Random Films of the Week: Some Fine Die-ning

Another somewhat random grab from the backlog? Sure, why not? I’m cheating a little thanks to just going with all Arrow Video/Arrow Academy releases, but I heartily recommend everything here for one reason or another.

The Assassin_AA006The Assassin (L’Assassino) – Elio Petri’s (The Tenth Victim, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) first film is a total knockout all the way as well a great classic that can now be rediscovered in its restored form. Marcello Mastroianni plays Alfredo Martelli, a man arrested as the prime suspect after his older lover (Micheline Presle) is found murdered. During the investigation, the film dips into his past as bits of Alfredo’s life play out and his mental state begins to crumble from the relentless pressure laid on him by the police. Did he do it? Well, that would be telling and you won’t get a peep out of me, pal.

The black and white cinematography is beautiful, there’s a jazzy score that features a main title theme that will stick in you head for days, and every actor here is spot on. The Arrow Academy BD/DVD only has a few bonus features, but the real treasure is Petri’s film itself. The odd thing here is most of it takes place over the course of a day or two, but Alfredo’s memories (and Petri’s camera) capture what seems like a week’s worth of external events before all is said and done. But this is most definitely intentional, as is that ending that seems to be open to interpretation if you take it too seriously.

Spotlight on a Murderer_AA011

Spotlight On A Murderer – I’d never heard of this wicked black comedy/drama from director Georges Franju (Eyes Without a Face, Judex), but it’s become a favorite I’ll gladly recommend to anyone who loves a good old-fashioned mystery with a few comic twists. After an old man with a bad heart dies in a secret room in his massive castle, his heirs arrive to search for his body while also trying to figure out how to manage the property. The solution to turn the castle into a tourist spot seems like a winning idea until “accidents” start happening and some detective works needs to take place before the body count rises.

Th film balances out its comedy and dramatic bits carefully with a nod and wink to mystery novels and films. Granted, the film’s one big mistake is that old coot must have died in a room that was 100% airtight, as I’d imagine the smell would be a somewhat easy way to find that missing corpse. Still, the film hooks you in right from the beginning and even more so as you try and figure out whodunnit even as the film gets you suspecting almost everyone at some point.

 

Property Is No Longer A Theft_AA003

Property Is No Longer A Theft – Another amazing Elio Petri film, this one’s a total mind-blower that’s also quite timely in terms of its take on capitalism and politics. After he’s refused a loan at his workplace, an accountant named Total (Flavio Bucci) who’s allergic to money quits his bank job and begins to harass the bank’s biggest customer, a respected butcher with rigged scales and a pretty immoral lifestyle (Ugo Tognazzi). Total’s thievery and near total domination of the butcher’s life leads to both expected and unexpected consequences in a film where the fourth wall is broken a few times as characters introduce themselves and certain themes to the audience. There’s almost a Fellini-like vibe happening here what with the great uses of lighting and makeup on some characters, as well as some unpredictable scenes where things go in the strangest directions when Total shakes things up.

Trust me, this one’s worth seeing just for Bucci’s expressive face and tics along with his internal and external . but you also get some great veteran actors in plum roles and the lovely Daria Nicolodi as the butcher’s mistress who develops a strange attraction to Total and his thieving ways. Add in a brilliant Ennio Morricone score and this one is a strange winner that requires a bit of brain power to sit through. While there’s a bit of nudity here, the violence is all under the surface waiting to burst out throughout almost the entire film. When it finally does happen, it’s both shocking and somewhat predictable, but in a good way. Oh, you’ll see – trying to explain this one in capsule form is a bit futile.

 

Suspicious Death of a Minor_AV104The Suspicious Death of a Minor – When is a giallo not quite a giallo? When it’s this odd blend of detective story, murder mystery and slapstick humor that’s uneven tonally, but kind of fun to sit through when all’s said and done. A cop who’s deep undercover investigates a murder of a teen girl and uncovers a kidnapping ring, drug trafficking, money laundering and other crimes with a group of rather important people at the center. It takes a while to discover Claudio Cassinelli’s undercover cop Paolo Germi isn’t the creep he initially seems, but he’s still quite the jerk as he breaks rule after rule during his investigation.

Salacious title, a trio of violent murders and a few lines of dialog aside that may have your ears burning, director Sergio Martino (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, Torso) settles for a lighter touch when Germi pokes around for clues (there’s a running gag where he keeps breaking his glasses). The comedy car chase scene is a few minutes too long and when the film dips into serious content, it kills off the previous chuckles big time. By the finale, it seems as if the film’s riffing on Dirty Harry as well as a Sennet comedy might have been funnier at least to Italian audiences.

Yep, I’m still going through the backlog (which is shrinking until a week passes and new review discs arrive), so expect another post in a day or so. Or sooner if I don’t try and read or watch the news.

-GW

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3 thoughts on “Random Films of the Week: Some Fine Die-ning

    • Oh, it was a total accident the last time. Fell asleep in front of the TV, accidentally pressed the remote and I got zapped by the lie beam coming from Wile E. Coyote’s (Super Genius!) mouth.

      Liked by 1 person

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