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February 09, 2016


ostia 1.jpg

Sergio Citti - 1970
One 7 Films Region 0 DVD

When is A Violent Life not A Violent Life? When it is used as the English language title for the Italian film, Ostia. Let me explain. There are three people involved here - Pier Paolo Pasolini, writer-director Sergio Citti, and actor Franco Citti. A Violent Life was originally the title of Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1958 novel, made into a film released in 1962 that starred Franco Citti, with Sergio Citti contributing to the screenplay. Some of the same story elements would also be found in Pasolini's first film as a director, Accatone, which starred Pasolini's "discovery", Franco Citti, with Sergio Citti lending a hand to keep the dialogue representative of the Roman slums of that time. By the time that Ostia was made, Pasolini's filmmaking was in full gear, and he decided that Sergio Citti was ready to direct a film that they wrote, again starring Franco Citti. Also in the cast are the Swedish actress, Anita Sanders, who was briefly married to Franco Citti, and Ninetto Davoli, Pasolini's long time friend and former lover.

In the Guardian obituary for Sergio Citti, Ostia is discussed: Though Pasolini's many biographers barely mention this film, it was a script that reflected much of Pasolini's existential anguish at the time. Most of the film was shot around the very desolate area of the Roman beaches at Ostia, where the writer was to meet his come-uppance six years later. Citti did a competent job in filming it with his brother Franco playing one of two Accattone-type petty criminals (the other was Laurent Terzieff, whom Sergio himself would dub), but he couldn't give the story the autobiographical depth that it might have had if Pasolini had directed it himself.

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Setting aside the decision by someone at One 7 Films to cause confusion with the English language title, I would say that Ostia would be of most interest to Pasolini completists. The film centers on two brothers, petty thieves, whose relationship borders on the homoerotic. The are apparently not very good thieves according to the boss of their five man gang. The men discover a blonde woman asleep in a field, and bring her to the brothers home. The two brothers and the woman share stories from their lives, as well as visiting the most desolate parts of the beach on Ostia's coast. The tone of the film is mostly lighthearted, informed by Francesco De Masi's jaunty score, even in a scene of patricide by the brother when quite young. Pasolini's hand is most evident in the tragic conclusion.

The DVD transfer is decent, although what we get is the movie, with an English subtitle option, and no extras. One 7 Films periodically pulls something out of the vault that would probably get greater attention had it been given a home video release by Criterion or Kino. That the DVD is being released slightly less than a month after Franco Citti's death is coincidental.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 9, 2016 03:10 PM