The Film (5/5)
I was first introduced to the work of Elio Petri two years ago with the release of Blue Underground's Blu-ray of his 1965 Sci-Fi social satire the 10th Victim. That film was so good, I immediately put Petri on my personal radar of director's whose work I need to catch up on. With this wonderful Criterion Blu-ray of Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion I have the pleasure of catching up with this wonderful Italian director in a film that could very easily be considered his masterpiece.
The film stars Gian Maria Volonte (A Bullet for the General, Le Cercle Rouge) as a nameless police inspector who decides to test his position in society by murdering his mistress, and then calling the cops on himself before casually walking away from the scene, only to come back to investigate it later. The film's first half plays out in multiple flashbacks, where we discover the nature of the relationship between the investigator and his mistress. Which includes mimicking the various death scenes from case files that are brought to his office. The latter half of the film shows the investigator now comfortable with the fact that he feels invulnerable laying down evidence of his guilt, which are promptly ignored by those around him.
When Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion first came across my radar a few months ago, I did as little research as possible as not to spoil any potential surprises the film had for me. However, consider that Petri was willing to work within genre with work like the 10th Victim, and a title as long and elaborate as this one I assumed Criterion to have released a giallo thriller, until I began watching and realized there was something much different going on here than a typical giallo.
The film takes an interesting perspective on the police procedural, and that is understating the obvious. We have a police inspector who cares so little about his cases, that he satirizes them with his sexual partner. The police in this film are viewed in a slighted manner, granted, in many films, the police are viewed as inept, but it's typically for straight comic value, and while their is certainly an almost comic approach to how the police view this investigation, it plays out more like an angry political satire taking aim not just at a police force, but at a whole political system that is failing.
Aside from excellent direction from Petri, the film is anchored by an iconic performance by Gian Maria Volonte whose influence could be seen all the way through into Christian Bale's Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. The film is scored with a catchy and classic score by the legendary Ennio Morricone. As a side note when I first started the film the theme music was the first thing I took note of, not because of how simply excellent it is, but because I recognized it. I had heard it for the first time, not associated with the film, but as part of the Fantomas album the Director's Cut.
The film is actually part of a trilogy of films by Petri called his trilogy of Neurosis. The other 2 are not available in Region 1, but Lulu the Tool the second part is available on DVD in Region 2.
Criterion have presented Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion in a glorious 1080p AVC encoded 1:85:1 transfer. This transfer is just about perfect in every way ith excellent natural colors, brilliant detail all around, accurate flesh tones, and deep blacks. There is a healthy, but nonintrusive level of grain at play throughout.
The audio is presented in an LPCM 1.0 Italian mono track which is as good as the video. The dialogue comes through nice and clear as does Morricone's excellent score.
Criterion have put together an excellent package for their release of Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. The primary extras are a full length documentary about the life and career of Elio Petri called Notes about a Filmmaker that runs roughly 80 minutes. We also get an excellent documentary on Gian Mario Volonte that runs 55 minutes called Investigation of a Citizen Named Volonte. We get a 20 minute interview with Ennio Morricone about his work on the film called Music in His Blood. We get a 25 minute interview with film critic Camilla Zamboni about the film, and a French TV show that dedicates itself to this film. We also get trailers for the film, and a booklet of liner notes.
Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is an excellent satire on the police procedural from Elio Petri. The restoration from Criterion is an absolute thing of beauty, and it comes loaded with extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.