Saturday, October 22, 2005

Cinema Italia bravissima!

Italian cinema, I have been known to grumble, is just not what it used to be. Where are the Vittorio di Secas, the Federico Fellinis, the Sergio Leones of today? It seems there is more tension, drama and theatrics at an Italian coffee bar than there is in a good many of the flicks being rushed to screen here. But last night all was redeemed. I saw the new gangster movie, Romanzo Criminale. Che fantastico!

It's the true life depiction of the rise and fall of la banda della Magliana, Rome's most vicious street gang of the 70s and 80s. It was written by an Italian magistrate (CORRECTION: he was not the one who sentenced these guys) and so the Italian media has used it as a wedge to once again open up new inquiries into all the unsolved crimes of the time. In my humble opinion, this is the best gangster movie since the original Godfather flick, with a killer soundtrack -- up there with Boogie Nights or even City of God. Il Sette Bello's crack movie review team give it our highest rating of four meatballs.

I highly recommend it. But first you'll need to know the back story. I suggest you find an Italian, buy him or her a ticket and don't be afraid to ask them for mid-movie explanations. Saving that, print out this next paragraph:

The tale goes as follows: neighborhood punk criminals grow up to be ambitious gangsters (in a neighborhood that's spitting distance from my apartment). They knock off drug gang after drug gang. Their empire expands: drugs, prostitution, lots of murders. One day their capo gets hauled into jail. He's later sprung by a mysterious government agent with one very large string looming. The capo and his gangsters must find the kidnapped politician Aldo Moro, abducted by the ultra-leftists The Red Brigades. They go on the hunt for Moro and seem to generate a solid lead on his whereabouts, but then.... well, it's best said here that a series of top-level cover-ups incur, and, as we know, it's not a happy ending for Moro. This is where the movie takes off. Members of the gang are asked to pay off favors to shady government officials and this street gang from Rome becomes implicated in massive government intrigue and some of the biggest domestic terror incidents (the deadly Bologna train station bombing) of post-war Italy. They splinter into warring factions and there's more death on the cobbled streets of Rome.

Rome is a spectacular backdrop for any movie. But it always seems a bit contrived, a scrubbed-up version of a city with dark secrets. This is the first movie I can recall in which the raw, pulpy side of Rome is portrayed. Imagine Goodfellas cast on the set of Roman Holiday. There are drive-by (on motorycle, of course) shootings just off via de Coronari, stabbings at the Spanish Steps and Santa Maria a Trastevere, assasinations on the dunes of (what appears to be) Fregene and steamy bordello scenes in Monte Verde Vecchio.


Anonymous said...

You're right about the movie: it's great. But the magistrate who wrote the novel (read it, it's even better!) is not the one who sentenced the gang: he just studied the papers and took inspiration from them. Ah, and it's VittoriO de SIca.

Bernhard Warner said...

ooops. grazie