• A Violent Life (Ostia)

    Released by: One 7 Movies/CAV Distributing Corporation
    Released on: February 9, 2016
    Directed by: Sergio Citti
    Cast: Laurent Terzieff, Franco Citti, Anita Sanders, Ninetto Davoli, Lamberto Maggiorani, Celestino Compagnoni, Gianni Pulone
    Year: 1970
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Two criminal brothers—Bandiera (Laurent Terzieff) and Rabinno (Franco Citti)—live in a home on the outskirts of Rome (the Ostia of the title). One day, a friend (frequent Pasolini collaborator Ninetto Davoli) convinces them that he has found the dead body of a beautiful young woman in a nearby field. Along with a couple of other men, they approach the body but quickly discern that the woman is alive. They take her back to their apartment, where three of the men proceed to have sex with her (whether this is rape or consensual sex is unknown, as the scene takes place off screen while the two brothers, who do not participate, drink themselves into a stupor downstairs). The men then depart, leaving the woman in the brothers’ company At first, the brothers seem resistant to the idea of the woman, whose name is Monica (Anita Sanders), remaining in their home, but they quickly grow to care for her. The three are brought together by a mutual disregard for their fathers (the boys murdered their Catholic father for killing a pet goat; the woman was raped by hers, leading her to run away from home). She changes their lives, and they lead an idyllic existence, until the two brothers’ crimes catch up to them.

    Ostia was the directorial debut of Sergio Citti, who cast his brother Franco Citti in one of the lead roles. The former Citti worked from a script by Pier Paolo Pasolini, the famous writer and director of such classics as The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964) and Hawks and Sparrows (1966, also reviewed by R!S!P!). Pasolini wore his liberal leanings on his leftist shirt sleeve, and Ostia is no exception. Unfortunately, and despite his contributions to the story, Citti wasn’t the director to bring Pasolini’s ideals to life, and the film feels somewhat cold and off-putting as a result. (According to the notes on the back of the DVD case, the film is “considered by many critics and scholars the best film that Pasolini never directed.”) That doesn’t make Ostia a terrible film; it isn’t, and the performances are generally quite good. There isn’t a plot to speak of, and the film meanders from one extended scene to another, with only a moderate helping of the sex and violence with which the writer was so associated. Some sources describe the film as a comedy, and it’s possible it was advertised as such in its native Italy, but the film feels much more like a dour drama with occasional comedic asides, many of which are uncomfortable for viewers. There are intermittent outbursts of music that suggest comedy at the most inopportune times, disrupting the general flow.

    Unfortunately, there is some confusion surrounding Ostia. For the DVD’s cover art, the title A Violent Life has been chosen rather than the original Italian title, Ostia. The problem here is that Pasolini had already written a novel with that title, Una vita violenta. The book had been adapted in 1962, but when the title was translated into English as Violent Life, the indefinite article was dropped. Franco Citti has also starred in that film, and Sergio Citti had had some involvement in writing the dialogue. To make matters worse, the 1990 film Una vita scellerata was released in English under the title A Violent Life. Neither of these movies should be confused with Ostia, the film presented on this DVD.


    Presented in anamorphic widescreen in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, Ostia looks decent but never great. Detail is lacking, even for a DVD, and colors are a bit faded. It’s certainly nothing that’s inexcusable, given the sources with which One 7 Movies no doubt had to work. It’s doubtful that a solid hi-def transfer exists for the title, and a lackluster presentation is better than no presentation at all, especially for Pasolini fans looking to view everything the master filmmaker did during his all-too-brief career. (The director was murdered in 1975, not long after the release of his controversial Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, and his death remains controversial to this day.)

    The film’s mono soundtrack is provided in Italian and features no serious issues. Dialogue is clear, and though sound effects are minimal, nothing interferes with anything else. There’s no real dynamic range, but there doesn’t need to be. The track is serviceable and gets the job done. English subtitles are provided for non-native speakers, but these prove to be problematic. The subtitles for the last words spoken remain on screen until there’s another line of dialogue. Given that there are innumerable patches sans spoken dialogue, that’s a lot of subtitles that remain on screen when nothing is being said.

    There are no extras.

    The Final Word:

    Ostia is an interesting if not entirely successful minor work in the varied career of Pier Paolo Pasolini, and though he didn’t direct it, his handiwork cannot be denied, even if it appears more subdued than usual. The film is slow-moving but not dull, and the video and audio are such that they neither detract nor contribute to the end product.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Volume 2 of that series (covering the 1930s) is currently available from Midnight Marquee Press, Inc.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Thanks for clarification on the title, that's confusing, indeed!