Now out in a spiffed up 4K restoration, Elio Petri’s award-winning/calling-card pic remains a purposefully hard nut to crack. It’s not, as you might expect, the story of a high ranking official too important to tag with a crime, but a chilly parable on behavior & consequences. A big city Head of Homicide, just upped to the Political Division, murders his mistress mid-coitus, then carefully leaves a self-revealing trail so he’ll be found out, and still get away scot-free. It’s CRIME AND NO PUNISHMENT, with an end-title quote from Kafka, though both references are misdirections, at best. If anything, it’s an up-to-the-minute Brechtian-style farce lifted to the ‘70s and translated by Dario Fo: call it ENTITLEMENT ITALIAN STYLE. To which, Petri adds an off-putting in-your-face camera technique, haranguing cascades of dialogue and a cast of characters you’d be happy to lose in a crowd. It all sounds more interesting, more accomplished than Petri, a less-than-meets-the-eye filmmaker, more provocateur than auteur, was able to make of it. Little of his small output came to the States, but INVESTIGATION retains an unlikable integrity that fitfully keeps it alive.
DOUBLE-BILL: With the same leading actor (Gian Maria Volonté) and similar concerns, Marco Bellocchio’s SLAP THE MONSTER ON PAGE ONE/’72 pivots from cops to newspapers for a more nuanced perspective on corrupt officialdom and misplaced guilt. But like Petri, Bellocchio’s Stateside rep boils down to a single film, in Bellocchio’s case his debut pic, FISTS IN THE POCKET/’65, an astonishment he could never quite live down . . . or up to. For the moment, other work is hard to find.