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Film / Hands over the City

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Hands over the City (Le mani sulla città) is a 1963 film from Italy directed by Francesco Rosi.

The film is set in Naples. Edoardo Nottola (Rod Steiger) is a corrupt city councilman who also happens to own a large construction business. That works out pretty well, as Nottola gets the city council to sell him some land dirt-cheap and authorize him to develop it into a bunch of apartment complexes.

Unfortunately for Nottola his bumbling idiot son botches the construction, causing the partial collapse of another tenement, killing two and crippling a child. The city council swings into coverup mode, while Nottola in particular schemes to tear down the old existing tenements, send the poor people packing, and build fancier ones. There's a fly in the ointment, however, in the person of De Vita, a Communist councilman who demands an investigation and accountability.


  • The Bad Guy Wins: With his right-wing party preparing to throw him overboard in order to win the upcoming elections, Nottola winds up striking a deal with the centrist party. He gets his massive complex built after all, and no one is ever held accountable.
  • Book Ends: After the opening sequence where Nottola gives his speech, the opening credits play over some aerial shots of the densely packed apartment blocks of Naples. The last shot of the movie is a repeat of those very same aerial shots.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: Capitalism will lead rapacious executives to strike corrupt deals to build tenements, and their cronies in government will protect them when the tenements collapse.
  • Conversation Cut: The opening scene has Nottola showing all the empty land to his cronies and talking about how they need to "convince the city to build"—cut to a city council meeeting where a councilman is selling the group on the corrupt plan to let Nottola build.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Nottola, who abuses his position to make corrupt backdoor deals to build shitty tenements.
  • Corrupt Politician: Nottola again, engaging in a flagrantly corrupt deal to have the city council, which he's on, give him the contract, in a dirt-cheap deal and with only a three-day review to boot.
  • Overly-Nervous Flop Sweat: Nottola spends a lot of time wiping sweat from his bald forehead towards the end, as the pressure is building.
  • Same Language Dub: Rod Steiger was American. His entire part is dubbed.
  • Speech-Centric Work: Lots of talking. Lots of frantic meetings. Lots of city council sessions. Aside from the scene where the building collapses, it's all talking.
  • This Is a Work of Fiction: An end title card says that the story is fiction, but "the social and environmental context is real."
  • This Is What the Building Will Look Like: Nottola has an elaborate model of what the whole area is supposed to look like, in his office.
  • Walk and Talk: Several scenes where Nottola and his right-wing cronies are walking and talking as they try to figure out how to wriggle out of their jam.