Fernando Di Leo

One of Italy’s leading boutique distributors, RaroVideo, opens its US subdivision this week with two releases: Federico Fellini’s 1970 “docu-comedy” “The Clowns,” and a box set of four films by the action specialist Fernando Di Leo, which includes his celebrated “Milieu Trilogy” (“Milano Calibiro 9,” “La Mala Ordina” — released in the US as “The Italian Connection” — and “Il Boss”) as well as the surprisingly light-hearted revenge thriller “Il Padroni della Citta” (aka “Rulers of the City”). Guess which gets the full treatment from the low-brow DVD critic of The New York Times?

59 comments to Fernando Di Leo

  • jbryant

    Um, Zsigmond is Hungarian, not Italian. But yeah, he’s great.

  • Barry Putterman

    Well, I was pretty much sold on the idea of seeing these films just by the advertising. But any director who can make Michael Winner look like Max Ophuls all but DEMANDS to be experienced, I should think.

  • Nicolas saada

    As I said, it’s the craft that really was a problem. But Di leo is a good storyteller. Too bad his films look not as good as they should.
    By the way, we haven’t heard from JUnko. At least I didn’t. Do you have news ? Is she reading this at the moment.

  • Alex

    jbryant.

    Yeah after I sent that bit on Zsigmond I was … hoping maybe he was from some Central European Italian enclave in Trieste.

    On another note, here’s hoping Di Leo’s sorry craftsmanship is no reflection on Matarazzo cienmatic skills.

  • Barry Putterman

    Nicolas, much to everybody’s relief, we had assurances from Junko that she was unharmed on last week’s appropriately titled “Back To the Future” thread. We haven’t heard from her this week, but it is almost impossible to imagine what she must be having to deal with on a day to day basis right now. It will be cause for celebration when she is at liberty to rejoin our movie conversations.

  • nicolas saada

    I think of her, and of Imamura’s BLACK RAIN, and of all the Japanese films that made me a better human being.

  • Dave K: NoShame did go out of business a couple of years ago, but the less ambitious Mya, which to date has resided in decent to indifferent editions of genre films, rose from the ashes with many of the same folks involved. But again, at least some of these films are getting out.

    The new RaroVideo is exciting in part because it is able to pick and choose through the most interesting titles in its library for its initial releases. NoShame began the same way, but soon ended up with films that were harder to promote even via film buff circles. I hope RaroVideo doesn’t run out anytime soon. And no slam on them, but I wish RaroVideo would put a little more effort into their masters, which to date have all been a little soft and dull. I fear (though I do NOT know this for a fact and have not been able to confirm one way or another) they are simply recycling their Italian PAL masters into NTSC.

  • Di Leo came from the Mickey Spillane school of thuggery, but was no ordinary fists-and-tits monger. The Italian director compared himself to Voltaire and talked in interviews about sprinkling his work with elements from “The Odyssey.”

    The artistic merits are wildly overstated, but there’s plenty of craft in the stalking-camera opening of “Caliber 9,″ for instance. Composer Luis Enriquez Bacalov’s work with and without rock bands certainly stands up today — and was downright progressive in its day.

    I believe much of the interest in Di Leo’s work over here is due to the appearance of American actors who showed up in his films looking for a quick lira and an insurance stamp, most notably Jack Palance, Henry Silva and Woody Strode. The Pulp Fiction angle certainly doesn’t hurt.

    That said, these are well worth watching.

    (Here’s my take on the Di Leo box set.)

  • Jake Mulligan

    @ Alex, Sollima is one of my favorite Italian genre directors and if you dug “The Family” (aka “Violent City”) at all, I imagine you’d adore his other work. “Blood in the Streets” (with the magnificent Oliver Reed, film aka “Revolver”) is one of the very best of the 70’s ItalCrime wave, and “The Big Gundown” is among the very best non-Leone spaghetti westerns. Check him out.

    Awesome to see Di Leo getting some critical respect. His films are FAR from genre excercises or empty entertainment: I’ve often said his amoral and straightfaced look at crime and corruption was closer to Puzo’s brilliant “Godfather” novel than Coppola’s adaptation was. Di Leo pulls no punches: his characters would murder their parents if it would move them a single rung up the criminal ladder. And so many of his endings are gut punching, emotionally shattering: this is a filmmaker who never made a decision for the sake of marketability. Di Leo always had something to say. Whether it’s the unshakeable nature of corruption and the constant prevalence of injustice in “Calibre 9″, the multi-cultural gangster culture depicted in “The Italian Connection”, the nonstop double crosses of “Il Boss”, or the capitalistic side of horrific crime in the underseen “Kidnap Syndicate”; Di Leo was always covering new ground. And I know there’s a lot of talk about his lack of craftmanship…. but I like the style of Italian genre cinema. I like the crazy zooms. I like the cold opens. I like the over emotive dubbing. And very few did it as well as Di Leo, whose films are as full of energy as any I’ve seen. To me, its pure cinema, and I find the craftmanship of 95% of Hollywood directors to be far more lacking and far less imaginitive.

    Finally, while we’re on the subject of forgotten Italian genre masters, I’d like to give a small credit to Mario Caiano. He deserves respect next to Mantino, Sollima, Bava, and all those guys – his “My Name is Shanghai Joe” is one of the most overtly political spaghetti westerns ever made, and his “Milano Violenta” may be the hardest boiled character study of the entire crime genre. His name is often forgotten in these discussions; I’d be remiss in not mentioning him.