Wednesday 31 December 2014

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion [1970]

Italian filmmaker Elio Petri’s lauded but controversial Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion reminded me of such diverse films as Costa-Gavras’ Z and Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove in the way this politically charged film tore into socio-political corruption, arrogance and high-handedness among the powers that be in pulsating fashion. This bitingly satirical black comedy provided a scathing indictment on the brazenness with which power is abused and how truth is what the ruling class choses it to be. The film begins with the nameless Chief of Police (Gian Maria Volonté), who’s slated to be in charge of expunging the country of Communists, political dissidents and basically anyone who doesn’t conform to his fascist and hetero-normative ideology, murdering his sultry and liberated mistress (Florinda Bolkan) at her apartment, rumpling up potential evidences and then pompously walking out, confident that he’s beyond reach of the law’s arms. As the investigation proceeds, he diverts suspicion towards people – first her cuckolded husband and then her Leftist boyfriend – and subverts the system at his free will. In its lacerating and ironic climax, when he’s finally overpowered by his conscience, everyone around him conspire to prove him of his innocence. Volonté was frightening as the tale’s outrageously slimy, authoritarian and literally bullying anti-hero, albeit with deep-set guilt complexes and sexual insecurities. The sparkling photography (with a host of close-ups), Morricone’s idiosyncratic score (reminiscent of The Sicilian Clan) and excellent support cast (portraying the quirky characters) made this acerbic, intensely anti-establishmentarian and Left-sympathizing critique all the more compelling.

Director: Elio Petri
Genre: Crime Drama/Black Comedy/Political Satire
Language: Italian
Country: Italy

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