DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, Blu-ray (1970/2013)

A haunting and disturbing film on police bureaucracy and brutality in Italy in the late '60s and early '70s.

Published on December 5, 2013

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, Blu-ray (1970/2013)

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, Blu-ray (1970/2013)

Cast: Gian Maria Volonté
Director: Elio Petri
Music: Ennio Morricone
Studio: Columbia/ Criterion Collection 682 [12/3/13] (Blu-ray+2 DVDs)
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 1080p HD Technicolor
Audio: Italian PCM mono
Subtitles: English
Extras: Interview with Petri, “Elio Petri: Notes About a Filmmaker” (2005, 90 min.),  New interview with film scholar Camilla Zamboni, “Investigation of a Citizen Named Volonté” (2008, 60 min.), “Music in His Blood” – interview with Ennio Morricone (2010), Theatrical trailers, Illustrated booklet with essay by film scholar Evan Calder Wiliams and excerpts from a book by screenwriter Ugo Pirro
Length: 115 minutes
Rating: *****

This is a remarkable film by an Italian director who only made about ten of them (including The 10th Victim), but is regarded by such people as Robert Altman and Vanessa Redgrave as one of the great directors. It won an Oscar in 1970 as Best Foreign Film, and tells the rather Kafkaesque tale of a police chief in Rome investigating a terrible murder which he committed himself. Actor Volonté does a most disturbing job with his role; he was in A Fistful of Dollars.  Florinda Bolkan is also fine in her role as his beautiful young mistress, with whom the just-promoted police inspector re-stages murder scenes, complete with his photography.

The film is a commentary on the draconian fascist-type crackdowns by the government in Italy in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. He gives a speech to his underlings at one point that illustrates the surreal bureaucracy around him and sounds and looks almost like Il Duce. He is drunk with power and uses the police coming down on the student protesters as a cover for his crime.  One of the major bits of evidence against him is having been seen by a young student leader as he left the scene of the crime. By the end of the film it seems his actual guilt has finally overtaken him. There were concerns when the film was originally released whether it would be banned due to the negative portrayal of the police and government. but amazingly it wasn’t.  There are really two endings to the film, leaving it up to the viewers to decide whether he gets away with his crime or is successful in “pleading innocence.” Morricone’s great score adds to the increasing feeling of tension in the film.

The Technicolor restoration to 4K digital is perfect and the special edition features are all superb, as they always are with Criterion. I didn’t have time to see all 2½ hours of the main documentaries but found what I did view to be fascinating and instructive.

—John Sunier




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