The tonal shifts and formal inconsistencies that are so exhilerating in work like New Rose Hotel or R'Xmas (to say nothing of Bad Lieutenant) are rather deadly here. That's because of the "realism problem." Ferrara's impressionism, when applied to documentary material, carries the added weight of indexicality, if not outright fact. So the nature of the material demands that Ferrara pay much closer attention to the impact of his filmic rhetoric.
World cinema currently has no shortage of documentaries venturing beyond the headlines to examine the practicalities and consequences of mass migration. Piazza Vittorio stands out from the pack by simultaneously functioning as a heartfelt, evocative tribute to an atmospheric and fascinating urban neighborhood. The Eternal City abides, once again proving a tough, productive muse for receptive filmmakers; Pasolini would approve.
More Napoli Napoli Napoli than Mulberry St., the slapdash style here doesn't quite add up to the humanist spontaneity of the latter, but this is still a really interesting portrait assembled from any POV Abel can convince to stay put in front of his camera. . . . Though I wish it were more thorough, we could use more documentaries like this that totally surrender themselves to the people in front of the camera without an agenda—come to think of it, we need more Ferraras.