I Cento Passi/The Hundred Steps never travelled much farther than Italy despite its local success. On one level, it's not difficult to see why. One of many Italian/Sicilian films about victims of the Mafia, it's likely to have less resonance for foreign audiences unfamiliar with a story that was even overshadowed in Sicily at the time because it happened at the same time as Aldo Moro's kidnapping and murder. Aside from the killings at the beginning and end of the film, we never see the Mafia's work firsthand, the film relying on their silent presence as a fact of life (the only scene of genuine intimidation involves nothing more than playing back a tape of a radio broadcast). While this is certainly true to life, it means that the vast majority of the film is taken up with its martyred hero as he joins the communist party before breaking away with a group of likeminded students to start a pirate radio station attacking the Mafia. To its credit, the film doesn't flinch on his self-importance, the immaturity of his tactics or his selfishness, and nor does it ignore the fact that his broadcasts relied more on hearsay and childish innuendo than documented fact - as the local capo not unreasonably points out in one of the film's more powerful scenes. However, you do find yourself wondering at times where the film is going and when it will get there, but when it does it packs an emotional punch. Unlike many recent Italian `political' films such as Placido Rizzotto, it's not so in awe of Rosi and his peers - if anything, the influence here is almost American Graffiti - that it ends up a lifefless I'm-not-worthy imitation, and it boasts some excellent supporting performances, particularly from Luigi Maria Burruano and Tony Sperandeo. Not great, but certainly good.
It captured the sentiments of the time and reflected the enthusiasm of young people. After a good start it became unclear where it was heading for a while but I am pleased that I continued to view it to the end.