Winner, Best Foreign Language Film, 1970 Academy Awards
The plain title of Elio Petri’s film tells the bulk of the story. A policeman kills his mistress; the trail of clues leads back in his direction, yet such is his status, not to mention the force of his character, that his colleagues remain wary, or even incapable, of finding him guilty. Was he daring them to accuse him? Was he merely flaunting his power, or did he dream of finally being unmasked?
The movie, dating from 1970, is fuelled by sardonic rage at a system of authority that seems answerable to no one; its political argument feels lumpen and dated, whereas its portrait of a loner and his lusts comes up frighteningly fresh, and the whole conceit would collapse without the muscular, rousing presence of Gian Maria Volonté in the central role. He, as much as Petri, hauls the movie into the realms of Kafka. With the beauteous Florinda Bolkan, plus a comic-sinister score, full of twanging springs, by Ennio Morricone.
This screening features a restored print.
Anthony Lane, The New Yorker