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The Assassin

Writer-director Elio Petri scores big in his first feature, the story of a heel suspected of murder. Is he a killer, or just an average guy trying to get ahead, who uses women to his advantage? Marcello Mastroianni impresses as well in a serious role, with Salvo Randone shining as the police inspector trying to pry a confession from him. Beautifully restored in HD; the show is from a time when Italian film was at its zenith.

The Assassin

Blu-ray + DVD

Arrow Video USA

1961 / B&W / 1:85 widescreen / 97 min. / Street Date April 18, 2017 / L’Assassino / Available from Arrow Video

Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Micheline Presle, Cristina Gaioni, Salvo Randone, Andrea Checchi, Francesco Grandjacquet, Marco Mariani, Franco Ressel.

Cinematography: Carlo Di Palma

Film Editor: Ruggero Mastroianni

Original Music: Piero Piccione

Written by Tonino (Antonio) Guerra, Elio Petri, Pasquale Fest Campanile, Massimo Franciosa

Produced by Franco Cristaldi

Directed by Elio Petri

Fans of Elio Petri
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Property Is No Longer a Theft

Can radical theater make a good movie? Elio Petri continues his string of biting social comment movies with a black comedy about rich people, thieves, and the notion of ownership — it’s a caustic position paper but also a funny satire, with quirky yet believable characters. Ugo Tognazzi is terrific as scheming capitalist, as much a prisoner of his wealth as a poor clerk is of his poverty.

Property is No Longer a Theft

Blu-ray + DVD

Arrow Video USA

1973 / Color / 1:85 widescreen / 126 min. / Street Date March 28, 2017 / La proprietà non è più un furto / Available from Arrow Video / 39.95

Starring: Ugo Tognazzi, Flavio Bucci, Daria Nicolodi, Mario Scaccia, Orazio Orlando, Julien Guiomar, Cecilia Polizzi, Jacques Herlin, Ada Pometti, Salvo Randone.

Cinematography: Luigi Kuveiller

Film Editor: Ruggero Mastroianni

Original Music: Ennio Morricone

Production design / Costume design: Gianni Polidori

Written by Elio Petri, Ugo Pirro

Produced by Claudio Mancini

Directed by Elio Petri

Essere o Avere?
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Federico Fellini’s Roma

Federico Fellini’s best non-narrative feature is an intoxicating meta-travelogue, not just of the Eternal City but the director’s idea of Rome past and present. The masterful images alternate between nostalgic vulgarity and dreamy timelessness. Criterion’s disc is a new restoration.

Fellini’s Roma

Blu-ray

The Criterion Collection 848

1972 / Color / 1:85 widescreen / 120 min. / available through The Criterion Collection / Street Date December 13, 2016 / 39.95

Starring Peter Gonzales, Fiona Florence, Pia De Doses, Renato Giovannoli, Dennis Christopher, Feodor Chaliapin Jr., Elliott Murphy, Anna Magnani, Gore Vidal, Federico Fellini.

Cinematography Giuseppe Rotunno

Film Editor Ruggero Mastroianni

Original Music Nino Rota

Written by Federico Fellini and Bernardino Zapponi

Produced by Turi Vasile

Directed by Federico Fellini

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Federico Fellini stopped making standard narrative pictures after 1960’s La dolce vita; from then on his films skewed toward various forms of experimentation and expressions of his own state of mind. Most did have a story to some degree,
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Fellini’s City of Women

That naughty boy Federico Fellini goes all out with this essay-hallucination about women, a surreal odyssey that hurls Marcello Mastroianni into a world in which women are no longer putting up with male nonsense. It's an honest (if still somewhat sexist) effort by an artist acknowledging illusions and pleasures that he knows are infantile. City of Women Blu-ray Cohen Media Group 1980 / Color / 1:85 widescreen / 139 min. / La cittá delle donne / Street Date May 31, 2016 / 39.98 Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Anna Prucnal, Bernice Stegers, Iole Silvani, Donatella Damiani, Ettore Manni, Fiammetta Baralla, Catherine Carrel, Rose Alba. Cinematography Giuseppe Rotunno Film Editor Ruggero Mastroianni Original Music Luis Bacalov Written by Brunello Rondi, Bernardino Zapponi, Federico Fellini Produced by Franco Rossellini, Renzo Rossellini, Daniel Toscan du Plantier Directed by Federico Fellini

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Federico Fellini's 1980 City of Women was called 'wonderfully uninhibited' by The New York Times. Fellini's output slowed to a crawl in the 1970s,
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Three Brothers (Tre fratelli)

Franceso Rosi's warm, thoughtful tale sees a family gathering observe grievous modern problems -- after so much violence in Italian politics people are still looking for humanistic solutions. Philippe Noiret heads a great cast (with Charles Vanel) in this mellow reflection on 'the things of life.' Three Brothers Region B Blu-ray + Pal DVD Arrow Academy (UK) 1981 / Color / 1:85 widescreen / 111 min. / Street Date April 4, 2016 / Tre fratelli / Available from Amazon UK  Starring Philippe Noiret, Michele Placido, Vittorio Mezzogiorno, Charles Vanel, Andréa Ferréol, Maddalena Crippa, Rosaria Tafuri, Marta Zoffoli, Simonetta Stefanelli. Cinematography Pasqualino De Santis Editor Ruggero Mastroianni Original Music Piero Piccioni Written by Tonino Guerra, Francesco Rosi from the book by A. Platonov Produced by Antonio Macri, Giorgio Nocella Directed by Francesco Rosi

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

So few of Francesco Rosi's films were released in the United States that until Criterion's disc of Salvatore Giuliano my only image of
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Film review:'The Truce'

Film review:'The Truce'
In "The Truce", Francesco Rosi achieves something amazing: He's made a big, extroverted historical drama, complete with vast landscapes and swarms of extras, that also succeeds in evoking the most fragile, constantly shifting emotional states of its characters.

"The Truce" has an authentic spiritual dimension, a passion to separate the essential from the ephemeral in its exploration of human nature.

Based on Primo Levi's classic memoir "La Tregua" (The Reawakening), an account of the author's circuitous journey home to Italy after his liberation from Auschwitz in 1945, "The Truce" gets its strongest effects in some of its gentlest moments -- such as the expression of personal triumph on a man's face as he hands a precious slab of bread to a friend, realizing at that moment that despite all he's been through, his humanity hasn't been obliterated.

Levi, a research chemist by profession, described the experience of imprisonment and liberation with ferocious precision in three books, including "Survival in Auschwitz" and "Moments of Reprieve" in addition to "The Reawakening". Only a few scenes here depict the camps in operation, and then only in brief flashbacks, but their soul-squeezing atmosphere is vividly evoked in the behavior and body language of newly liberated prisoners.

Rosi has always had a special gift for using landscapes and enclosed architectural spaces expressively: the enveloping, official corridors of "Illustrious Corpses" (1976); the oddly canted perspectives of a sun-baked village perched on a mountaintop in "Christ Stopped at Eboli" (1979). In "The Truce", a journey from the cramped, gray chambers of Auschwitz into the desolate expanse of postwar Europe -- snaking across half the continent, deep into Russia and back out again, on foot and by train -- mirrors the expansion of constricted human spirits.

The larger mysteries of Levi's life, the evolution of the clenched prisoner of the memoirs into the acclaimed writer of playful essays and metafictional tales "The Periodic Table" and "The Monkey's Wrench" -- not to mention the forces that drove him to suicide in 1987 -- are beyond the scope of this, and perhaps any, film. But we see the beginnings of the process; and what's more, we feel them.

Rosi's sensuous approach turns out to be a perfect match for this material because so much of Levi's struggle to reconnect with the world is visual. Words like "seeing" or "observing" just don't measure up to the urgency of Levi's gaze; he seems to be interrogating reality, trying to peer all the way down into it, mining it for secrets that can help him reawaken.

John Turturro, as Levi, damps his trademark eruptive energy way down; the force of his personality remains, but as an impacted ember of intelligence. Speaking English with a soft Italian accent, Turturro shows the desperate intensity of Primo's watchfulness. "You are a scientist", a friend tells him. "You notice things". It's a description not only of a personality trait but also of the vocation Levi discovered at Auschwitz, to become a "witness" to the Holocaust. Where other prisoners burn their camp uniforms and seek to purge the experience from memory, Levi carefully saves his numbered prison shirt and wears it always under his new clothes.

There are aspects of Levi's account, especially its questing, analytical intelligence, that don't come across as powerfully onscreen as they do in print. When Turturro is required to recite some of Levi's written observations as lines of dialogue, his otherwise fine, fluid performance stiffens up.

"The Truce" is a great film in its ultimate effects, if not in every last detail. The decision to film the story in English, to build the film linguistically around Turturro, puts some of the European actors in supporting roles in an uncomfortable position, struggling with pronunciation when they should be living in the characters. Massimo Ghini, as Primo's ebullient buddy Cesare, and Agnieszka Wagner, as a radiant dumpling of a Russian nurse who plays a key role in reawakening Levi's senses, rise to the occasion. But Yugoslavian actor Rade Serbedzija turns one of Levi's pivotal traveling companions, a domineering, shrewd operator known only as the Greek, into a sub-Zorba stereotype.

In this context, though, all particular complaints are quibbles. What matters most about "The Truce" is that Rosi's magnificent film is altogether worthy of its subject.

THE TRUCE

Miramax Films

Director; Francesco Rosi

Screenplay; Francesco Rosi,

Stefano Rulli, Sandra Petraglia

Based on the book "La Tregua" (The Reawakening) by:; Primo Levi

Producers; Leo Pescarolo, Guido De Laurentiis

Directors of photography; Pasqualini De Santis, Marco Pontecorvo

Editors; Ruggero Mastroianni,

Bruno Sarandrea

Music; Luis Bacalov

Color

Cast:

Primo; John Turturro

Cesare; Massimo Ghini

The Greek; Rade Serbedzija

Daniele; Stefano Dionisi

Colonel Rovi; Teco Celio

Galina; Agnieszka Wagner

Flora; Lorenza Indovina

Running time -- 116 minutes

MPAA rating: R

Film Review: 'La Tregua'

Film Review: 'La Tregua'
"La Tregua" (The Truce) is a multilevel saga about a man making peace with himself. In this case, it is the magical awakening and spiritual revitalization of a former Auschwitz prisoner who, during a long and arduous trek home after his concentration camp imprisonment, rediscovers his feelings and humanity.

Magnificently scoped and elevated by a rousingly tender musical score, this competition entrant should win much praise for its ambitious and eloquent equivocation of one of the most horrifying sagas in human history.

A picaresque saga of both physical and psychological dimension, the film begins with the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet Army. Centering on Primo (John Turturro), a deferential Italian chemist who has endured the heinous degradations of Auschwitz, the complex, spare narrative uses Primo's experiences and observations as a prism for all prisoners of the concentration camps -- Jews, gypsies or anyone else considered an "undesirable."

A diffident and intelligent man, Primo is somewhat baffled by his own survival: Why did God grant him life when others, such as the youngest children, were led to their immediate slaughter? Like Abraham, he questions God's notion of mercy. Throughout the film, philosophical quandaries as well as religious questions magnify the story beyond its mere logistical dimension. Nevertheless, screenwriters Franceso Rosi and Tonino Guerra have fortified this odyssey with observations and ruminations from Primo's intelligent and introspective recollections that have profound significance. Admittedly, the pronouncements sometimes radiate with a specious simplicity that takes its credence from the enormity of the subject, but, in general, they are of a solid and illuminating nature.

But not all is speculation and discourse. "La Tregua" bursts out with energy and high spirits as Primo travels, largely by train, from Auschwitz to his hometown in Italy. Exuberant ethnic celebrations enliven the trip and, for Primo, serve as catalysts to touch down to his most decent emotions -- feelings almost subsumed by the callous shell he developed as a means to survive the concentration camp. While these musical outbursts are wonderfully colorful and serve as intellectual rest stops from Primo's ruminations, they are at times overdrawn and somewhat glorified. Roaring scenes of the Red Army, booming away en masse on some nationalistic march, are somewhat prolonged and, alas, aesthetically old-fashioned. Indeed, director Francesco Rosi's narrative cadence occasionally trips into a lock-step mode: reflection, musical production number, train. Nevertheless, it is an overall percussively powerful filmic journey.

As the focal point of this largely wonderful work, Turturro's incisive performance is a wonderful portrait of a man's reawakening and his reaffirmation not only in himself but humanity. Coursing the production with some flesh-and-blood gusto, Rade Serbedzija is terrific as an irrepressible Greek.

Compositionally grand, thanks to cinematographer Pasqualino De Santis' robust framings and composer Luis Bacalov's rich shadings, "La Tregua" resounds with hard wisdom and compassion.

LA TREGUA (THE TRUCE)

In competition

Capitol Films

In association with Channel Four Films

A 3 Emme production

A film by Francesco Rosi

Producers Leo Pescarolo, Guido de Laurentiis

Director Francesco Rosi

Screenplay Francesco Rosi, Stefano Rulli,

Sandro Petraglia

Based on the book by Primo Levi

Dirs. of photography Pasqualino De Santis,

Marco Pontecorvo

Editor Ruggero Mastroianni, Bruno Sarandrea

Music Luis Bacalov

Costume designer Alberto Verso

Production designer Andrea Crisanti

Casting Shaila Rubin

Sound mixer Alain Curvelier

Cast:

Primo John Turturro

Cesare Massimo Ghini

The Greek Rade Serbedzija

Daniele Stefano Dionisi

Col. Rovi Teco Celio

Running time -- 117 minutes

No MPAA rating

See also

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