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Naples '44
A film by Francesco Patierno

85 minutes, color, 2016
English & Italian with English subtitles

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In 1943 a young British officer, Norman Lewis, entered a war-torn Naples with the American Fifth Army. Lewis began writing in his notepad everything that happened to him during his one-year stay, observing the complex social cauldron of a city that contrived every day the most incredible ways of fighting to survive. These notes turned into his masterpiece, a memoir titled Naples '44.

Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, this new documentary inspired by Lewis's memoir imagines him returning many years later to the city that charmed and seduced him. Combining archival war footage with clips from movies set in Naples from the 1950s and 60s we see a thrilling and unpredictable parade of unforgettable stories and characters: women in feather hats milking cows in the rubble, statues of saints carried by hysterical crowds attempting to stop Vesuvius erupting and impoverished citizens impersonating aristocrats. But this unusual and riveting evocation of a timeless city is also a powerful condemnation of the horrors of war, whether just or unjust.

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"A feat of editing and research. Lewis served as a remarkable chronicler of life in the occupied city. His plain-spoken yet poetic sentences are read in voice-over by Benedict Cumberbatch, and the fluid editing skillfully illustrates his words with disparate material - a mix that includes archival footage and movies like Roberto Rossellini's Paisan, Mike Nichols's Catch-22 and Liliana Cavani's The Skin.lending an effective visual dimension to Mr. Lewis's tales of wartime strife in the city." - Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times

"A highly unusual documentary...this is a film that must be seen more than once." - Lisa Jo Sagolla, Film Journal International

"A journey through a city turned upside down and inside out - overflowing with sex and death, violence and ingenuity. People ate cats and stole anything that wasn't nailed down. Children turned feral. Unexploded mines made life even more of a lottery. And then Vesuvius erupted. Horrifying and thrilling." - Phil Harrison, The Guardian

"Atmospheric, involving. Reading the author's words beautifully, Benedict Cumberbatch gives this thoughtful but unconventional doc most of its commercial appeal." - John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter

"Francesco Patierno's collage-like approach marries Benedict Cumberbatch's narration of judiciously chosen passages with thematically matching archival footage of World War II-era occupied Naples, scenes from Naples-set movies, and contemporary shots...the read-aloud excerpts speak to Lewis' elegant, empathetic powers of observation." - Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

"A riveting film, a complex portrait of the mystery of Naples." - Corriere della Sera



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