Italian political filmmaking from director Elio Petri
The oddly named Property Is No Longer A Theft (La proprietà non è più un furto) is Italian arthouse cinema from a different place and time. A sociopolitical commentary on class differences and capitalism, it’s not the usual genre effort put out by Arrow Video. It’s a caustic, satirical film with a message that won’t always resonate with today’s audiences. The off-kilter plot is a dark comedy with heavily communist overtones.
After exploring the corrupting nature of power with Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and taking a hostile look at labor relations with The Working Class Goes to Heaven, Italian director Elio Petri turned his attentions to capitalism for Property is No Longer a Theft.
A young bank clerk (Flavio Bucci) with the strange name of Total is denied a loan by his employer. You may remember Bucci as the the blind pianist in Dario Argento’s Suspiria. Total gets frustrated seeing a local butcher succeed (Ugo Tognazzi, La Grande bouffe) as one of the bank’s important customers despite being a violent, nasty man. Having quit his thankless job handling the money of his wealthy customers, the clerk devotes all of his time to tormenting the butcher. Total steals a series of small possessions from him. This leads to Total eventually stealing away the butcher’s mistress, played by Daria Nicolodi from Deep Red.
It’s an interesting film with a few invigorating scenes
It’s an interesting film with a few invigorating scenes
Petri’s film has a score by Ennio Morricone and the Italian cast work in their roles, most notably Bucci. The young clerk turned thief is the most interesting thing about Property Is No Longer A Theft. Total wonders if the prospects of his dull life are worth living as he envies the lifestyles of his rich banking customers from their illicit activities. That goads Total into a life of crime as an unusual thief. He remakes his life with new clothes, a new car, and dealing with a whole new class of women. Total’s most entertaining characteristic is his allergic reaction to money, an amusing trait for someone constantly working with it.
The film is essentially a socialist/communist critique of capitalist society, told in a darkly humorous mode that slyly incorporates sexuality into the proceedings. Political films such as this one are fundamentally tied to their original time and place, limiting its potential audience. Cultural context is so important for viewers in political critiques such as Petri’s movie that one can’t help but feel lost some of the time.
Made for Italian audiences in 1973, some of its darker sociopolitical humor and pathos has been lost over time. It’s an interesting film with a few invigorating scenes trying to make a statement. If you are looking for that kind of European filmmaking, Property Is No Longer A Theft fits the bill.
Arrow Video employs a 2013 film transfer for Petri’s film with decent clarity. A 4K film scan from the original negative was taken and restored at 2K resolution. The 126-minute main feature is encoded in a transparent AVC encode on a BD-50. The 1.85:1 presentation is in the film’s intended aspect ratio.
This is a fine, film-like transfer without superfluous video processing. Black levels could be slightly better. They are a touch light without the velvet crispness of better productions. This is not a catalog transfer that jumps off the screen. The contrast and color palette are ordinary for this kind of vintage fare. The video is fairly sharp with satisfactory definition.
I’ve seen better Italian film transfers from the 1970s and I’ve seen worse. The cinematography doesn’t lend itself to extraordinary pop and depth, despite some painstaking compositions of symmetry. It’s a satisfying effort with decent clarity and HD resolution.
The Italian soundtrack is heard in solid 2.0 PCM audio without the expected thinness often heard in older mono soundtracks. The dialogue-driven film has clean fidelity and sound design for Italian filmmaking from the Seventies. Ennio Morricone’s score isn’t the strikingly memorable work suggested by the master composer’s presence. It doesn’t sound typical of his more famous scores and is quite subdued when necessary.
Optional English subtitles appear in a white font.
Arrow Video includes three extended interviews with people from the production and that worked with Petri. They cover Petri’s other work and remembrances of working on the film. These are all new interviews in Italian with English subtitles. An illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by Camilla Zamboni is available in the first pressing.
This is a smaller set of special features than Arrow Video usually provides. Some sort of commentary would have been nice with difficult material begging for explanation.
- Interview with actor Flavio Bucci (19:46 in HD)
- Interview with producer Claudio Mancini (23:33 in HD)
- Interview with make-up artist Pierantonio Mecacci (23:04 in HD)
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh
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Director Elio Petri’s darkly comic political filmmaking on capitalism from the perspective of a petty thief.
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