Many Wars Ago [Import]
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In Northern Italy, WWI has turned into a bloody stalemate. Bogged down in their trenches on a barren highland, the men of an Italian infantry division have been given one objective: retake a commanding height from the enemy. Unfortunately, the tactical ingenuity of General Leone, the unpopular division commander, consists of supplementing frontal attacks against machine-guns with medieval fighting schemes. His dispirited troops must be prodded with ever harsher measures into storming the Austrian positions. As casualties mount, indignation spreads amongst the rank and file. Disturbed by the decisions of his superiors, Lieutenant Sassu is progressively led to question the purpose of the war and to reconsider where his real duties lie.
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Rarely seen in the United States, “Hitch Hike” is an Italian production made in 1977. It contains a great deal of violence, much of it exploitative. Director Pasquale Festa Campanile relies on violence and misogyny to supply interest, with Eve stripped, raped and humiliated for most of the film, though she is clearly more emotionally mature than the men. Attempting to make the dialogue ominous and foreboding, the script only succeeds in making it sound pretentious and awkwardly bombastic.
The movie was filmed in Italy, with Italian locations effectively standing in for the American Southwest. The score is by Ennio Morricone (“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “The Hateful Eight”).
Special features on the new widescreen HD Blu-ray transfer from an original 35-mm negative include the half-hour documentary “Road to Ruin” and a fully illustrated booklet. The soundtrack is available in English and in Italian with English subtitles.
Bears some similarities to Kubrick's "Paths of Glory", but in my opinion Rosi's film (and I don't say this lightly) is better. Rosi casts light both on universal military fault-lines and an intrigingly lesser known theatre of WWI, the Italian Alps in 1916.
There are several unforgettable scenes, including one where troops in plate armour attempt to storm the Austro-Hungarian positions. Looking like Tin Man from "The Wizard of Oz", the scene is based on the Italians' failed experiment with "Farina" body armour.
Piero Piccioni provides an appropriately doom-laden score, and Rosi gets committed performances from his international cast of actors. One imagines that Gian Maria Volonte was particularly chuffed with the awakening Marxism of his character!
Now where are the remastered versions of Rosi's great trilogy from the 1970s? "The Mattei Affair", "Lucky Luciano", and "Illustrious Corpses". Criterion box-set please!