Hands over the City (Italian: Le mani sulla città) is a 1963 drama film directed by Francesco Rosi. It is a story of political corruption in post-World War II Italy.
Francesco Rosi, who died on January 10 of this year at the age of 92 (see the last issue of Poche Parole) said pretty early in his career that, for his generation, making movies was going to be tantamount to doing politics because it was going to be necessary to denounce decades of abuses and corruption, all things that never kept him from speaking out.
Hands on the city is a movie that denounced the way real estate magnates and builders colluded to literally place their hands on the wealth of the cities and the nation in a postwar country thirsty for justice. Thievery and “malaffare” made things difficult everywhere, especially in cities like Naples and in the entire South of Italy, where exploitation become the “new normal” way of life.
Edoardo Nottola (the character that is brilliantly interpreted by Rod Steiger), is a builder and city council member in the ranks of the right wing party (we are in the days of the millionaire Mayor Achille Lauro). He has the idea of a new project that will add a great deal of real estate to the city and shows his plans to his most faithful accomplices. Following some construction in a crowded lower class n e i g h b o r h o o d , a nu m b e r o f b u i l d i n g s u n d e r construction collapse and leave two dead bodies and a child without his legs. The incident, as could be expected causes protests and another member of one of the opposition parties calls for an inquiry on the case to shed light on any violations that might have occurred.The incident is due to the careless and cheap manner in which the builders are conducting the speculation but the issue is not on the agenda and cannot be discussed… regardless of the vehement appeals of the opposition. Eventually Nottola decides to move his seat in the council from the right wing party to a centrist party and manages to put the whole inquiry on hold. The new political alliance eventually yields results and Nottola ends up becoming the minister of public works and development and will have free rein on all construction in the city.When the film ends, Nottola is the new “assessore all’edilizia” and De Angelis the mayor. They are presiding at the inauguration of the new building project in the presence of a minister of the national government and the local Cardinal.
The conclusion demonstrates precisely how dirty politics, just like drug money, can easily be “recycled” to appear wholesome and saintly… all you have to do is enlist a national, political figure and a “saintly” looking religious figure.