States of Danger and Deceit: European Political Thrillers in the 1970s
Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion 18 (S)
The most internationally acclaimed work by the provocative Italian filmmaker Elio Petri was this remarkable, visceral, Oscar-winning thriller about a corrupt police official who decides to show how untouchable he is by creating a murder scene where the evidence can only lead investigators to him.
“The killer must be an idiot,” shrugs a Roman homicide detective to his Chief Inspector (a commanding Gian Maria Volonté) in the midst of a murder-scene probe. “Yes, an idiot,” comes the reply. But what the detective can’t know is that his cocksure superior, literally on his last case before his promotion, is that killer. He’s no idiot either, rather, a vain sociopath who’s looking to test his status as an untouchable authority by murdering his high-spirited mistress (Florinda Bolkan) and then implicating himself by leaving as much physical evidence as possible - from fingerprints, bloody shoeprints, to even planting a thread of his favourite lavender silk tie.
Both a compelling character study and a disturbing commentary on the draconian government crackdowns in Italy in the late 1960s and early ’70s, this sly and slick condemnation of the state and the police is perhaps the finest work from one of Italy’s most political filmmakers. Visually stunning and beautifully composed, Petri’s kinetic portrait of surreal bureaucracy plays out as a perversely pleasurable rendering of controlled chaos.