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Property is No Longer a Theft
Elio Petri's Property Is No Longer A Theft tells the story of Total (Flavio Bucci), a young man who works day to day as a bank clerk. He doesn't have much in the way of prospects or opportunity and when he asks his employer (Julien Guiomar) for a loan and is subsequently denied, he decides to do something about. Irritated by the corruption and greed that he sees around him on a nearly constant basis, Total decides to take out his frustrations on the town butcher (Ugo Tognazzi). While he is one of the bank's biggest and most important customers, he's also a greedy rat bastard with a penchant for violence.
Soon enough, Total quits his job at the bank and basically dedicates all of his time to an increasingly risky life of petty crime. He makes a point out of going back to the butcher time and time again to get at him, eventually taking everything that is his, including his beautiful mistress Anita (Daria Nicolodi) and slowly but surely driving him insane.
Made after A Citizen Above Suspicion and The Working Class Goes To Heaven this third part of Petri's ‘neurosis trilogy' once again works leftist/socialist leanings into a clever story dealing with the pitfalls of capitalism and, yes, paranoia (a recurring theme in his work). Total clearly represents the working class, he doesn't have much though it's through no fault of his own. He's a good worker and an honest man and when he sees the butcher beating a would-be thief, it sets something off in him. He changes. This previously docile bank worker takes on a new persona, he gets shiftier, more daring. This is represented not just in his actions but in his appearance as well, essentially becoming that which he has set out to destroy. While clearly very (darkly) satirical in nature, Petri puts his politics on full display. Money corrupts and those who care only about amassing property are to be villainized. Never if this more obvious than in the scene where Total lights a bill on fire and his director goes ballistic. This movie isn't always subtle, but its message holds up, ringing ever clearly in the modern age and in the current political climate. There are some occasional pacing problems and the message behind the film is pretty heavy-handed, but most of what Petri does here works quite well.
Performances are strong here. Flavio Bucci has been better in other films than he is here, but he's decent in the lead. We like him, at least at first, and we understand why he feels the way he does about not only his lot in life, but the system that seems to have been put in place by those in power to keep him, and people like him, from climbing the economic ladder. As his character changes throughout the movie, he tweaks his performance accordingly and it's interesting to watch this happen. Ugo Tognazzi is pretty great as the butcher. Right from the start, we share Total's feelings towards the character. He is greedy, unpleasant and cruel to many of those around him. Tognazzi plays this part well, seeming to relish the chance to really craft a character as despicable as he can. Throw lovely Daria Nicoladi into the mix as the butcher's mistress and then eventually Total's flame, and the three principal leads shape up nicely in this picture, each delivering strong, distinct work.
Production values shine in this film. Shot by frequent collaborator Luigi Kuveiller, the cinematography is excellent. The framing in the picture does a great job of not only showing off some important details of the locations (pay attention to what we see in both the church and the bank, small things matter here), and it's interesting to see how the appearance of the characters can contrast with their surroundings. On top of that, the picture features an effectively quirky and occasionally flat out bizarre score from Ennio Morricone.The Blu-ray:
Arrow offers up Property Is No Longer A Theft in a ‘brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative' in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. It looks, in a word, fantastic. Detail is really strong throughout while texture and color reproduction are strong from start to finish. There's nice depth here and the black levels are strong. Compression artifacts, edge enhancement and noise reduction are never obvious problems. This looks really, really good on Blu-ray. Nice and clean too, no real print damage worth noting.Sound:
An Italian language option is provided in LPCM Mono with optional newly translated subtitles provided in English only. This track is clean, clear and nicely balanced. No problems with any hiss or distortion, decent range and depth for an older mono track, Morricone's score really shines here. The subtitles are also clear, easy to read and free of any typos.Extras:
Extras on the disc start off with an interview with actor Flavio Bucci who speaks on camera for twenty minutes about how he got into acting, his introduction to director Elio Petri and how and why they came to work on a few different projects together including Property Is No Longer A Theft. He also shares some stories from the shoot, some anecdotes about a few of the cast and crew members and his thoughts on this particular film in general. Arrow also managed to secure an interview with producer Claudio Mancini clocking in at just under twenty-four minutes. Here he discusses how he got his start in the film industry, his working relationship with Petri and the politics of the films that they made together including but certainly not limited to Property. The third and final interview on the disc is with make-up artist Pierantonio Mecacci and it runs twenty-three minutes. Here Mecacci talks about his work on the film, interacting with different cast members on the picture and how Daria Nicoladi eventually introduced him to director Dario Argento, who he'd go on to work with on a few different feature films.
Menus and chapter selection are provided on the disc. Also included inside the clear Blu-ray keepcase, for the first pressing of this release, is an insert booklet containing an essay on the film by Camilla Zamboni as well as credits for the feature and for the Blu-ray release. As this is a combo pack release, a DVD version of the movie containing extras identical to those found on the Blu-ray is also here. Arrow has also included some nice reversible cover sleeve art for this release with original poster art on one side and a newly created piece by Nathanial Marsh on the flipside.Final Thoughts:
Property Is No Longer A Theft is an interesting film, it's tense at times but also quite comedic. It is quite well made and it contains performances that are thankfully as strong as its visuals. Arrow's Blu-ray release looks and sounds fantastic and it contains some interesting interviews as its main supplemental offering. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.