and a professional politician such as Carlo Fermariello. In Le mani sulla città, as in Salvatore Giuliano, the photography by Gianni di Venanzo offers just the right tones to the story, relying on contrasting images (to underline the verbal duel between the speculators and opposition) or blends of grey (like news reports) to describe the atmosphere. With Le mani sulla città, Rosi’s fourth film, co-authored by Raffaele La Capria, produced by Lionello Santi for Galatea Film and by Societé Cinématographique Lyre, the director achieved definitive recognition, as he assumed and revitalised the legacy of Neo-Realism.
Francesco Rosi (born in Naples in 1922) established his reputation as an auteur at the Venice International Film Festival in 1958 with La sfida, which won the Special Jury Prize. In that film, shot in the fruit and vegetable market of Naples, like the subsequent I magliari (1959, winner of an award at San Sebastián), set among the fabric and carpet vendors living on the edge of legality, he displays the journalistic approach that, filtered through fictional drama, constitutes the peculiarity of his films. In Salvatore Giuliano (1961) the use of newsreel-style material characterized a remarkably effective means of investigative reporting, inaugurating a new type of political cinema supported by documentation and exposing the most controversial realities, investigating the present on the basis of historical material.
In 1963 Francesco Rosi was acclaimed as a true master when he won the Golden Lion in Venice for Le mani sulla città (Hands over the City). He returned to the Venice Film Festival in 1970 with another politically committed film, Uomini contro (Many Wars Ago), inspired by Un anno sull’altopiano by Lussu, which took a non-rhetorical look at World War I.
Il caso Mattei (The Mattei Affair, 1972), winner of the Golden Palm in Cannes, marked his return to a journalistic style with the reconstruction of the case of the president of the ENI oil company (played by Gian Maria Volonté, who won a Special Mention at Cannes), through his death in circumstances that have never been fully explained, casting a shadow over the collusion between political authorities and obscure plots to destabilize the country. Rosi's next film, Lucky Luciano (1975), also starring Gian Maria Volonté, is a reconstruction of the last years the gangster spent in Italy, before taking all his secrets with him to the grave.
For his later films, all distinguished by their outstanding social commitment, Rosi often turned to literature. In Cadaveri eccellenti (Illustrious Corpses, 1976), winner of the David di Donatello prize for Best Film and Best Director and based on Il contesto by Sciascia, he addressed the spiral of terrorism and compromised political power. He made Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Christ stopped at Eboli, 1979), from the book by Carlo Levi, which won the David di Donatello for Best Film and Best Director, a top prize at the Moscow Festival, and winner of the Best Foreign Film award at the BAFTA, the British “Oscars”. Rosi’s next film was Tre fratelli (Three Brothers, 1981), a reflection on the terrorist years in Italy (David di Donatello for Best Director and Best Screenplay with Tonino Guerra, Nastro d’Argento for Best Director). Then came Carmen (1984) from the opera by Bizet (David di Donatello for Best Film and Best Director). This was followed by Cronaca di una morte annunciata (Chronicle of a Death Foretold, 1987), based on the novel of the same name by Gabriel Garcia Màrquez (in competition at Cannes), Dimenticare Palermo (1990), written with Tonino Guerra and Gore Vidal, and La tregua (The Truce, 1997) based on the book by Primo Levi, also in competition at Cannes, and winner of the David di Donatello for Best Film and Best Director. Close to the exponents of post-war Neapolitan culture as a young man (Patroni Griffi, La Capria, Ghirelli),  Francesco Rositrained with Luchino Visconti, serving as his assistant director for La terra trema;he later assisted Michelangelo Antonioniand Mario Monicelli.
In 2012, the Venice International Film Festival awarded Francesco Rosi the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.