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Spectacularly good Italian mini-series, intensely compelling and interesting
This is a wonderful mini-series of four full-length films starring Alessandro Preziosi as a detective, Inspector de Luca, which has been shown on the BBC. The series is far superior to the Inspector Montalbano films which have also been on British television, and are rather disappointing and superficial. The action of this mini-series takes place between 1938 and 1948, and it is a real lesson in Italian history, about how dangerous it was to live there during those years. These films were all directed by Antonio Frazzi, who used to direct films jointly with his brother Andrea Frazzi, who died in 2006. The films are all sadly dedicated at the end 'ad Andrea' ('to Andrea'). Frazzi is an absolutely brilliant director, and there is no doubt that we are missing something here, because his directing and the wonderful performances from his actors are so superb, that there is a definite disconnect which has resulted in our not knowing about all this sensational Italian talent. It is clearly time for the Italians to be 'discovered' in the way that the Danes have been, for these are true Italian film noir detective films at their most fascinating and irresistible. Somebody should try and properly market the DVD (which has English subtitles) and put some energy behind it, as I discovered it purely by accident. Detective film addicts would fall over themselves if they knew how good this was. And it is a tragedy that only four films were made, as the series should have gone on and on for years. The most overwhelming personality in the films is the actress Raffaella Rea, who appears in two episodes as de Luca's love of his life, Valeria Suvich. She is definitely one of the hottest gals any screen has to offer these days. I wonder if she speaks any English. If so, she could rival any Hollywood siren and run rings around most of the usual 'babes'. It is high time Rea was discovered, as she is a natural-born superstar. When she turns on 'the look', she can reduce any man to pulp in a milli-second. And she does this repeatedly with poor Inspector de Luca, who can resist her about as well as an incurable alcoholic can resist a strong drink that has just been placed in his eager hand. Sizzle, sizzle! Gulp Gulp! The Italians have always been good at passion, but Rea takes it to new heights. As for Preziosi, he is an ingenious choice for the lead character, tall, reticent, thoughtful, a loner, and fanatically dedicated to his work. He is just right for the part. He wends his way through all the extreme right and extreme left politics of his time, constantly in peril of his life, with dexterity and luck. The fantastic corruption of the Mussolini Era is shown in chilling and menacing detail. All those arrogant people who say 'I know Il Duce', all the fascist salutes which people have to give if they are not to be taken away and shot, the terrifying networks of threat and evil, it is all brought to life in a way we outside Italy rarely if ever have seen. Then the chaos of the aftermath of the War occurs, and de Luca is thrown into situations where he ends up working with the partisans and the communists, and so many people want to kill him that we lose count. But all he wants to do is solve his murder cases, and he goes up against all the established power structures in a fearless manner. In this series of films, the detective is not just solving hopelessly complex and mysterious cases, he is fighting political establishments and organised corruption and gangsterism every step of the way. We are left simply breathless at the danger and intricacy of it all. The films are based on novels by someone whose name appears not to be recorded on IMDb, but IMDb does record a great number of writers for the series, including the two Frazzi brothers. The scripts are excellent, although they appear to have been composed by committee. Certainly there are a lot of villains in the stories, all of them people who are corrupt because of their political connections. In a way, the films are really first and foremost studies of life under fascism and under the chaos of post-fascism, with all the detective elements added on top. This series therefore has a much greater depth and interest than any other detective series I have ever seen. I should point out that the Mafia does not feature anywhere in the stories, which is set in the northern half of the country, and the corruption portrayed is therefore of a different order. The series is thus not in any way a pastiche of our ideas of a country dominated by the Mafia. The truth is in a way worse, while being far more complex. Perhaps I should mention that the Italian Supreme Court has today announced that it has officially concluded that Berlusconi was working with the Mafia for 20 years. Well, I never! In this film, there is a wonderful supporting character called Pugliese, who is charmingly played by Corrado Fortuna, who more recently has appeared in Woody Allen's TO ROME WITH LOVE (2012). Throughout the series there is a running joke about Pugliese's love for food and cooking because he comes from the South, and he has his fresh peppers sent to him by his mother, grown in his home village. He supports de Luca through thick and thin, in all the struggles with corrupt officialdom. This mini-series is a truly wonderful accomplishment, and deserves to be widely seen for what it tells us about Italy during a crucial ten years of its history, as well as for the riveting story-telling and solving of seemingly impossible criminal conspiracies. It cannot be recommended highly enough.
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