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March 12, 2006

Uno Bianca


Michele Soavi - 2001
NoShame Films Region 0 DVD

I don't know if the DVD release of Uno Bianco represents a new direction for NoShame but it is one of their best films to date. Originally made for Italian television, this is the fictionalized story of two policemen who identified a gang of criminals identified by their continued use of stolen White Fiat Unos in 1991. That the criminals are revealed to also be policemen, and the two honest cops find themselves periodically hindered by bureaucracy, reminds on of some of the better films of Sidney Lumet, particularly Q & A and Prince of the City. The difference is that Michele Soavi is a more natural, fluid filmmaker.

This film represents a shift in genres for Soavi, best known for his horror films, especially Dellamorte Dellamore, released in the U.S. as Cemetery Man. While there is some graphic violence, this is the kind of film that were it in English, could easily be shown on cable with no other changes. Where Soavi indicates his background in horror films is in brief cuts, extreme close-ups of eyes, and a quick shot of a uniformed policeman wearing the mask of an Uno Bianca member. Such effects are used both to put the viewer on edge, and to indicate the uncertainty of good cop Valerio in his search for the true criminals.

The crime narrative is balanced against the interplay of the two cops on a mission, the cerebral Valerio (Kim Rossi Stuart), and the more physical Rocco (Dino Abbrescia). What makes Uno Bianco compelling is that there is as much energy in the procedural scenes, even when the characters are simply sitting around a table, as there is during the execution of the robberies or car chases. The film has few brief moments where the viewer can relax. The characters and camera are almost constantly in motion.

The DVD includes an interview with the script's final writer, George Eastman who discusses the evolution of the screenplay, and changes made from actual events. While the beginning of the interview is specifically about Uno Bianco and Eastman's working relationship with Soavi over the years, Eastman digresses into a discussion of his work with extremely prolific Joe D'Amato. Producer Pietro Valsecchi provides an introduction to the film and adds a few comments. Cinematographer Gianni Mammolotti discusses some of the shooting techniques to create the film's visual style.

An interview with Soavi would have been ideal, especially considering the twists his own career has taken. After the release of Dellamorte Dellamore in late 1994, Soavi took five years off to devote time to his family. Having established his name with theatrical horror films, Soavi has since made his reputation primarily with television criminal dramas. Soavi has his first new theatrical film in release, again working in the crime genre. At a time when so few new, or relatively recent, Italian films are seen in the U.S., it's a pleasure to see Michele Soavi back in action.

Posted by peter at March 12, 2006 12:03 AM