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Uno Bianca

NoShame Films // Unrated // March 28, 2006
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Svet Atanasov | posted April 13, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Film:

With the introduction of small but very ambitious label No Shame Films the North American market has been given the chance to access some cult Italian films that only a few years ago seemed unlikely to appear in an English-friendly form. No Shame started out with some true classics (Boccaccio 70, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow) making its way through a sea of lesser known but fan-favorite films and though in the beginning there were some troubling technical issues it now seems that the label is heading in the right direction.

The latest release to come out of No Shame's vaults is a little known TV project helmed by director Michele Soavi who became famous for his highly entertaining horror film Dellamorte, Dellamorte (1994). This time around however instead of exploring the tricky terrain of excessive violence mixed with plenty of gory-horror the Italian director has concentrated his efforts on a nearly 3-hour film that deals with a merciless gang of robbers terrorizing the Italian state. The group, known as "Uno Bianca" due to their strange affection for the tiny FIAT UNO, is creating plenty of problems for the Italian police and in a manner somewhat reminiscent to the one Michael Mann favored in his gangster saga Heat (1995) Michele Soavi indulges his viewers in a never-ending game of cat and mouse with plenty of unknowns.

Unlike the now notorious Heat however the characters in Uno Bianca are not as strong and the story often lacks the consistency Mann was able to produce with his narrative. The two cops in Uno Bianca which the audience is allowed plenty of time to spend with, Valerio (Kim Rossi Stuart) and Rocco (Dino Abbrescia), do not quite manage to transform the overly long story of the film into a memorable viewing experience. The somewhat clichéd situations and often easily predictable "twists" create the impression that Michele Soavi had more time on his hands than what he actually needed.

One of the many obvious problems in Uno Bianca leads to the actual editing of the story. More often than not the narrative visibly drags and with characters that hardly make up for it, it becomes evident that the production values of Uno Bianca are not as strong as one might have hoped for. At key moments when the story is supposedly building up some serious momentum Michele Soavi makes some very strange cuts that practically evoke that dreaded sense of a crime show that could never figure out what direction it wants to follow. As a result the only way I could describe this film is as being an average made for TV copycat with plenty of bangs and tire-screeching but no substance whatsoever.

The only aspect of Uno Bianca that somewhat managed to intrigue me is the manner in which music was being mixed with action to produce a sense of urgency when such was needed. Gianni Bella, the man responsible for Uno Bianca's soundtrack, first became known for his involvement in the Spanish-produced El Grito en el cielo (1988) and from what I could tell he has grown into a very convincing composer. His ability to evoke feelings with his music which the story would have otherwise ignored impressed me quite a bit.

At the end however I could not help but draw parallels between Uno Bianca and the hundreds of TV shows that one could see on American TV dealing with the same subjects Michele Soavi's film does. The routine dialogs, the unconvincing editing, the straightforward story, even the clichéd characters, it all feels too familiar, perhaps even a bit too amateurish. While I can see how Uno Bianca might appeal to a selected group of viewers that would see just about anything that offers a good amount of police reality I can not help but think that there are indeed much stronger films that No Shame could have focused on. I know that their catalog offers better!

How Does the DVD Look?

In the beginning of this article I praised No Shame Films for heading in the right direction with the technical presentation of their films (certainly the PAL-NTSC ports are now being dealt with properly) but I am stunned to say the least that Uno Bianca is presented in a letterboxed 1.66:1 aspect ratio without being 16/9 enhanced. I am not quite so sure why the company chose to veer off their usual high-standards especially when it comes to anamorphic treatement but here you have it: a NO Shame release that is only letterboxed. I most certainly hope that this will not became a practice that No Shame will be favoring as there are plenty of films from their catalog that I am looking forward to (including their upcoming Valerio Zurlini boxset) and if the 1.66:1 aspect ratio which was prevalent for so many films produced in Europe is not treated properly I would consider this a major gaffe!

With this said, Uno Bianca offers some good rendered colors, a good at times even great degree of detail, and a print that is free of any damage. Occasionally there are some soft spots that the film unveils but in the larger scheme of things the presentation by No Shame appears satisfactory. I could not help but think however that enhancing anamorphically the image would have produced substantially better results. As far as I am concerned this is a missed opportunity by the usually reliable producers at No Shame.

How Does the DVD Sound?

Presented with its original Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mix Uno Bianca sounds very, very good! The music comes off the speakers in a very convincing fashion while the dialog is crisp and easy to follow. The common explosions in this film are also well reproduced on DVD and the effects are often satisfying. To sum it all up I did not hear anything that might possibly detract from your viewing experience. In Italian with optional English subtitles.

Extras:

Due to its lengthy running time Uno Bianca comes spread over two discs where one will also find a good number of extras typical for the lovely manner in which No Shame treat their films. On disc 1 there is a short interview with writer Luigi Monteflori (a.k.a George Eastman) titled "How to Get Action Into Truth" where he explains his involvement with this project and the manner in which much of the brutality in this film was made possible. The writer also explains how the main characters were "edited" as to be as authentic as possible. Next, there is the "We Did it Like Cinema" interview with producer Pietro Valsecchi which is rather short, only four minutes, but quite interesting as the producer explains that he was actually threatened for his involvement with this project by the Savi brothers, the true inspiration behind Uno Bianca, as they were quite angered by the film's message. The Savi brothers are ex-cops serving their sentences in prison. Next, there is the "It Was Not Business as Usual" interview with cinematographer Gianni Mammoiotti in which we learn a tiny bit more about the manner in which the film was made a reality as well as learning more about some specific technical aspects from the film's production.

On disc 2 we are offered two very short "Behind The Scenes" featurettes totaling 10 min. where the actors and action are being filmed while in production. There is nothing really groundbreaking here yet it is rather nice to see the actors improvising. Last but not least there is a Stills Gallery with a selection of captures from the film. With all of this said I also would like to note that No Shame have provided a lovely booklet (yet again, keep up the good work No Shame) and a very curious paper replica of the Italian FIAT UNO which you could assemble and put on your shelf. What a nice touch!

Final Words:

Uno Bianca is one of the less-impressive titles from No Shame's catalog that also has received a questionable video presentation. The fact that the company has chosen not to anamorphically enhance this Italian made-for-TV film because of its 1.66:1 ratio is very, very disturbing. To put it mildly I am stunned that from all the companies operating on the US market it is my favorite No Shame that has produced this questionable release. I thought that the benefits of anamorphic enhancement especially in this day and era when we are discussing the next generation of DVD products should have been an issue of the past. I am also worried because a good number of European cinema for which No Shame have the rights is indeed produced in the prevalent for the region 1.66:1 aspect ratio.

On the other hand in recent months I have been also a tiny bit disappointed to see that No Shame have consistently focused on the giallo/police thriller genres thus avoiding two of the areas that I was most excited about when the company was founded: the classic Italian cinema and the erotic comedies which No Shame own in their catalog. I would have thought that with Italian erotica virtually being non-existent on the US market (especially in a manner that equates quality and class which No Shame are now known for) the company would have heavily focused its efforts in filling the gap. Yet, almost nothing has been done! The works of Mauro Bolognini, Tinto Brass, Luigi Comencini, and actors such as Laura Antonelli, Monica Guerritore, Stefania Sandrelli, and Serena Grandi are nowhere to be found!! WHY?? If there is a single company that could bring the works of these directors and actors to the US, in a respectable and classy manner with all of their glory, then NO Shame Films is IT!!!

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