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Vito Polara is a young ambitious man from the slums of Naples, who wants to get as much power and money as possible. He decides to quit smuggling cigarettes and tries to take over the local fruit and vegetable distribution, which is considered more profitable. After challenging the rural crime boss of the local Camorra, Vito becomes part of his gang and soon his life changes. He moves to a new luxurious seaside apartment and plans to start a family with the beautiful Assunta. At their wedding party, however, and later on, he's about to see who the real boss is. Written by
Jose Suarez boldly inserts himself into markets controlled by comorra
"La sfida" (1958) (The Challenge) is an Italian film noir, listed as such by Selby and Spicer but not Grant. My opinion is that it is more film noir than not, while retaining some neo-realist character. I think that noir enthusiasts and those especially interested in foreign-made noirs will definitely want to see this. It's a good film whose story shows the business aspects of the vegetable trade as controlled by comorra near Naples. It can be compared to "Thieves Highway", as the sole IMDb review notes.
José Suárez plays "Vito Polara", a bold, brash, gutsy, ambitious guy from a poor background. He lives with his mother and siblings in a cramped apartment building jammed next to many others. He makes money by whatever opportunities arise in business like smuggling American cigarettes and selling off a truckload of zucchini and pumpkins. He sees an opportunity in buying direct from the farmers who raise vegetables in the country near Naples and cutting out the middlemen. When he attempts to do this, he finds that the comorra, led by "Salvatore Ajello" (Decimo Cristiani) has the farmers under its thumb, sets prices and buys up all the farming output. It has muscled and intimidated its way into forming a buying cartel or monopsony. This doesn't deter Vito who challenges Ajello openly. The angry Ajello is advised not to risk jail by shooting Polara openly. He concedes and Polara gains a foothold and becomes a cartel participant.
Polara's love life blossoms when Rosanna Schiaffino, in a nearby apartment, makes herself known to him. Soon they plan to marry. Polara has newfound wealth and moves his family to an expensive penthouse. His debts rise as he lives beyond his current means.
One of his buyers in Naples who takes his produce pressures him for an early delivery of tomatoes. The cartel has, however, banned all deliveries for a week in order to raise its selling prices. Polara sees and takes a chance to make some money by selling earlier; but he has to secure the tomatoes and comorra is guarding the farm supplies. Meanwhile he is busy getting married and Ajello has not lost his animus against Polara.
The neo-realist character of this film comes in naturally in the many scenes that are filmed on location and outdoors in both the city and countryside. It comes in when we see the poor people living in the tenement district and how they treat the sexy Schiaffino. Scenes that have crowds, processions, and poor children running around and playing add realism that links to the classic era of neo-realism.
Director Rosi would go on to direct such noirs as "Salvatore Giuliano", "Hands Over the City", "Lucky Luciano", "The Mattei Affair" and "Cadaveri Eccellenti".
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