Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Elio Petri's precient "Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion" (1970)

I think it's about time for a major revival of Elio Petri's compelling 1970 policier, "Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion"/"Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto," a film whose adline read, "When you're a big man in the big city, can you get away with murder?"
Bolkan and Volontè command in Petri's film

Or perhaps a remake. There was a time, a few years ago, when Al Pacino was reportedly interested in doing an American remake of Petri's precient film, taking on the role so memorably played by the great Gian Maria Volontè. Volontè essayed an arrogant homicide detective known as Il Dottore, a bully who murders his mistress (the equally great Florinda Bolkan) as a lark - to prove that he can do it and get away with it, even though he deliberately (and wittily) planted an array of clues that incrimiante him, and only him, for the crime.

Il Dottore was something of a singular character back in 1970 but since then, bullies of his ilk have become more ubiquitous and pravalent in 2009, and society not only tolerates them but, for some bizarre reason, seems to celebrate them. Case in point: the Roman Polanski situation and the response of his misguided acolytes within the film industry.

Writer extraordinaire Steve Lopez says it best in his column today in The Los Angeles Times in which he opines on "legal scholars" (Lopez's words) Harvey Weinstein and Debra Winger who have come out as Polanski defenders. He also singles out Martin Scorsese and David Lynch among those movie power players "who have put their names on a petition calling for Polanski to be freed immediately."

The question is, would these celebs rush to sign a petition if the wanted man wasn't Roman Polanski but a mere plumber or, gasp, a Republican? No, they'd be too busy promoting themselves. Weinstein has commented that Polanski has "already done his time."

Really. In Paris?

Il Dottore
Hey, Harvey, Roman Polanski isn't the victim here. Get a grip. What's more, he's being hunted for a crime for which he already pleaded guilty. Admittedly, however, at this late juncture, his recent arrest seems to have less to do with a 30-year-old heinous crime than with what seems like a personal vendetta being waged by Los Angeles county prosecutors. The crime itself, alas, is almost coincidental - an afterthought, a footnote. Which may explain why MSSRS Scorsese and Weinstein are all riled up.

Still, this blind loyalty, based on something as tenuous as a shared profession, amounts to fuzzy thinking at its worst. It's exactly like the misguided priorities of those in the black media who have refused to take a tough stand on Michael Vick, or even bother to address his ugly acts.

Getting Away With It.

That's the new status symbol among the rich and famous and, like Volontè's indelible Il Dottore, the rich and famous flaunt their disregard for the law or even common decency. They deliberately plant clues, a la Petri's film, that the rest of the rich and famous blithely chooses to ignore.


Jim said...

The only person on the petition I can reasonably see defending Polanski is Woody Allen, seeing as how he married a woman that was for all intents and purposes his step-daughter. Speaking of which, is Morgan Freeman on the petition?

Gary said...

I forgot about this film. I remember it being quite raw and there was an underlying bitterness that added to its toughness. I'm not sure I'd like to see a remake but I sure would like to see the original again

jbryant said...

Excellent film, especially the great Gian Maria Volonte's performance. I've seen it only once, on a VHS I rented from a video store in North Hollywood that has just about everything, but it made an impression. A few years ago, I thought a Pacino remake sounded like a good idea, but I think he has probably aged out of the role by now. I'm not sure who we have now who could pull it off -- dare I say it might be an interesting choice for Tom Cruise, after his surprising success as a killer in Collateral? Mad Men's Jon Hamm comes to mind as well.

Re Polanski: I agree that the facts of the case should be the only issue here. He committed a crime, took a plea, then fled (another crime). If there was judicial misconduct, perhaps that can be factored in somewhere, but it doesn't mitigate what Polanski did. The amount of time that's elapsed shouldn't be an issue (the only reason the case has dragged on for 30 years is because he fled). I don't think they have to throw the book at him, but I don't think it's unreasonable that he receive some official punishment beyond the mild inconvenience of having to ply his trade and live his life outside of L.A.

Brad said...

nice post. thanks.

dave said...

Contra Mundum just published a tr. of Petri's writings: