Wednesday, June 21, 2017

cinema obscura: Petri's precient "Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion" (1970)

It's high 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?" In fact, it's long overdue.

Or perhaps a remake. There was a time, a few years ago, when Al Pacino was reportedly interested in doing an American version of Petri's precient film, taking on the role so memorably played by Gian Maria Volontè.

The great Volontè essays an indelible character - an arrogant homicide detective known only as Il Dottore (The Doctor) who, for a lark, murders his mistress, played by the splendid Florinda Bolkan. This chief of detectives is a bully whose only motive is to prove that he can do it and get away with it, even though he deliberately (and wittily) plants an array of clues that incriminates him, and only him, for the cold-hearted, senseless crime.

Il Dottore was something of a singular character back in 1970 but since then, bullies of his magnitude have become more prevalent in the new millenium, disturbingly ubiquitous, and society not only tolerates them but, for some bizarre reason, seems to celebrate and reward them - and in huge ways.

An apt mantra for 2017 would be "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 and even common decency. They deliberately plant clues, a la Petri's film, that exist only to be blithely ignored by the rest of us.

Making us complicit in their obscene behavior.

 *  *  *  *  *

~images~

~top: Gian Maria Volontè as Il Dottore
~middle: Florinda Bolkan
~bottom: Volontè and Bolkan

~photography: Euro International Films and Columbia Pictures 1970 ©

17 comments:

Alex said...

Excellent film, especially the great Gian Maria Volonte's performance. I've seen it only once, on a VHS I rented from an old video store that had 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.

joe baltake said...

Actually, Alex, I can think of a few. Bradley Cooper could certainly do it. Also, it might be a good move for Tom Cruise who occasionally has risked taking on a dark role.
Since "Mad Men," John Hamm hasn't done much on screen and I could see him being especially riveting in the role. Everyone: Anyone else? Share.

Sheila said...

Jake Gyllenhaal. He has a dark side but may be too young. And there's always Clooney!

joe baltake said...

Sheila- Gyllenhaal in his "Nighcrawleer" mode would be perfect for the film but he is rather young for the role. Clooney would work, but his film career currently seems to be on the back burner.

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.

Dave said...

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

http://contramundum.net/catalog/current/writings-on-cinema-life/

Near-Genius Nephew said...

Criterion blu-ray combo available for this film, and well worth the purchase. Like his contemporary Valerio Zurlini (though they were completely different types of filmmakers), Petri died way too young (just 53) but he left a very intriguing body of work. The Petri film I think you should champion in terms of rescuing it from hopeless obscurity is TODO MODO, which totally astonished me when I saw it at Filmex in 1979 and still packs a wallop today--the allegory of the Aldo Moro kidnapping, political and religious corruption in cahoots, and an acting standoff for the ages between Volonte and Marcello Mastroianni.

--Don Malcolm

joe baltake said...

Thanks for the heads-up, re Criterion's edition of "Investigation," Don. As for "Todo Modo," you are absolutely correct. It's something of a lost masterwork and worthy of some attention these days. I hope to write about it in the near future.

Kiki said...

Holy Cow! Al Pacino would have been terrible in it in 1980 just like he was terrible in the Vittorio Gassman role in the remake of Scent of a Woman.

joe baltake said...

Kiki- The "Scent of a Woman" remake is fairly awful and it marked one of those rare occasions when watching Pacino was difficult. There's surprisingly little nuance in his performance. And I believe that he finally won his Oscar for that. Go figure. -J

Kiki said...

As for Florinda Bolkan. Do you remember a 70s movie she was in called The Anonymous Venetian? It was SO hokey and SO overwrought but I was spending a lot of time in Italy then and it really was a feminist movie for its time because it dealt with the stupid laws against divorce.

joe baltake said...

Kiki- Florinda Bolkan was a magnificent woman in her day, hugely attractive, and a pretty terrific actress. Yes, I do remember (but not much) her "Anonymous Ventian" movie ("Anonimo veneziano") with the late Tony Musante. Remember him? I guess that she had her best/biggest role in Vittorio DeSica's "A Brief Vacation" ("Una breve vacanza")which brought her a slew of U.S. critics' awards in 1973. I interviewed her when that film opened here. Nice woman. She's 76 now. -J

Mike Schlesinger said...

Actually, I did re-release the film about 12 years ago after a preservation was done by Sony, though it only played big-city art houses, of course. Saw it when it first came out and was mesmerized by it, and Morricone's score in particular. Glad to have played a tiny part of keeping it in the public eye.

joe baltake said...

Mike- Morricone composed so many amazing film scores but, inarguably, his music for "Investigation" is one of his best, if not the best. Thanks for the reminder and thanks also, belatedly, for the preservation version, which I recall seeing in New York, somewhere in the Village, I believe. -J

m.h. said...

Joe, I am getting TODO MODO from amazon.com - the last copy!

Kiki said...

Scent of a Woman was awful and I think Pacino got the award like DeCaprio did last year - because it was their "turn."

j.p. said...

I’D LOVE to see “Z’’ revived as well.